Even before we invested, I’ve been enamored with Guilded — a platform to find, manage and challenge online gaming teams. Chiefly, they have done a brilliant job building something people love by engaging directly and authentically with gaming communities on Reddit. In addition, they’re building the very software I wish I’d had all those years ago when I had more time to game, let alone enough time to run a gaming team!
Quake II helped me learn to code. It wasn’t long after I started playing that I noticed [clan] tags next to some — usually the best — player’s names. I needed to be in a Quake II clan. After trying a few different teams, I inevitably needed to start my own. This gave me an excuse to learn HTML so I could build and maintain our team’s website. That prepared me pretty well for my career in tech.
Believe it or not, it took two decades for the Guilded team to come along and build a solution that integrated all of the fundamental things a gaming team needs into one service including a calendar, forums, website builder and wikis.
Just yesterday, the team at Guilded rolled out a major product update with some of the top esports franchises on board. As an early stage investor, we make our living making big bets on founders when the product and traction are often still nascent. At the time we invested, there was already a strong signal that this team was making something people love because Eli, the founder and CEO, was building the product right along with his audience on Reddit.
With a community on Reddit for every game, there was no better place to start finding users. Fittingly, Eli approached building the product similar to how we approached building Reddit: by talking to our users — on Reddit. Eli’s been doing this since he launched, which was not only beneficial for him but also a gift for the community he was a part of and wanted to build something for.
What are you waiting for? Talk to your customers.
Too many founders are concerned with getting it perfect for a Hollywood-style launch. Build something that’s good enough to solve a problem, get it out to some of the people who need it most and talk to them. I’d have to offer people free coffee around Davis Square in Medford, Massachusetts to get them to sit down with me and try Reddit in order to learn what they thought and see how they used the product. That was 2005.
But even when things went badly (e.g., the site would go down for a few hours), we’d never think of banning the top post on the site, which inevitably was about how dumb we were. Rather, we got in the comments and explained what went wrong and how we were going to improve. People really respected that. It’s fitting that learning how to build a website for my videogame team led me to build Reddit, which has now helped Eli build a website to manage these teams for the community on Reddit.
When you’re getting started, being an engaged founder within your community of earliest adopters carries real weight, especially if it’s a community product. It shows them you give a damn, which builds loyalty, (because you’ll need that when you inevitably misstep). And it gets you close to your core customers, who you’ll need to make the right decisions about product and the business.