- Wikipedia | LinkedIn
- Twitter @vdimauro | 36,000 followers
- Georgian Partners | Growth-stage, SaaS-based business software companies
I was really excited to talk with Vanessa DiMauro in this interview. As a seasoned community expert, I had a lot of questions about community that I hope our founders and entrepreneurs out there can learn from. Community is a competitive advantage in today’s product and service world. It’s incumbent on the companies to engage with their community to better understand their needs!
Vanessa is a pioneer in the field of online communities and in using digital business solutions to gain customer insight and increase revenue. Before joining Georgian Partners, she was CEO of Leader Networks and held leadership positions at Cambridge Technology Partners, Computerworld, and CXO Systems. She is currently faculty at Columbia University.
Her perspective on digital transformation has been featured in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Forbes. Vanessa was named one of Forbes’ Top 40 Social Media Masters Worldwide, one of CEOWorld’s Most Powerful Women in Social Media, and named one of 20 Top Digital Influencers of 2018. Even with all of these accolades, the first thing Vanessa DiMauro said to me as we got into the Zoom chat was that she knew of me in my crypto days! How fun! I’m glad to have been able to help another bitcoiner get into the game!
Vanessa is a researcher at heart and loves to study people and communities. From her early days working with a government thinktank to playing on the internet building communities, she really does have what she calls the “greatest job in the world.” At Georgian Partners, her job is to work with the leaders of companies they invest in and connect them to their internal community for peer to peer collaboration. This allows them to gain knowledge, feedback, and support from other leaders and executives. Georgian Partners also has a platform that allows all of these leaders to connect. “It’s the greatest job in the world because I get to make people happy every day!”
So how do Georgian Partners help executives grow their companies with their online community?
“We have 42 late stage CFO’s and there is great solace in learning and them collaborating together around everything from comparing tech stacks to how to prepare for exit and form a working group, to reviewing each other’s board decks. They even call each other when they have grandchildren or children, it’s everything in between and really amazing.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
What makes Georgian Partners unique in their community strategy for its portfolio of investments?
“One of our critical differentiators is that it’s purely a safe space. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. While I’m in the center of the community, we have subject matter experts, no one on any of their boards is ever privy to the conversations and collaboration. We trust them to manage their own communication and we want them to get support from each other. Unlike many VC communities where it’s a petri dish of watching and support, but this is a pure-play, where these guys, these women grow great companies and they know how to manage themselves and help each other.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
The reason why the community exists behind Georgian Partners is that the CEOs and executives asked for it. They were ready, ripe, and wanted it. As a previous tech executive who’s gone through the whole process of building to the acquisition, Vanessa understood the deep needs of leaders to get support from other leaders. She knew that communities are powerful, even from her first community at ARPANET (the precursor to the internet), where she helped physicists connect with other physicists. They were sent modems that allowed them to connect with each other and learn from each other. The research that Vanessa was doing was how people communicate asynchronously.
“When people can slow down and write down what they know so that others can understand it, it’s a better way to transfer tacit knowledge.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
“There is power in having human-to-human connections. We started out in a time when everything was based on human-to-human intimacy. Then as a society, we started to diffuse our connections and knowledge in ways where everything was automated. We are now missing the “hey, how are you” connection. Now with cloud computing, the world is now compelled more into thinking a lot more about building human relationships and providing that extra layer of connectivity. The stickiness is the human factor. That helps our choices, our purchases, our businesses more relevant and useful.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
So what does the future hold for businesses and communities?
“I’m seeing a rise in communities as being central to many organizations business model. I’ve built 250 communities and I’ve seen the evolution. Communities are moving from a nice-to-have to a must-have at the business level. It’s becoming core to the strategy in so many ways. From customer support and customer service to even sales channels. Consumers know how to buy now. They know how to make decisions. Purchase decisions are now often fueled by peer experiences and information they can gather on and offline.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
I loved the fact that Vanessa went pretty hard into the idea that community management for companies is no longer an optional idea. Companies must take their community seriously because their community is really their brand:
“A company is no longer what they say they do on their website. A company is what their customers say about them, what their reputation is, that precedes them. Communities are central to most organization’s business model because they enable the buying process. Companies should look at their community as the people they serve.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
So what are some tips when it comes to building a community for your company or startup? Vanessa had some great nuggets of wisdom to share here:
“One of the foundations of a great community strategy is to identify what are the core needs the business has for building a community, is it to accelerate adoption, innovation, customer intimacy, retention. And then you listen to your customers, what are their primary goals, what do they want and need from each other and from your organization. You can’t serve all masters, but you can find the overlap, where there are 2 or 3 things that the company wants and the customer wants and that becomes the sweet spot.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
Another question I had for Vanessa was what are the characteristics of a good community leader? This is something I’ve wrestled with as I assume that they need to be charismatic, have the ability to connect with varying types of people, and be a good listener. Vanessa has your job description ready:
“Innate curiosity and the ability to not be a sage on a stage but a guy on the side. Whether I know the answer or not, the goal is to empower that knowledge transfer among the group and to also create traceability. How do you diffuse and democratize information? A good community builder is a knowledge worker that is always looking for ways to empower and extend knowledge in a way that can be reused by many. Cultural anthropologists and a patient person!”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
Whenever you are building a community understand that your community will go through different phases during its growth. As Vanessa points out, the community will start off transactional, building trust, and doing what Vanessa calls “collaborate and evaporate.” – People looking for help, receiving help and then disappearing. From there, after people in the community grow some roots, then they move into the next stage of co-creation and co-development.
“The shortest distance between two people is a common puzzle. When a community is growing roots, people begin building things together, they become Makers, makers of assets, makers of methodology, makers of knowledge. That is what I look for in my executive communities.”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
As a passionate community builder, I absolutely loved this conversation with Vanessa DiMauro. I hope we can have her on in the future (with a better internet connection) and pick her brain more about the value of communities and receive tips on how our readers and listeners can become better at community-building.
“Community is a living focus group. A real opportunity!”Vanessa DiMauro | VCHunting S3E4
If you’re a leader in the growth stage or late-stage startup and you need help with community and scale, make sure to check out Vanessa DiMauro and Georgian Partners. They might just be exactly what you need to get to the next level!
Enjoy my retrospective!
Vanessa DiMauro Social Media
Keep that up, and I’ll be hunting you next.