Community Building April 10, 2020

Launching a new community, would love some feedback on the idea! 😊

Chris @blunicorn

I'm working with some friends to launch a hybrid 'community/tournament' for hackers and entrepreneurs. It's going to be a members only subscription service that pays out cash prizes each month to the top 10% of participating projects.

The general idea is to help plug the funding gap for smaller ongoing costs of trying to build a product (we expect prizes initially to be between $15-500 a month) and help people connect with likeminded people, share advice etc.

We've just launched a new landing page (first iteration last week was missing some key stuff...but we've also been busy on the shell of the application too) and hoping to get some feedback on various things:

  • First impressions of the page?
  • Thoughts on the concept more broadly?
  • At the moment we're encouraging people to join the waiting list, but theoretically they can actually sign up the the shell of the app cause we're publishing all progress live as we go. Does that feel problematic to anyone? As in a way we don't really want people signing up, but it's really harmless for us technically speaking. We've resolved this problem now thanks to input from people reading this post 🙌!
  • Do you know of any other similar communities or tournaments?
  • Anything else!

Any help, thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated :)

  1. 4

    hi chris! thanks for sharing this project. can't wait to be a part of the community. one clarifying question - is a cumulative thing month over month? or does it reset after each month's 10%?

    would be cool to maybe see a component where the community gets insight into how the prizes were used by the winning project to motivate and get people excited about seeing how the HackerStash community is supporting projects?

    again, can't wait to check it out as I've signed up! cheers!

    1. 2

      Hey @helloimdanny - great question and also a good idea.

      • The tournament starts fresh each month with each project included in the new tournament by default (billing takes place a few days into the month, so you can cancel before reenlisting if wanted). All scores are wiped at the beginning of the month, so no project can build some sort of cumulative advantage that compounds over time or anything like that. If you'd like a bit more info on some of the rules etc (they'll be published on the site in the coming weeks), please see my answer to @grbusinessforum 's question lower in this thread 😊

      • On the community insight into how prizes are spent: we are thinking to invite winners to write blog posts for HackerStash sharing how they've used prize money to help their project. That said, I quite like your idea, something more bitesized and self-reported could be helpful to highlight ways people spend their money to keep their project ticking along!

      Thanks again for your feedback, and for joining the waitlist! 🙌

  2. 4

    I like the idea - it'd be enticing to see sample or real projects that participate to get the ideas flowing.

    1. 2

      Yeah good point, I think someone else said that too - I'll try and think about how we can create some pre-launch content with examples of the sort of projects we think will participate, or like some lists of cool project ideas (I've got 100's I'd happily share in a few blog posts haha)

  3. 4

    I think your landing page is fine and gets to the point without any unnecessary extra fluff, your reasons to join are clearly visible.

    In terms of the concept - if you pay monthly are you entered each month? Or just the month you join?

    I wouldn't pay $12/month if I'm honest - maybe $12 for a one off entry, if I knew that you had a high number of users. I need users coming to my site rather than a small cash prize and at $12/month would be concerned that the number of users would be relatively small (especially when you first launch). This is my assumption though of course. The connection with other devs would be good but I can get that on here or Product Hunt or

    Maybe if you're public about the number of sign ups on the site as you go then the higher that number gets the more likely others may be to join in?

    1. 2

      @JamieGilman v3 is now live and we adding the public signups count you suggested 😍. Thanks again, if you have time to share you thoughts on the new version, I've shared progress on indiehackers here

    2. 1

      @JamieGilman thanks for the feedback 🙌.

      I agree that sign-posting the growth of the waitlist, and aiming for a decent number of participants early on is really key - we'll definitely look to add a count to the landing page!

      The subscription of $12 to access the community has to be thought of as part altruistic and partly about self interested, i.e. sure some people will win (10% of people each month), and for them it will be awesome and really helpful financially - but for everyone else they're still going to be sharing advice and ideas with their peers and ultimately helping to financially back projects that they think are cool but wouldn't necessarily buy.

      Like I often see cool projects on IH and think 'I don't need that, but it's bloody awesome', I really love the idea of being able to give a project like that a bunch of votes and hope that it wins a bit of cash to continue growing/developing 🙂.

      You are indeed entered monthly each month, but payment would be taken a few days in, so if you decide you want to pull out for any given month you can do so before it's too late!

      Thanks again - if you have any other questions let me know

      1. 1

        Ye if you can get the altruistic nature across more in your content I think that would have made it more appealing, to me at least - when you put it like that it gave it more authenticity for me, rather than simply a cash prize or something I can get from IH/PH

        1. 1

          Agreed 😊We haven't fine tuned the messaging around it much yet, only started working on the project 2 weeks ago, hence why I wanted to get feedback from IHers 😍The next iteration of the landing page we'll definitely put more emphasis on the altruistic nature of it too, thanks again

  4. 4

    Love this idea, and signed up. Some thoughts on the page/concept:

    • Page is not very text heavy. Consider how you might make it more visually appealing
    • If I wasn't coming from IH, I would wonder what a project is. Can you maybe give a few examples of the types of project you expect
    • The closest thing that comes to mind is Pioneer ( They've changed the model a few times (and I think they're deeply funded) but same thoughts around gamifying and incentivizing people to work on projects
    1. 2

      Nice, thanks @opebukola, great feedback 🙂- thoughts on each point:

      • Yeah it is a bit text heavy, you're right - trying to get it up asap, no nonsense sort of thing, but we definitely need to develop more personality and visual identity for the idea.
      • Add some examples of projects that is suits: yes I think we'll definitely do that, nice suggestions.
      • I'm actually a pioneer competitor with another project, been in/around the top 10 for several months (though not won just yet!). I really love it, and it was partly what inspired HackerStash. I feel like there are plenty of people for whom Pioneer's business/tournament model is not ideally suited -
        a.) not everyone has the time for the lengthy updates and written reviews of competitors,
        b.) not everyone needs/desires $100k in AWS vouchers, or opportunity for seed investment, 'expert advice'. Lots of us (myself include in other projects) just want to support our side projects running costs, help out other hackers/entrepreneurs financially if we value their ideas (even if we don't necessary need their service) etc
        c.) some people I know aren't super keen on the way pioneer promotes projects they prefer behind the scenes. I'm actually okay with that as they are very clear about that being part of their model, but I do think there are plenty of people who'd like something which was community lead 😊
    2. 1

      hey @opebukola , we've just updated the page with v3. I didn't managed to reduce the text too much, it's so difficult 🤦‍♂️, let me know if you have tips on how to do that! I did manage to break it up into more readable/digestible sections, so hopefully that helps. If you have any thoughts on v3 then don't hesitate to let me know, I've shared a post on IH here about it. Thanks again for your input 😊

  5. 3

    Such an awesome idea Chris! I love participating in Pioneer and putting some cash on the table will make things spicier 🌶️Have you thought about the economics? I wonder how many participants will you need to make sense in terms of prize distribution and your own profit margin.

    1. 2

      Hey Temirlan, glad to hear you like the idea 😍

      I've been playing around in google sheets experimenting with the model to see what makes sense financially. It will all be outlined clearly for everyone at time of launch (well, probably before that via email or IH posts). It will likely be something like $2 of the $12 subscription is spent towards developing the project/community/covering costs etc (not much, but our first order of business is empowering others, not enriching ourselves 😇). We're aiming for radical transparency regarding the project development and operations, now and after launch.

      In terms of what that means for the 3 of us founding the project, realistically the community needs to have stable audience of at least 100 members to cover costs, assuming there are around 0.6 projects per member as multiple members could be working on one project. On the idea of it being 'profitable': we're sort of parking that for now, as want to grow something to help people like us first and foremost. For arguments sake, we could commit one of us to the project full time for every 3,000 members there are in the as you can see, that's not part of our thinking at this early stage. Sort of hoping that many of the people who join are like me, and just want to help other projects out and be in with a chance to get a bit of help themselves.

      If you have any other questions let me know, thanks again 👋

      1. 1

        Love your detailed response! Would love to hear about your learning as you figure out this business model. A transparent approach is the way to go!! Good luck to you sir.

          1. 1

            Super interesting, thanks for sharing!

    1. 1

      😍Thanks, glad you're excited too!

  6. 3

    Great site idea. As another suggestion maybe give entrepreneurs the chance to post a competition with dollar amount attached. So for example I could say I want to build a music equipment store selling midi controllers on shopify winner gets $2,000. Maybe submission could be UI and final round the devs would build it. Love your site idea.

    Site visually isn't super great. To trust something like what you're looking to do I would expect it to be as high quality as fiverr or upwork. The UI should be amazingly intuitive, simple and easy to figure out without reading.

    My thoughts.

    1. 1

      hey @ryanoskey229 , v3 is now live and I've tried to make it a bit more visually appealing! I shared a post on IH here, would love to know if you find it nicer aesthetically now?

    2. 1

      Thanks @ryanoskey229 - I agree about the overall visual aesthetic, it needs more personality for sure, and building trust will be key. We're focus on the app UX itself at the moment and that's current looking super elegant, can't wait to share it with everyone 🤓!

      The idea of smaller minor competitions is pretty interesting too, thanks for sharing - I guess there's a chance it starts to blend into kickstarter type territory, though that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. We were currently thinking post-MVP we'd be more focusing on adding different tournaments or leagues e.g. a SaaS league, a hardware league etc...but need to get MVP out the door first 🤞

      1. 3

        Fyi i would use this. I’m an entrepreneur and competitions always yield better results for me with creative work. I have never seen a dev competition on something like upwork or fiverr. I was thinking about building it myself but im not a dev. I would love to use this type of platform. Brings opportunity to new devs and favorable terms for entrepreneurs

  7. 3

    will incentives for votes be allowed? vote for my project get free month of access. etc.

    1. 2

      Wow, excellent question, hadn't even thought of that being a tactic. I think a foundational rule must be 'don't ask for votes' - so that arguably should be avoided if so explicit.
      However, if a person wanted to create a post about their project saying 'We've made a discount code for HackerStash members to get discounts' I honestly think that's fine - ultimately it would be up to the community in that instance to decide whether that 'feels right'. My gut feeling is that if it's a genuine perk for the community, and a cool product, then people will like it - whether or not they'd award is points is a mystery for now 🕵️‍♀️

      Definitely something we'll think about though for sure, I've added it to my notes as something to address, thanks for asking!

  8. 3

    Ohhhh this is cool! I signed up!

    1. 1

      Awesome, thanks Dave!

  9. 3

    The idea is good and promising and i like the appearance.
    Also it is a nice way to interact with other devs and site builders in a more active way.
    The big problem will be in the way that winners will be determined.
    Will it be via members voting? How transparent will the proccess be, especially in first days, when community and voters will still be few? etc
    Once you will overcome these issues, i beleive there is huge potential.

    1. 3

      Thanks @grbusinessforum - the aim is for 100% transparency around how winners are determined. In a nutshell it will be like this:

      • Each live 'project' gets 500 points they can distribute throughout the month to other projects, posts or comments they find helpful or reflective or exciting progress.
      • If there are multiple people working on a project, they have to share the points they get to distribute e.g. 5 people on a team would have 100 points each to use.
      • You can vote up posts, projects or comments as many times as you like. Ultimately it's up to you what you think is most worthy of your points.
      • We'll be displaying how each person voted on their profile, so you can get a sense for if a competitor is voting fairly, if they're issues a disproportionate amount of downvotes etc.
      • HackerStash will never intervene, tip the scales, change votes's out of our hands. The only exception to that would be content or projects that are illegal, but we suspect we won't see much of that as it's a subscription service. If a project is removed then their share of votes would be returned to those that had awarded them, to reuse on other projects.
      • It's use it or lose it - if you don't use your votes during the monthly tournament, they're gone. To encourage people to use their votes, you'll receive one upvote for your project for each vote your distribute - essentially guarantee engaged participants 500 points each tournament just for taking part.

      Regarding the price pool/distribution:

      • Each month the top 10% share the prize pool.
      • The prize pool gets bigger the more participants there are (ultimately if the community grows large enough, the prizes will move from being hundreds to thousands of dollars 🤞
      • 1st place takes the largest prize, that lowest positioned of the 10% will take closer to $15.

      Ultimately, we think that having fellow hackers voting on you to win (or can be downvoted too!) will be super useful for validation of ideas. Like in just one month, you could win and have had many peers essentially upvoting you saying they think your project is worthy of funding. Likewise, you could come last because your idea didn't resonate with the community - that will be hard sometimes, but it helps people to pivot, try new things quickly, learn from each other etc.

      1. 1

        Makes sense, thanks
        Will a website-idea be able to participate in many months or just one month only?
        This is very important, as many people work on a website for long period and probably they will lose their interest if they will not be able to participate for 2nd, 3nd time etc

        1. 2

          Everyone can participate in as many months as they like, the tournament starts fresh each month with each project included in the new tournament by default. All scores are wiped at the beginning of each month, so no project can build some sort of cumulative advantage that compounds over time or something 😊

      2. 1

        oh yeah, and obviously you can't vote for your own project, posts or comments!

  10. 3

    Like the idea. One suggestion would be to not have other pages that are empty when you want people to get on the waiting list.

    1. 1

      thanks @shiva_prabhakaran - we were thinking that too - maybe we need a separate homepage for now that is like ''. We're pushing every iteration development-wise straight into production at the moment so weren't sure of a sensible way to split it without making extra work for ourselves. Otherwise maybe we'll just move the app to or something and have only a waiting page.

      1. 1

        Yeah. Seems like a good idea.

        1. 1

          Made the change, thanks for the input 😊

  11. 3

    I like the idea, I've signed up to the mailing list and willing to pay the membership fee. I have a couple of small ideas/projects that I'd love to get off the ground and this could be fun. :)

    1. 2

      Awesome, thanks @rosiesherry 😀- I just revisited Rosieland, it's really come along a lot since I last saw it, loads of great content I need to dig into! I managed to find the newsletter through an old link on your IH - is that still active? It's not promoted on the site I noticed 🙂

      1. 3

        On my todo list to promote the newsletter and other bits, not much 'free' time atm :(

        I moved it over to Substack recently, it's still a thing -

        1. 1

          Hi Rosie! Just joined your substack :) Why did you decide to move over there? I'm figuring things out for Automagic

        2. 1

          nice, I signed up :)

    2. 1

      What's your Twitter id btw? The one in your profile is wrong.

      1. 1

        oh yeah, I updated my twitter handle but didn't change it on IH...will do that now. It's

        1. 1

          Ah, thought that was someone you were working with :D

          1. 1

            yeah, I need some kind of unified identity on the web 🤦‍♂️haha

  12. 2

    Hi Chris
    I didn't reed the other feedbacks but are you aware that chrome recognizes your site as dangerous so it won't let you proceed?
    I captured screen if you want

    1. 1

      Ah, I've seen it now, something's happened to our certificates, will get it fixed asap! Thanks for spotting it and letting us know so promptly 😍

    2. 1

      Thanks Gali, surprised to hear that as I exclusively use Chrome and have seen no issues on mobile or on my laptop! We will look into it though 😊 If you can send a screenshot to [email protected] that would be really helpful 🙂

      1. 1

        Sent you anyway :)
        Good luck!

        1. 1

          Thanks Gali, all fixed now!

  13. 1

    Hey Chris,
    First Impressions:

    • Needs a tag line (to get people excited)
    • Replace 'Waiting List' with 'Get notified when we launch'
    • Put the wordy stuff at the bottom
      (just my 2c ¯\(ツ)/¯)
    1. 1

      Thanks @sevenearths

      • Is 'Communiry lead micro finance for hackers and entrepreneurs' a bit too descriptive/literal maybe? Like do you think it would benefit from something abstract, emotive and shorter? Let me know if you have ideas, I'll definitely give it some thought though 🙂

      • I agree on the 'get notified' heading too, much more accurate to be honest, thanks - will include that in our next update to the page.

      • It is indeed wordy haha, we'll on something snappier 😅

      Thanks again for the great input!

      1. 1

        "Funding from people (who care/like you)"
        "Your next round starts HERE"
        "Hack Funding"
        "You bring the idea, we'll bring the money <button>Talk to us now!</button>"
        There's loads I can think of :)

        1. 1

          hey @sevenearths - we've incorporated all you feedback in v3 which is now live 😍! I shared a new post on IH looking for feedback on it, you can see it here, I'd love to know if you felt the changes worked 🙂...went for the tagline 'Funding, hacked.'

          1. 2

            Like it. It's a lot cleaner. Same amount of information but now it's in different parts of the screen and not in 8/10pt font <:thumbs_up:>

  14. 1

    If you break it down the use of prizes ruin the experience.

    I'm very competitive and if there are prizes i want to win them, i would do whatever it takes to win.

    That takes away from the number 1 goal of building a business.

    That is why communities like Indie hackers are so good.

    1. 1

      I just reviewed your project on Pioneer just last week (where I'm a competitor with a different project), so I'm a little surprised to hear you're already in a prize-based tournament but dislike them so much. Did Pioneer feel like it detracted from your focus on building your business? I've really liked Versoly for a while by they way, cool project 😊

      1. 1

        Thanks for the review :)

        I just wanted to be candid, I see a lot of projects that get a lot of hype and end up going nowhere unfortunately.

        Pioneer don't do cash prizes? I joined for weekly updates, I use to do startupschool.

        Their goal is to invest in companies. There is unlimited amount of funding for good companies, you don't really compete vs others.

        The leaderboard doesn't matter to me as they have no prizes. If they had cash prizes and I thought I could win I would "spam" links in a smart way, downvote people, ask for upvotes etc.

        Pioneer also has some crazy mentors etc that help it grow.

        I would follow @csallen and see how he grew Indie Hackers, he didn't start with a community.

        Actually Pioneer does have one advantage of ranking well, you get put on top of leaderboard and might get more pageviews. That is good but not enough for me to game the system.

        1. 1

          Pioneer's mentors are only available if you win now. They used to accessible to anyone in the top 50 but I think it was too much of a drain on the mentors as they're very busy people!

          I'd say Pioneer makes a lot of sense for a project like yours that is post-revenue and needs a larger injection of resources to scale, or looking for expert advice to help move forward.

          Worth noting: to progress in Pioneer/be in contention to 'become a Pioneer' you predominantly need to either be showing exponential revenue or user growth, be in an emerging sector like AI or (now) remote working tech, or have simple an incredibly original/high-potential idea. If you don't have any of those qualities going for you, you can still win, but I know of people who've take 50 weeks to do so - which equates to 1000's of hours of reviewing other projects, writing your updates etc, hours that could have been spent on your project.

          Anyway, Pioneer's great, I'm really enjoying being a participant with my other project - but I think there's space for something where the winners are dictated by the community/other competitors. It's effectively community+prizes+altruism - you could win any given month, but even if you don't you'd get great advice/network with your peers, validate you ideas/progress, and help support other entrepreneurs (which is super important for me personally at this time).

          I'm looking forward to seeing your progress on Pioneer the next time you're part of my review batch, keep up the great work and thanks for your feedback on HackerStash 👍

          1. 1

            Good to know.

            Makes sense, hopefully we can get some hockey stick growth :)

            50 weeks - 1000 hours = 20 hours a week? I spent like 20-30 mins a week and I get to help other founders.

            I hope it works, but having been on the internet when money is involved it gets messy.


            1. 1

              Haha yes sorry, was an extra 0 on there by mistake 😅. I do know plenty of pioneer participants who spend 5 hours a week on reviewing people, writing their updates, joining the group calls etc though - very worthwhile if you're working on your project full time, but costly for side projects 🙂

              1. 1

                No problem :)

                What group calls?

                1. 1

                  When you're doing well enough in the tournament you are invited to weekly group calls on zoom with other competitors, they're fun 🙂

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