Akshay Kothari (COO, Notion): How Notion Builds AI Products with the Community
How to build a great product community and what the team learned building Notion AI
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Notion built a community of 20M+ users and is the 4th fastest growing app globally.
I've always been fascinated by how the company scaled through their creator community and integrated AI into their platform. That's why it was a pleasure to speak to Akshay (COO and co-founder) about how Notion:
Built with their community
Scaled Notion AI to a 2M waitlist
Plans to fix project management
This interview is a must read for anyone who wants to build with the community and build AI products.
How Notion builds with community
Welcome Akshay! Notion’s has a unique mission to “make software toolmaking ubiquitous.” Why is this mission important to you?
When we started Notion in 2013, Ivan (our CEO) believed that all software could be broken down into a few basic building blocks.
His vision was to give these blocks to the community so that anyone can create great software without writing code.
Ten years later, our community has brought this vision to life. We have a fantastic ecosystem of creators making tools on top of the platform.
How do you balance the needs of Notion’s different customers - from individual creators to startups to large companies?
This has always been a challenge for us, but I think our block approach helps here too.
As a team, we try to avoid going too deep on specific use cases or segments. Instead, we focus on creating basic building blocks that our community can then use to create amazing products.
Can you share an example of this?
Sure, a good example is databases.
A database can be used as a project management tool (JIRA), a CRM (Salesforce), or an applicant tracking system (Greenhouse). All of these use cases are being served by successful companies, but fundamentally they’re all powered by databases.
So instead of building products for these use cases ourselves, we offer a general-purpose database that our community can then use to create tools.
One advantage of doing this is the community will often surprise you with what they come up with.
Going back to databases, our community has created amazing tools like an upvote and downvote system for company all-hands meetings and a hydration tracker to monitor daily water intake. Many of our creators have built successful businesses by creating and selling these tools.
I’m a big believer in community-led product development. How does Notion build with the community?
I think it starts with our belief that a few software developers shouldn't dictate how billions of knowledge workers create.