“The best web3 founders are community managers first.”
Sandeep Nailwal, Co-Founder of Polygon, has long insisted that web3 founders must have an intimate understanding of community building if they want to succeed. In today’s Masterclass, we will examine Sandeep's story of how he leveraged a community-first approach to scale Polygon into one of the most successful companies in web3.
First, we’ll explain why community is so much more important in web3 than in web2, then we’ll dive into specific ways Polygon built their community, and we’ll finish by exploring the ways in which investing in your community will allow your project to reap benefits down the line.
Community in web3 is a much bigger deal than it is in web2. In the realm of web3 technologies, decentralization and governance are fundamental principles that ignite the need for a robust community - a characteristic not present in web2. Here, the power to shape a project’s trajectory resides not in the hands of a few, but in the collective voice of its members. As such, web3 protocols are often open source, meaning individuals can contribute to pre-existing code. And through tokenization and DAO governance, individuals are afforded novel ways to influence the direction of web3 projects.
The best web3 founders have an intimate understanding of the importance of community in scaling their project. Trying to recycle a web2 playbook in web3 simply won’t work. You need to know how to engage, grow, and incentivize your community to build your project alongside you.
Since its earliest days, Polygon has focused on building a strong and supportive community of developers, users, and partners. Sandeep attributes much of Poylgon’s success to centering inclusivity and community at the the core of Polyon’s ethos. While there are myriad ways that you can support your community as a web3 founder, Sandeep outlines three crucial areas in which Polygon has focused their community-building efforts.
One key way that you can grow your community is through setting aside capital to invest into the developers, projects, and the leaders building in your ecosystem. Sandeep and Polygon made this a focus of their community strategy since day one:
● Even though Polygon was only able to raise 50k in its early days (VCs were skeptical of an Indian-only founding team), they still dedicated 10% of their token pool to support the community. This was largely done through providing small grants to developers to attract and nurture talent within the community.
● With a much larger round of financing in 2022, they doubled down on community reinvestment by setting up their own venture fund, Polygon Ventures. With a much greater amount of capital to deploy, they’ve been able to supercharge their community support by investing in the best projects building on Polygon.
Investing in your community at all stages - early on and down the road - goes a long way for both the health of your project and the heights that your community can reach with more resources.
Another way to grow your community is through cultivating an engaged DAO. On the path towards further decentralization and community control, Sandeep and his team created Polygon DAO, a robust organization with many different initiatives:
● Within Polygon DAO, the team launched Polygon Village, an accelerator and educational platform that offers many useful services such as infrastructure, developer grants, auditing, talent recruitment, and more, as well as a DAO Tooling Program. Polygon not only supports the developer community with resources but also cultivates environments in which they can meet other community members and build together.
● Moreover, 70+ Polygon Guilds exist throughout the world, each creating their own dynamic impact on the web3 ecosystem. As examples, Guild Lagos kicked off the Open Source Festival for builders, Guild Nagpur launched “Road to Web3” workshop, and Guild Toronto conducted the Futuristic22 conference - events that served to foster greater innovation within the Polygon ecosystem.
As seen through Polygon’s efforts and international expansion, by creating smaller communities and programs within a larger DAO network, your web3 community can collectively drive innovation greater than the sum of its parts.
Partnerships and collabs are also a strategic way to grow the size of your web3 community and reach mass adoption. By joining forces with other projects, Polygon expanded the visibility of their protocol to reach previously untapped audiences:
● Notably, Polygon has formed key partnerships with legacy web2 brands such as Starbucks, Disney, Reddit, Nike, and Adobe. This expansion increases adoption of Polygon’s solutions and simultaneously unlocks the potential of web3 in existing web2 community groups, forming a bridge that connects these two user bases.
● Building on Polygon’s partnership strength, y00ts, one of the leading NFT projects, revealed that Polygon’s relationship with the array of web2 corporate giants was a large part of what motivated them to make the leap from Solana to Polygon, expanding Polygon’s reach into other NFT communities.
Learning from Polygon’s strategy, when you are creating and cultivating your own community, don’t limit yourself to those within your network. Often the greatest successes stem from collaboration of two separate entities who share a similar vision for the future of web3.
As from Sandeep’s journey, communities can be built in many ways and through many avenues, but the most important part is to continuously involve the community wherever and whenever possible, as their active participation can supercharge the success of your project.
Building a web3 startup without a strong community is akin to setting sail on a ship without a crew. The ship’s crew shares a common vision with the captain - a united purpose and destination - similar to how a community shares a like-minded passion for the project’s mission and objectives. Just as a crew helps prepare a ship for voyage and guides the ship to its destination, the web3 community actively participates in shaping the startup’s direction and propels the startup forward, while overcoming obstacles along the way. In web3, the community members are not just users; they are a key source of strength, resilience, and innovation.