This Monday was my first day at Insider, and after nearly three years at HasGeek - the first and only company I’ve worked at - this is rather bittersweet.
I could not have found a better company to join straight out of college. Nearly every opportunity I’ve gotten (and things I’ve been involved with) can be traced back to HasGeek in some way. I owe Kiran and Zainab immensely for giving me a chance then and for constantly backing me over the past three years.
Of all the things I love about HasGeek, the one that I value the most is the unyielding set of principles with which Kiran and Zainab operate it. And it shows because nearly everyone who has worked at HasGeek has internalized those principles in some way.
There was always a simple lens through which every decision was made - “Is this the fairest and most honest way we can do this?”
For a bootstrapped company in a highly stressful and competitive space, you could easily justify not doing a lot of these things and nobody would question it. And yet, HasGeek had free childcare at all its conferences, 100% open sourced its tech, matched donations of employees to causes they support, implemented a no-questions-asked refund policy, ran a completely free job board for the community, and the list goes on.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that strives to be as fair, open, and inclusive as HasGeek does.
I may not work there anymore, but HasGeek has irreversibly shaped my outlook on how to approach things thing, and how to do things the right way.
That said, looking back at the last three years there, I’ve come to realize that I need to try something new - if not anything else but for the sake of something new. And after talking to Abhishek and Neehar from Insider, it became very apparent that this was the best next step to take.
What I’m doing at Insider
The more interesting part, however, is that I’m also going to help build out the organizer and community tools on Insider.
One is that independent organizers - i.e. those who run non-commercial events (or do it part-time) - have no tools in India to support them in a sustainable way.
Communities in India today are largely on Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, and Meetup.com - and none of these platforms allow organizers to make things sustainable (or even profitable). The amount of money and time they put into running the community far exceeds anything they can recover from it.
There are ticketing platforms like Townscript, Explara, etc to help organizers run paid events - but they all suffer from the same problem - they aren’t the place the community is, and the high fees they charge provides little-to-no value if all they do is ticketing.
The second issue for organizers in my experience is that there is no one “home” for an online community in India.
Organizers may operate on just one or two social media platforms because of the overhead in managing more than that, and it’s a problem because by doing so, they automatically eliminate all the people who are elsewhere. Some bigger ones can afford to have a website to point people to and then redirect them to the best platform for them, but this isn’t feasible for smaller organizers.
The third and most important problem, in my opinion, is that there is very little discoverability offered on the current platforms.
Three years doing tech events and two years doing board games, and we still rely on word of mouth or traditional marketing channels to reach new people.
Running a community or part-time events business is hard enough without having the overhead of actively putting in the effort to market and reach new people.
Now Meetup.com may seem like one solution, but they seem to push people to join as many groups as possible, irrespective of how interested they may be in them, and that’s not great because now organizers have a false sense of size.
These are the stats of the board game community I run on Meetup. We’ve had an event listed every week for the past 83 weeks, and still the active member list hovers around 120 people - I don’t believe this is worth paying Rs. ~4,000/year for.
Where Insider (and I) fit in
Insider is extremely well suited for that third problem - discoverability. Having done the hard work of getting music, comedy (and even some IPL) tickets on the platform, there are lots of users on Insider just looking for the interesting things to do in their city.
It’s easy to see the value for a small community organizer to find herself listed next to, say, Rohan Joshi and Zakir Khan’s comedy show.
The value proposition for Insider in this equation is simple - there is very little stickiness with those who buy tickets for music gigs, comedy shows, and the IPL - they’ll just move to the next platform that sells those tickets.
Insider’s pitch to their users is that they’ll come for that Prateek Kuhad show, but stay for the amazing photography walk they found.
Alongside this, I’m also hoping to build out some simple tools to make your lives easier for community organizers - whether that’s maintaining a mailing list/newsletter, managing RSVPs, charging for events, or just having a central online hub for your community that you can point people to - irrespective of where else on the internet you are.
Your Facebook/WhatsApp/Meetup groups aren’t going away anytime soon, but maybe this can help supplement them.
If you run a community or organize small-scale events and these problems seem to ring a bell, I’d love to talk to you! You can find me on Twitter at @karthikb351 or just shoot me a mail at [email protected].