📦 Unpacking the journey of Uncommunity.club

In this episode of CommunityHub Spotlight, we speak to Mohammed Rafy, Founder of Uncommunity.club. Listen in to know more about what inspired him to start Uncommunity, the power of 1% improvement every day, and his take on how the community space is shaping up today.
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Pramod Rao
June 21, 2021

Pramod: Thanks, Mohammed, for taking the time and for being a part of this interview. We just started with community hub. where we're Putting together resources, how to guides and stories from community builders to help other community builders take the best parts of community building and implement in their respective journeys as well.

Let's start off with your introduction and your community building journey and what led you to starting Uncommunity?  

Rafy: Yeah. Cool. Thanks, Pramod. Thanks a lot. I love what you're doing at Threado.

I've been involved in building communities for the last five years. Back in my University I started doing  events and meet ups for open source communities like Mozilla and that was the first thing for me. Later down the line, I came to know it was something  called community building. I've started from there and then joined startups and started working with startups in community building stuff.

My first role was with a smartphone company back in 2016.  I was doing moderation of social media and communities like the forum. And then from there, I moved out to a more, a broader role as a community leader with a tech startup, where my role was like getting developers onboard on the platform. The idea was basically enhance developers to become better at what they are doing.  My role at that platform was about growing the user base, engaging the user base, maintaining partnership with the universities, and the other tech startups. Basically that's the longest time where I spent, for almost two years, building a developer community. Now again, been helping other open-source communities to host events in our office. So we provided space to host weekly meet ups on Saturdays and then hackathons, hack nights. All these developer communities, where basically I was part of contributing to a lot of these things so that communities are getting better and they're getting opportunities that they need.

That's how I jumped on to Uncommunity when  COVID happened.

Pramod: That's amazing. And great to hear the journey. I think you've done everything involved with community building. Coming to Uncommunity, what made you realize that something like Uncommunity needed to exist? Walk us through  day zero or, what led up to day zero of Uncommunity?

Rafy: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I was always in touch with all the company professionals to learn what's happening. And then  COVID hit, people were not able to go out, so I saw people talking about community, like more than ever. And everyone is asking how do you build communities? What are the resources available to build communities? After seeing these questions on Twitter , on my Reddit forums, there was nothing like a central hub or a repository where people want to know what's happening on the community space.

That's where I decided, okay what if we build this? Where it's a central repository and people just come to the platform and see books that are available to read, podcasts that I can listen to and become better.  It's about making better decisions and choices for community builders.

It's a lot of noise out there. They just need to make sure that. Whatever they are selecting or choosing to grow or to engage or to retain, they just need to make better decisions. To make better decisions, you need to give them  what's better for you and your community. So that was the idea behind building this. I just reached out to one of my friends, I said this is the idea, we need to build it. Can you help me out?  He said, yeah, why not?  

Day zero was about curating those resources because still on the internet you get a lot of information, but not all the information will make sense. So we started creating a Google sheet. We spoke about what categories do you want to add? Is it books, podcasts, comedy, experts tools, platforms , et cetera, et cetera. So we had a category, we had a list of names. Then going around the internet, finding all those resources, putting them in a format so that we can upload it on our platform, whatever we're building on.

Right now, Uncommunity is built on Webflow. It's completely no code. We built the Google sheet, and then we start uploading. And then over a period of time, we found out what's working, what's not working.  It's going good. We have seen people actually getting help out of it. We are seeing what people want and we're just trying to move forward from there.

Pramod: Great. Just hearing about you hustling through and collecting all the resources and learning to code and build it is amazing. I'm a big no-code fan myself.  

If I'm a new community builder and I come onto Uncommunity,  explain to me what Uncommunity is and how it can help me like what are the different sections? How can I best use Uncommunity as a community builder?

Rafy: It's a curated directory of resources and tools that community builders can go to Uncommunity.Club and you'll have resources with the categories. You'll have books section, you'll have podcasts, you'll have experts and then we have tools. So there are all these categories and then in it, you have different products. You can just go to Uncommunity, you can look for people who you want to follow and then give them a follow. And then you have jobs.  So you can just go look for who are hiring. And then you have basically all the curated information regarding content. So we do a newsletter AMA with community experts. So you'll find all those things in one place. So that's all about Uncommunity.

Pramod: Got it. And over the journey, what's been the key highlight for you. You have multiple sections, you've interacted  with multiple community builders. You've interviewed community builders. What's been something that's been memorable for you in building Uncommunity.club?

Rafy: We have seen emails to us on Twitter saying you're doing amazing job. This is amazing. It's really helpful. And that is when like it hits us saying we are doing something better and people are getting value out of it. We have received so many of messages on Twitter,  response to our emails that we are getting benefit out of what we are doing. That's one.

The second part is we embedded BuyMeACoffee. So we got five coffee from some unknown person, like who we even don't know from some part of the world.  There is someone in the world who paid you because of what you do and you don't even know that person, then that feeling is amazing. That happened  with us multiple times.

And even during podcast I think a lot of people want to talk about the journey. What they have been doing, the best practices. You just have to reach out to them. Nobody's too big to say no . Just reach outand I'm sure, they'll say, "Okay, let's do it! Why not?" So it's been a good journey so far and that is what keeps us going.

Pramod: Coming to AMAs , from the AMAs that you did what have been top three learnings for community builders that you can summarize or pick like the top things that come to mind?

Rafy: Yeah. I can't pick one or three also because all were amazing. But the one that resonated the most was two weeks back. We interviewed Ethan Brooke, who is at The Hustle, the newsletter which got acquired by Hubspot. In all our newsletters or AMAs, we ask this one thing, what's the advice to community builders?  He said disconnect your phone. As a company builder, we tend to be very active in our community, trying to engage, trying to grow, trying to hustle, but not taking for ourselves a rest time or a me time.

So he said just take time off. And that is just amazing. Nobody says that. Now I'm starting to say that to other people, just take time off.  It's okay.  Your community won't shut down. You'll have multiple teammates, colleagues helping you out.  When you grow,  you need to be there every day, but you need to take time for yourself. And that was amazing advice.

And then you have to show empathy and uplifting each other. As a community builder, that should be your number one goal. Uplifting each other. Someone helped you  along the way you've reached at a certain point, then you need to uplift someone else who is not at the stage or level as you, that's second.

And then you keep talking to people. Keep talking to other community builders. Every week or every month. Understand what they do. If I pick three,  you need to take time off, you need to uplift others and you need to just talk to other community builders and listen to what they do.

Pramod: I think all that is interlinked in a way. If you take time off, it'll actually help you zoom out and figure out how you can help the community better.

Rafy: Just like I was listening to this podcast, Balaji, on Tim Ferris show. And he said this win and help win . If you win, then you can actually help someone else. If you're not winning, then you can not help others.  

Pramod: Yep. Coming to Uncommunity's journey,  let's rewind a bit and go back to the time where maybe you just started out just a few months. Walk us through what kept you going and keep building that momentum? And I think it'll be great for people who are thinking of newsletters, audience building, and also community to think of, the zero to one, how should they approach it?

Rafy: Okay. That's a good question. The reason why it's keeping me or my friend who is Vishal, keep going, right? Now you can't see results in day one. Everybody knows, there's no such thing as overnight success but they just call it a overnight success.

Back in 2018, I built a newsletter. I did it for 10 to 12 weeks. I stopped. Now I keep going back to that time where, what if I have not stopped?  Now I've just learned that lesson. And I make sure that I will not make that mistake again because I need to think longterm. I'm trying to win, not at a day one or a day 10 or a day 15, I'm trying to win at date 365, for example. You're into it. And it's grow one percent every day.

The moment you create a new community, it will take years to build that momentum wherein you're like now it looks like it's working, it's paying off. It takes years, not like months. So that is what I'm thinking now as Uncommunity.

What I think is keeping us awake at night, trying to think, what else can we do? How can we grow? How can we make sure we engage people? How can we make sure that we are providing value? You need to think of it like a product, like a business, you can't just make dollar one from day one.

Pramod: Yeah, it makes sense. It's about showing up and being consistent. And there's a compounding effect of that. 1% improvement every day results in something massive as you go along and it's not an overnight success. So we're at the last couple of questions. What are the trends that you're noticing and how are you seeing community building shape up for the next few years?

Rafy: Community right now is at a stage where it's new for a hundred percent of the world. Back when I just got started, there were like few people who I could look up to saying how to build a community. Right now it's massive. Thousands of people who are showing, creating value by doing Podcasts, books - there are hundreds of books that you can look up to.

So what I've seen over the period of like few months, there are tools emerging. Like every week there is a tools announcement. Every time a company raises funding , they're trying to build a community. That didn't happen before.

A lot of these companies who just put community for community's sake without understanding what community is will definitely not go ahead compared to the ones who will take this seriously. And the second thing is not all businesses need community. You need to just think whether you need a community or not.   You have B2B versus B2C, right? A social consumer product should definitely have a community, but not all enterprise products or B2B should have a community. The reason why  Salesforce now is successful or a HubSpot, for example, is because of the content they started providing, right? There's this notion saying, come for the content, stay for the community. So HubSpot nailed it really well.

So that is what I think there are a lot of company building platforms. There are a lot of company building activities that are happening. We're seeing the rise of the chief community officers. You'll see community actually helping the business to generate revenue.

Pramod: I actually come from a background of related to a product which had community within it. It was a consumer product with social elements and back when even community was not a buzzword. Definitely seeing a lot of that. Either the community itself being the product or like products with community around them taking off. And and then that trend has been accelerated, I think, over the last year, for sure.  

I have a few candid questions if you might. What book are you currently reading in the context of community?

Rafy: In the context of community, none, but I'm reading two.  I'm reading this book called The Psychology of Money. And I'll be reading Amazon Unbound. And then I have Skin in the Game, not read yet. But I love Morgan Housel's, The Psychology of Money. It's amazing. The way it explains the compounding effect, for example, it's amazing.

Pramod: Okay. And of the communities that you been a part of what's a top of mind community that you had a great experience with.

Rafy: For me, it will be CMX Hub. Where I am is because of come CMX Hub. I was part of the community from 2015, and got in touch with a lot of community builders. Started talking to them, understand what they do. So for sure, it's CMX hub. And then I'm also part of Community Folks which is a community based out of India for community builders. Again, good memories. We've had events, meetups. It's been a good journey trying to get to know community builders across the World and India.

Pramod: Got it. Cool. So thanks a lot. This is a great conversation to have with you and a lot of learnings packed in half an hour or so that we had.

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