From 6,000 to 60: Why We're Downsizing Our Community On Purpose
When it comes to community, larger isn't always better
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We recently took our 6,000+ member community and limited it to 60 people. Let me explain why we did this and what we learned along the way.
Here’s the story in four phases:
The trough of sorrow
The honest reflection
The slow build
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1. The honeymoon
I started the Odyssey community in November 2021 to help people learn about crypto. For the first few months, it wildly exceeded my expectations:
We grew to 6,000+ members
We raised $100K from a crowdfund and top sponsors
We won Product Hunt’s best education award
We had grand plans to issue a 10,000 pfp NFT collection to raise more money. Then I had my second child and the crypto markets crashed.
2. The trough of sorrow
I took a few months off to bond with my newborn daughter. When I returned, the community wasn’t doing too well:
Despite having 6,000+ members, nobody was really talking.
The few messages that I saw were from people shilling their own services.
I started to feel a pit in my stomach when I realized that:
I didn’t even want to spend time in the community that I created.
After all, who wants to sit in a Discord server with thousands of random people?
3. The honest reflection
I started to think about the online communities that I actually enjoy being a part of. Three came to mind:
1. My college friend group chat
We use this chat to keep in touch after moving to different parts of the country. It works because we all know each other in real life and there’s no agenda other than to maintain relationships.
2. Lenny’s newsletter community
I pay for Lenny’s newsletter and visit his community maybe once a month. Although I don’t know many people there, I always get a thoughtful answer each time I ask a question. Lenny also does a great job helping members connect through online events, IRL meetups, and contributor shoutouts.
3. Midnight Labs community
My friend invited me to join Midnight Labs - a community for NFT collectors and builders. Most NFT communities gate access behind an expensive NFT, but this community was different:
I had to fill out an application to join.
I was onboarded as part of a monthly cohort of 30 people.
I had to do 7 1:1 calls (!) to get in.
I have to contribute to the community to earn the NFT.
The NFT is given out for free to anyone who contributes enough. Remarkably, it currently has a 9 eth floor price on OpenSea. This “free” NFT has value because the community itself is valuable.
4. The slow build
I knew what I had to do. It’s better to have 60 people who care about each other than 6,000+ lurkers.
So I put the following plan into action together with a few contributors:
Apply to join: People need to apply to join the community.
Cohort onboarding: Those accepted will be onboarded in small cohorts (<50).
Contribute to earn: Members must contribute to get our new NFTs.
This process essentially flips the default NFT community on its head:
After all, many founders and CEOs personally review every employee that gets hired to their company. I believe that communities should be built the same way:
Onboard new members slowly.
Make the community itself the utility.
I don’t know if our community will thrive long-term. But I do know that I now have a few dozen people that I actually want to get to know and hang out with.
And that’s a good start.
If you’re interested in joining our community, please fill out this form.
We're looking for folks with web3/web2 experience.
We plan to host events and IRL meetups to get to know each other.
We will only onboard a few dozen people a month.