Community has always been part of the human experience. We have continuously sought a sense of belonging throughout time. Perhaps this derives from our tribal instincts when teamwork was a requirement to stay alive and revolved around the physical safety of your group. In modern times, this has morphed into a personal choice to center your time around a desired lifestyle, sport, school, or other location-based interest, where you can be with others in a shared space.
While the core of community remains the same, the form changes constantly.
With the dominance of the internet, accelerated by the pandemic, everything is accessible at the touch of a button. No need to be close to your favorite bar or cafe when you can order online and have it delivered in minutes. No need to be close to a chosen gym when you can participate in virtual classes anytime, anywhere. Your “home” now has a sense of community that appeals to you geographically or virtually.
Community has taken many different forms on the internet. Since the creation of Bebo and Myspace almost two decades ago, a gateway has opened to feel comfortable connecting with others in the virtual world. Digital communities have evolved in many forms, from hyper niche groups centered around shared passions, to mass market behemoths like Facebook and Instagram. However, as Covid slowly wanes, people are showing fatigue with living a predominantly digital life, and many have the desire to be back to in-person events. In light of this digital/physical push and pull, the concept of community is likely set in a state of continual flux over the coming years.
A new generation of communities is emerging.
At the fund, we’re particularly excited about the rise of “micro-communities,” communities based around their participants’ specific issues of importance. This can take many forms., from sharing resources for living with a chronic illness (like our portfolio company Pollie), to supporting one another through emotional challenges like pregnancy (like our portfolio company Mae) or depression (like our portfolio company Mine’d’); to dealing with socially taboo subjects like decreased sex drive (like our portfolio company Rosy). The digital world enables the building of micro-communities that would otherwise have been inconceivable a few years ago. Distance, age, ethnicity, and other limiting factors are wiped away in digital space, and AI tools can derive deep truths for the group from their interactions. Often, these communities bring joy and delight to their participants, as do many of the companies we invest in (like Medal.TV, a community that lets you edit your gaming clips and share them to any social platform; and Journey, “the world’s largest, most engaging meditation community.”).
Another form of community derives from Web3 in the form of tokenized groups and DAOs.
Early signs indicate that Web3 and the democratization of community building through DAOs could be the next momentous iteration. Putting decision-making, governance, and financial rewards in the hands of the members themselves is an epochal shift. No longer would a single “big brother” control the community and benefit exclusively from its value. Those who put in the most effort, the highest engaged and dedicated, will share in its operation and worth.
Tokenization is another way communities are giving participants value. In our portfolio, health movement platform Moveworld has launched its $MOVE token to reward community members for competing in their challenges to drive a more active society, and Serif is integrating tokenization into their membership to ensure that their historically under-represented community of LGBTQ leaders and creators have a seat at the emerging digital asset table.
As investors, we focus on change, so we see great potential in this new generation of community, which gives greater agency to the individuals involved and has deeper impacts on their lives.
If you have or know of a powerful new community, we’d love to hear about it.
By Investment Partner Claire Cherry