One of the many things I learned at Bridgecrew*, an open-source cybersecurity startup I helped found, was the importance of community heroes – builders using our product who ultimately became some of our most powerful advocates. We live in an increasingly community-led world in which developers can serve as product evangelists, influencing awareness, product strategy, hiring from the community, marketing and sales and more.
Open-source technology paved the way for this community-led revolution. Over the past decade, some of the largest and most important infrastructure companies were built on top of open-source technology or related ecosystem – with ample support from community heroes, who threw their weight behind the most impactful technologies.
Building Community Relationships
In order to grow the value of community around an open-source project, it is critical that founders and leaders empower and scale the community relationship by identifying these influential community members by leveraging data. Founders need to build demand and receive product feedback to succeed – a vibrant open-source software (OSS) community can provide that and more.
But first, you need to find your developer community heroes. In beginning the process of identifying and empowering community heroes, here are some questions for leaders to ask themselves:
- Do we understand the buyer persona? What are the interests of the contributors and stargazers? Where are they located? Where do they work?
- Do we understand the enterprise expansion motion? Is there more than one engineer from the same organization demonstrating interest? What does teamwork look like while these teams are using our product?
- Do we understand the product ecosystem? What other code repositories and programming languages do our community members use?
And, perhaps most importantly:
- Who are the most impactful community members? Which users have the most followers, or the most associated repositories? We know these are the influencers with whom we should establish relationships – but how do we reach them?
Once you’ve found your community heroes, it’s time to build a relationship, through a combined marketing campaign following the open-source project and by inviting community heroes to share their stories, in Slack groups, newsletters, blogs, webinars and more – enabling your heroes to make the biggest impact.
With that said, I have learned through experience that it can be challenging to locate your community heroes, particularly for open-source project leaders. GitHub is a great place to start.
Identifying Top Influencers at GitHub
The discovery process can be data-driven and deterministic. You can use utilities like GHRR (GitHub Research Runner), a CLI that pulls data from GitHub APIs on users interacting with a code repository as contributors, stargazers or subscribers, to help answer:
- Who are the most-followed users of a repository? Pay close attention to these users – they have a potential orbit of impact as individual contributors – with an established audience.
- Which users are very active in creating or forking repositories? A high level of activity may indicate a similarly high level of involvement in public projects.
- What is the geography of the user interacting with the repository? Influential users are potentially impactful ambassadors, willing to help others learn more about the framework and community.
- Where do users work? Work to understand the common company profile that uses the project. If several followers of a repository are from the same organization, it may be an indication of collaborative work or an expanding motion within an enterprise.
Once you export the data, you can then upload it into your Business Intelligence (BI) tool of choice, identify the cohort – and reach out.
Where Else Are Those Influencers Hiding?
While a powerful tool, GitHub is only one source of data on open-source activities – there are many other hubs with available APIs that can be queried, such as:
- Meetup.com has data on attendees and organizers by topic.
- Code-related hubs like Artifacthub and Terraform registry can be scanned to identify top Artifact creators, sorted by different categories like stars, downloads, number of artifacts, number of contributors, etc.
- Slack and Discord groups allow administrators to identify the most-active users and channels.
- Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be queried for social activities and topics within small groups.
At Bridgecrew*, I realized that the most popular creators of Terraform modules shared the early vision of securing the infrastructure code. These creators had massive communities behind them – thousands of followers on social media, in Slack groups and over newsletters, who were eager to hear their thoughts on our product.
These influencers created a network effect around Bridgecrew* and the open-source project Checkov, enhancing our brand and manifesting organic traffic to our open-source and commercial offerings. This traffic benefited Bridgecrew in multiple ways – providing early validation of our product strategy, increasing code contributions and product signups and creating more organic marketing assets.
As community builders ourselves, it is important to identify other community builders and find ways to collaborate. In doing so, you can maximize impact on your product ecosystem. Hopefully, with the processes suggested above, you can leverage a more-precise, data-driven approach to finding them. In my next blog posts, I’ll cover how to drive OSS members to cloud trials and how to engage them for product feedback.
The information contained herein is based solely on the opinions of Barak Schoster Goihman and nothing should be construed as investment advice. This material is provided for informational purposes, and it is not, and may not be relied on in any manner as, legal, tax or investment advice or as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any fund or investment vehicle managed by Battery Ventures or any other Battery entity.
This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and is for educational purposes. The anecdotal examples throughout are intended for an audience of entrepreneurs in their attempt to build their businesses and not recommendations or endorsements of any particular business.
*Denotes a Battery portfolio company. For a full list of all Battery investments, please click here.