Community Building & No Code: Sharath Kuruganty

May 10, 2021, 2:44 p.m.
Founders · 7 min read
Community Building & No Code: Sharath Kuruganty

Perhaps more than ever, founders are focused on creating a community for their respective products, however, community building is difficult.  To start, it requires dedication.  On top of that, quality engagement is necessary to build closer ties and create a comfortable atmosphere.  Yet some founders are seemingly much better at creating communities than others.  In which case, what makes a great community builder?  Is it more commitment, authenticity, or just sharing impressive growth metrics? In order to provide some clarity, let me introduce Sharath Kuruganty, @5harath, the founder of Shoutout and an amazing community builder I've been following for the last few months.

I started following Sharath soon after he launched Shoutout, a tool for founders to highlight their social proof with a wall of tweets.  We'll get into the product itself later but I want to start with how Sharath not only shares the highs but also the lows.

 

Of course, every founder wants to hit $1000 MRR and be able to share their growth.  It can create a good amount of momentum that ultimately leads to traction. But it's not always a simple, straightforward journey.  I recall Sharath mentioning the critical reception Shoutout received when he launched on Hacker News. 

 

Honestly, sharing criticism as you build in public is perhaps the most difficult information to share.  Yet, amidst so many who only share their successes, Sharath stood out for his authenticity.  Whereas others might rush to cover up any negative feedback, Sharath is confident and understands he can't get emotionally caught up in any negative reactions.  In response to someone afraid to launch on Hacker News, he replied:

 

On the other hand, this might seem counterintuitive.  Why would you ever want to talk about people ripping your product?  Well, based on what I've observed, disclosing failures also creates an opportunity for others to see how you deal with problems.  Following Sharath's journey, it's been inspiring to see Shoutout reach $1000 MRR knowing that he worked through the noise that comes with being a founder.

 

Shoutout

Let's move along to how he built Shoutout.  As a product manager, Sharath uses no-code tools like Bubble, Glide, and Airtable to quickly prototype and launch an MVP.  Even if you're a programmer, you should start using no-code tools to develop and validate your ideas quicker.  Building a product in a couple of days instead of weeks is a huge competitive edge.  If you're unsure about what to build, pick a niche and think about how you can aggregate helpful information for that particular audience.

 

As for Sharath, he wanted to create a tool to aggregate Twitter shoutouts for founders and startups.  He started by only creating a landing page and collecting emails to gauge interest.  After receiving 120+ signups in less than 24 hours, he started to build.  Then, once he gained some initial traction, he found a technical cofounder in Curtis Cummings, @curtisjcummings, to continue to iterate on the product.  

 

Moving forward, let's get into the product.

 

shoutout homepage

Shoutout's homepage focuses on the value it provides; (1) save time curating your social proof, (2) boost sales conversions, and (3) highlight voices to start building a community.  Always remember to include the value proposition on your homepage.  Next, I love how the homepage has a demo of the product itself as you scroll.  Not only does it show the utility of the product, but it really provides that "community feeling" that eludes most products.  With real people sharing their opinions, Shoutout doesn't feel like it exists in a vacuum.  I also like to think that it's a good sign when founders use their own product.

shoutout demo

Moving on to the user interface and dashboard, the onboarding experience is seamless.  After clicking "Start your free trial", I was prompted to connect my Twitter account.  

Once connected, Shoutout began looking for any mentions I had on our Twitter account.  Since I don't have any, Sharath provided a screenshot of his account.

shoutout_mentions

The last step would be embedding the wall of tweets, which is easy to do in the "Walls" tab on the left side navigation.

Overall I like the simplicity of the idea.  This isn't a product meant to keep you on the dashboard.  Instead, it's about quickly gathering your social proof in one place and getting back to iterating.  Be careful of products that require hours of time to set up and organize when ultimately, your goal as a founder is to keep building and marketing your own product.

Tips for Community Building

Here are some things you can do immediately to improve your community building. Some are more actionable than others:

  • First, follow Sharath. He's always asking for founders to share their journey and struggles so indie hackers can help one another.  By joining the community, you might already get a few interesting leads for your product

 

  • Don't let emotions cloud your thinking.  It's easy to get down on yourself when someone rips your product in public but don't let that discourage you.  Keep reaching out to potential customers and see if THEY like the product

 

 

  • Lastly, here's an actionable plan for anyone willing to try something new

 

Conclusion

Of course, community building is a combination of skills, but I've come to see that community starts more with yourself before others.  It starts with you, the individual. There needs to be a willingness to help others and unflappable confidence to keep going. Your community will then form as a reflection of the content you produce.  As simple as it sounds, if you want engaging members in your community, then you need to engage first.  If there's anything I've learned from Sharath, it's how I need to be more proactive and less hesitant in my own community-building efforts.

 






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james_schwindt
I enjoy writing about saas, founders, and Django. Let me know if I should write about you!