#001: Community Led Growth: Case Studies from Peleton, Notion & others

Why do some software companies have a loyal, cult-like following? While others blend into oblivion? Is a good product enough to win in the SaaS market today?
In this case study, explore how brands like Peleton,, Notion & Duolingo built their raving fans. Walk away with a 4 step process to start building your own loyal member base today.
Watch the full talk below, live from stage at SaaS North 👇🏽


Any guess what brand of bikes they’re making fun of?
Any guess what brand of bikes they’re making fun of?
In 2007, legendary cartoon series SouthPark made a dig into the cult like following of a motorcycle brand - any guesses on what this company was, solely by looking at this picture?
A decade later, an at-home fitness bike maker used a very similar strategy to build a cult like following and become a household name, catapulting their valuation to over $30B in 2020. Any guesses? 👉🏽
In 2020, Peleton became a $30bn at home fitness brand selling premium content & community on top of their at home bikes
In 2020, Peleton became a $30bn at home fitness brand selling premium content & community on top of their at home bikes
In this case study, we’ll explore how companies grow loyal followings that helped them win in the market and become category leaders

ACT I: The Case for Community Led Growth

Ask yourself this question - why is the internet buzzing with talks of crypto, blockchain or NFTs.
Even if you believe that stuff is noise, ask yourself - what’s the underlying SIGNAL behind that noise? Why are all these technologies and the talk about Web 3.0 everywhere?
That answer maybe worth a lot of money.
Let’s back up and see how we got to this whole Web 3.0.
First we had companies who built mass market products. Then sold it to people through mass marketing and advertising.
I call this Biz 1.0.
The barriers to entry were: Physical Infrastructure and Large Scale Capital
Problem: They constantly needed cheaper labor and more consumers to grow their business
With the internet, we moved to a new kind of business model. The new mantra was to find product market fit first -> and then scale rapidly. To sell their products, they invent modern marketing tactics demand gen & performance marketing. This is where we are right now
I call this Biz 2.0
The barriers to entry here for Biz 2.0 - Building great software - technology and design
Problem: These barriers to entry are getting eroded very quickly. Engineering and products are getting commoditized.
For example, you can go to and $149  - you can buy the front end and back end of almost any SaaS unicorn such as Uber, Tinder, Amazon or Airbnb.
Because anyone can build without a SaaS company, we’re seeing an explosion of them.
In 2011, there were about 150 software companies that sold to marketers.
Today there are over 7,000 companies trying to sell to marketers.
So here’s the BIG SHIFT:
No-code, templates and rising international talent is commoditizing the build. Relying on pricing and product led growth are not going to work in the future.
Because building those same products is getting much, much easier
So how will you create lasting demand in your niche while spending less on acquiring customers?
I have been studying brands and their cult followings for over a decade.
And in the next few mins, I’ll walk you through the key lessons we learnt
  1. You’ll learn the secret, almost backward strategy that I call “NfX Strategy” that companies are using lasting demand
  1. You’ll hear how 6 different companies use this strategy
  1. You’ll get the 4 step framework on how you can do the same


ACT II: Case Studies: Stories and Lessons from the Best

Each of these case studies is under a toggle. Click on the toggle button ▶️ to unlock the case study




🔑🔓 is the current darling of the SaaS world. Went from $0 to $8bn valuation in under 5 years
This company started in Tel Aviv in 2016. The founders realized a problem - most salespeople were using opinions instead of data. And this company wanted to sell them A.I. software to do better. Problem was - no sales people wanted to use A.I.
So they decided to start building a movement - data based sales. The CMO encouraged their own top sales reps to write on LinkedIn about how A.Ii makes them better.  By sharing their own stories and data from their enormous sales database, they quickly gathered over 100k followers on LinkedIn and built the first community of sales reps who believed in data.
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Gong started shouting out these community members - sending them swag and even putting them on billboards. This created what they call the ‘Gong mob’
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These are people who will publicly vouch and defend Gong is any online conversation.
When any sales leaders asked for recommendations on sales software, Gong would simply tag the Gong mob of raving fans. You’d see just hundreds of comments from their mob saying Gong is the only option.
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This helped the company scale from 0 to $8B decacorn in 5 years flat. They went from being a CRM add-on to owning a category called Revenue Intelligence. Their product is good. But their fanatical fan base is undefeatable.
Gong built a movement around Data Based Sales, and unlocked that community for Social Selling.
Today, Gong has an official community called - which is open to any sales and revenue professional. But remember, Gong built their first “community” on LinkedIn without any tools or strategy - just straight to the point, data backed sales content. For more on how Gong cut through the LinkedIn noise, read this detailed analysis

Gong’s Rituals

🥃 Whiskey Thursdays - Rumor has it that during the early days their sales leaders and content folk would get in a room together on Thursday evenings, pour out some nice whiskey and the entire team would just write. This way they were able to build out a library of content from actual experts in the domain, not some freelance blog writers
⚡️ LinkedIn Storms - In the early days, when someone from Gong published an article, the entire company was pinged on Slack to go like, comment and share on the post immediately. That much engagement from 200 employees in a short time was enough for LinkedIn’s algorithm to start recommending the article to more people. Gong ensured their own content went viral simply by asking the entire company to help with the initial boost
🌈 Raving Fan Club - Gong
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Let’s talk about a company that makes at home fitness bikes. An industry that was marred by selling cheap products in 80s style infomercials for decades.
This new company comes along and says we’ll sell a $3,000 bike and then charge those people $50/month to use that bike. That’s crazy.
“Connection” has always ranked among Peloton’s core buzzwords, dating back to the 2013 trade show where founder and CEO John Foley debuted the bike under the only-slightly-maudlin tagline “you’ll never ride alone.”
Foley: “For forever, working out at home was a lonely thing in your basement. You were alone. And it sucked. Now, with millions of people on the platform, we bring a community of supportive people high-fiving you, motivating you, sharing the experience.”
Peloton isn’t in the business of selling bikes (there are cheaper and better options out there) - it in the business of building community and selling belonging.
Ask yourself - what’s stopping potential customer from throwing up a YouTube video on an iPad? Nothing, except for community. During the pandemic, people needed connection more than ever. And Peleton delivered.
They have a leaderboard where riders track their ‘ranking’ in the community. There are FB groups for Peleton riders who are nurses, dentists and gardeners etc.
And how much is that worth?
In 2020, during the hype of Peleton mania, the at-home-bike riding company was worth more than Dell, Yum Brands and Ford. That’s how much the market values a fanatical fan base.
“All cult fitness brands have online followings, but Peloton’s is more than a fandom: It’s a core part of the company’s corporate identity, a lifeline for thousands of riders, and, increasingly, the secret sauce that separates Peloton from an exploding field of internet-connected competitors”
Peleton built a movement around staying fit at home. They unlocked community for increasing Customer Life Time Value

Peleton’s Rituals

⚡️ Live Leaderboard
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📢 Public Shoutouts
Peleton members get public shoutouts for reaching milestones
Question is: What kind of movement will you build?


Let’s talk about a company that wanted to build a language learning app. They started with 4 language learning courses made in house. But how to scale?
Problem - How do we create courses on the far to reach languages?
Option 1: Hire and pay a ton of language experts
Option 2: Ask your community to do it for you you for free
This is Duolingo, the largest platform for people looking to learn a new language.
Duolingo’s community of volunteers built over 90 courses and host over 600 events per week, just because Duolingo asked them to be a part of their movement.
They built a $2.5B business with 500M users all without charging their customers.
They built a movement around learning languages for free and unlocked community to help with build their core product

Duolingo’s Rituals:




Thinkific’s Rituals:


ACT III: How You Can Create Your Own Movement


Final Case Study: THINKIFIC

Education is the industry that probably changed the most last year. 10 years ago, it was almost unheard of for individuals to teach online. But the founders of this company had a vision - anyone can teach and share their knowledge online. And earn from it. And they wanted 1M people to do this. That was there movement - 1M people share their knowledge online.
This company is Thinkific, one of the largest online course platforms and Canada’s home grown unicorn that had a successful IPO in 2021.
One of the earliest strategies the founders implemented was to create a community - where experienced course creators could help the newcomers. It started with a simple FB group to connect users.
You see,
Support, CS, Paid Ads scale 1:1.
Customer Education scales 1:many.
But Community can scale many:many aka network effects.
As head of community at Thinkific, my team and I have started a few rituals that help us build this movement.

Thinkific Rituals:

Welcome Wednesday
Ambassador program
Project champagne
Results: 50k members, 30% reduction in support, top 5 acquisition channels
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Love, chips and guac
© 2023 — made with ❤️  in Vancouver