{ Pick My Brain! is fixed price service tailored to early stage startups, gender wage gap adjusted for female founders. }

5733877156_1ed4b371f1_oFlickr CC: Anton Johansson

(I had the pleasure to return to Berlin for the third time in a year to hang out with my darling startup and venture scene, this time to attend Next11 as official blogger. My sincerest Thank You to Djure Meinen and Christoph Salzig for invitation and making me feel very welcome, as for the kindest words. Djure had done a great work to infuse Next11 with international blogger flavour, as to collect all the stories, enjoy! The Next11 buzz on the social web was captured by Swedish Twingly Liveboard. See you in Berlin at #Next12!)

SoundCloud And Community Based Business Models

David Noël, Evangelist & Community Manager at SoundCloud, social audio platform that enables anyone, anywhere to create, upload and share their sounds on the web, was one the speakers to talk about community based business models and how to successfully grow, nurture and engage a community.

I have been a “SoundClouder” and followed its journey since its beta, together with the great Music Hack Day events, so as much as I had looked forward to hear Sarah Lacy, one of my absolute favourite journalists and writers, to give her keynote, the choice was easy. You’re always there for your startup community, as SoundCloud is there for its user community.

David shared his learnings of growing from 100K to now over 4M users, and how one during the journey comes to realize that in the end having community is not really about new music or sounds, it’s about people and their stories they create on the service.

I have listed the key learnings, and thankfully Katharina Birkenback had better luck than me with the WiFi and managed to record the entire presentation, embedded below.

@David’s talk at #NEXT11 by Katharina. Watch the video of David’s talk!

Enable Participation

“Community doesn’t come from you talking to people but them talking to each other.”

As a design and product driven service, the core is to build a super easy to use product that solves a real problem (SoundCloud: Easy way to share and collaborate with sounds across the web), but it’s first when you unleash the collaboration and sharing between the users you start creating true value. Make sure your product encourages participation and for a user to get instant gratification through collaboration.

Embrace Your Users

Showing your appreciation to your community by highlighting users is a great way to build relationships with them, increase sharing, as keep them emotionally engaged with the service.To embrace its community SoundCloud has started community series such as SoundClouder of the day, SoundCloud Local, and local SoundCloud Meetups globally, all of which are independent and self organized gatherings. When asked the organizers, 94% said it totally exceeded their expectations and more people came than expected. People want to be part of something global, but want to connect, learn and meet locally. Today, SoundCloud Meetups are one of the top then meetups in the world organized on Meetup.com.

Customer Support – Always Go The Extra Mile, It’s Your Free Marketing

There’s nothing more powerful than having outstanding customer support, it’s your free marketing. Always go the extra mile by doing more than expected or needed. Don’t settle for less. I keep talking about the importance of Thank You and immediate response when navigating the social web, and David has previously written a great post on how to scale customer service in a startup. There really isn’t any better PR and marketing for your startup than happy customers. How to find the best way to interact with your users? Listen and absorb how your users talk to you, and how you respond to them.

When Facing A Shitstorm, Be Super Transparent!

Things will go wrong, servers will go down, your customers will get upset. When you face that moment, the most important thing is to be super transparent. Really Super Transparent. Be a person and explain what’s happening without technical terms, and update frequently on all the channels possible. Your customers will forgive you, love you, and cover your back next time something goes wrong. How I know? I’ve had my own shitstorms*. These are also one of the occations when you get to find out whether you have a great, strong team, because you will need one.

Be Patient

As a startup, and especially venture backed startup, it’s very much about growth and scaling your business: user growth, revenue growth, conversion metrics. As a startup, it’s also in ones nature to be impatient, thus resulting to want too much, too fast. Patience is not knowing what your strategy is next year. It’s much more about placing lots of dots. By focusing on what you’re doing today, observing how your users are responding to the dots, you can connect the dots to lines. The lines that will show you the way. Be patient.


No, building something long lasting, that is truly substantial and changes millions of peoples lives, is.

You do want to make people to wear your T-shirt, right?

5733419557_17392e5ff4_oFlickr CC: Anton Johansson

Thanks David for the T-shirt. I did sleep in it. More great Next11 pictures by Anton of Twingly.

*One of my own shitstorms: I have a saying: “If you haven’t migrated paying customers to a new platform, you haven’t lived”. I spent four years developing and managing Viktklubb.se, Sweden’s largest online weight loss service and community from day one (started by designing the database). It’s a premium service with minimum subscription fee of $30/3 months and at the time 200K customers. Trust me, developing and launching a service is the easiest part, it’s when you have users to look after that everything gets trickier, even if also more fun and rewarding. We faced one real shitstorm while upgrading to bunch of new functions, when the core of the service, the daily diary just stopped working. Couple of hours and 800 customer tickets later, when you’re trying to keep the servers up, rollback to previous version and keep your customers and customer service updated, (wish I had had Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Posterous etc.!) was one of those times when you either completely loved the Internet and what you do or hated it. I kept loving it. And answering customer emails and keeping up the servers. Despite that at the same time finding myself in the boardroom being yelld at by both the Editor in Chief and CEO how this could happen and explaining what the plan was, i.e wasting my time instead of taking care of my customers. Worst case scenario being an intrapreneur is like being entrepreneur marrying a wrong investor with a bad term sheet.

Paula is Digital Product Advisor and Top 100 Women in Tech in Europe, focusing on Product, Go-to-market, and Internationalization strategies. Rated as one of the very best startup mentors in Europe, she has to date mentored over 150 digital technology companies on product, marketing and growth. Pick My Brain! is her fixed price service tailored to early stage startups, gender wage gap adjusted for female founders. Contact Paula for digital strategy work or book her as keynote speaker about #Startups #WomenInTech #GenderEquality #Entrepreneurship. Read more about her work and connect @Twitter, @LinkedIn. “You never learn anything when you speak, only when you listen”Roelof Botha / Douglas Leone, Sequoia Capital