This is the story of a bunch of students at MIT. Peter Reinhardt, Calvin French-Owen and Ilya Volodarsky took “The Founder’s Journey” - a class at MIT where they invited successful startup founders to interact with the students and talk about the learnings from their journey.
One fine day in 2010, Adam Smith, founder of email software company Xobni (Inbox spelt backwards) and machine learning company Kite was visiting MIT for "The Founder's Journey". They were completely blown out and in awe of the entire founder-journey after hearing Adam. In fact, Adam was so grounded as a founder that all three - Peter, Calvin and Ilya ended up believing, normal people like them could be founders as well.
That's where Segment's journey began.
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By spring 2011, after much brainstorming, they landed on an idea that they called Segment and applied to Y Combinator. The product was a tool that would let students flag whenever they were confused while the professor was teaching them. This would help the professors go back and analyse what points in the classroom teaching could be improvised upon, to help students learn better. No doubt, all professors were pretty excited about the idea! They got accepted at Y Combinator and bagged around $600K seed money from them. Reinhardt became CEO; French-Owen, CTO; Volodarsky, president; and they brought on another friend, Ian Storm Taylor (now co-founder), a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, to be the lead designer.
But soon after, the product failed. The students opened their laptops to use Segment, except that they weren’t actually using it, instead, they were actually opening their laptops and going straight to Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, and Gmail, and so on.
They shut it down and started rework on the product. Between fall 2011 and winter 2012, the co-founders worked 80 to 100 hours a week. They created a web analytics tool that would help companies understand their customer's behaviour. Again, this failed - the market was too crowded with a plethora of data analytics companies. It was December 2012, they had just $100K left in their accounts. This was their last chance before they fail completely.
They rewound back to the initial days of the Y combinator and decided to test out their last chance at a product-market fit. They built a product that would send data from the classroom feedback tool they built to customer analytics tools like Google Analytics/Kissmetrics/Mixpanel. Eventually, they open-sourced this product as a growth hack and also added themselves as one of the analytics tools. Soon, people picked up the open-source product. It got a large number of upvotes on Hacker News, thousands of stars on Github and a huge pipeline of signups. They had bagged their golden egg, finally!
Here's a video where Peter talks about finding the right Product-Market fit at length! 👇
They worked closely with a bunch of customers to evolve the product basis their feedback. About six months after the team launched the open-source library, they had great traction but still had no revenue. So they went out and raised $2M based on the traction. About a year later, they crossed $1M in revenue and had entered a high growth phase.
Segment has come far since then and is now acquired by Twilio in a whooping $3.2B deal! Today 20K+ businesses use Segment's software and APIs to collect, clean, and activate their customer data.
The team learnt a lot from their journey of building Segment. Now they wanted to help users level up their knowledge of data strategy and build better products.
They went on to start a community on Slack and now host close to 1800 members on it. Besides the community, they also run a program called Growth Masters to help folks learn from experts in the Product & Growth domain.
The community team engages with the users at multiple touchpoints to keep the community as involved as possible. Here's a look into a couple of initiatives taken by the team to ensure they are always delivering value to their members. 👇
1) Live AMAs with experts in the Product and Data domain
Here's what you can expect from the AMA sessions 👇
2) Segment Community Live Training
Here are a few points on how the team is delivering value to their users through live training modules 👇
3) Webinar and Q&As with the internal team
4) Preview of the product roadmap and upcoming feature launches
5) Discuss integrations of other tools with Segment
6) Creating multiple resources and docs to make it easier for members to use Segment
7) Growth Masters - Perfect the art of building and scaling products that customers love
8) Twilio Signal Annual Conference
Besides working on community engagement to scale their user community, Segment also focussed on scaling their internal team through a powerful community referral program. They maintained a leaderboard for referrals and organised contests internally. Today they are a team of 700+ employees!
Segment is a great example of how a community-driven company can ace engagement by exploring multiple channels to deliver value to its users. Its collaborative nature helps users build a customised data infrastructure that can be explored by multiple teams in an organisation basis their use cases.
↩️ Pivoting multiple times to get the product-market fit right: A story of how the co-founder hit failures at multiple levels, pivoted multiple times and on the brink of failure, they found their golden egg.
👥 Building a safe space for users to up-level their data strategy: How Segment engages with the community
🤝 Segment’s Community Referral Program
Threado is the command centre for your online community. Signup for the waitlist and get access to our first drop - Community OS which ended up being the #1 Product of the Day on Product Hunt! We also have a cool new community drop brewing up for December - stay tuned! 😉
Being part of a company is more than just about being an ‘entrepreneur'. You have to show up every day. And just like how high pressure aggravates the atmosphere, these bright-eyed not even 20-year-olds were brewing up a storm.
The story of a community-led approach by Funnel IQ.