Two things are happening in my life as we speak: I'm empowering myself by hanging in various NFT Discord communities and I'm reading Andrew Chen's The Cold Start Problem.
Both of these items have important lessons for entrepreneurs all over the world.
For instance, the key to success is building demand, especially if your product or service is new.
And second, communities have their own subcultures that can come with real life monetary value. But what are these things, anyway?
Before I discuss the lessons behind Galactic Gaylords, lets talk about what it is. The term NFT is short for “non-fungible token,” and it’s part of the emerging blockchain technology. An NFT is a unique piece of code in blockchain, and it’s linked to a media file. Most commonly, an NFT is a piece of artwork (or series of works), but it can also be video, music, or many other things. People want to own NFTs because they’re unique: unlike cryptocurrency, where you can divide it, trade it for value, and get an identical one, the NFT is irreplaceable.
In the view of some, collecting NFTs is like collecting original artwork: you get ownership of the original work. However, the artist often retains the right to sell art prints or, in this case, copies of the digital file. It’s a great way for digital artists to make money.
But, how do NFTs build value? In a similar way as online games become popular, or certain books develop a cult following: through community. Many NFT projects, such as Galactic Gaylords, have an online community. For Galactic Gaylords, there’s a Discord room and Twitter exchanges. And as people become part of that metaverse, the artifacts become valuable. We’ll return to that thought later.
Back to The Cold Start Problem
One of the main key takeaways from The Cold Start Problem is the power of niche communities to ramp up your network effects. For instance, most businesses start small with a very loyal following and small niche. From there, these brand advocates and loyal users get other people involved with the product, and eventually help convert them to paying customers.
Here’s an example. Homobiles is a niche rideshare in San Francisco. A nonprofit, it evolved as a way for members of the LGBTQ community to get safe, sober rides home. This was a problem, because a lot of taxi services refused to pick up members of that community-at least when in party mode. Later, they became a safe ride option for women, who often face harassment from taxi drivers, and people who couldn’t pay much money (through the generosity of others). Where did they get inspiration? Uber. Uber started out as a black car and limo service that was still decentralized. Now, Uber drivers can have a large variety of rides, including most late model vehicles.
Need another example? Facebook started out as a college network, then grew into one of the most powerful social networks globally. Part of this was because the college students got older, and partially because of conscious expansion by Facebook. Nowadays, local social network Jodel is emulating the business and growth problem.
Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) helps beat the cold start problem
When I coach my growing pool of early-stage startup founders this is usually one of my key pieces of advice: identify a handful of potential superfans and gather them into a group to build a lightning-fast feedback loop by engaging with your future brand ambassadors. Not only will these people give you great feedback while the product is still in Beta and early-stage main release, but they’ll also tell their friends.
An ideal customer profile, however, can help you build a high-engaging, organic NFT community as well, and avoid that pump and dump when the NFT avatar collection is ultimately listed to OpenSea. How does it do this? In a nutshell, an ICP can help marketers and community leaders identify their core community. The people who would most benefit from a company’s products and services. For instance, there are anime-related NFTs communities and communities that appeal to different minority communities.
ICP works with the Metaverse, too
In the marketing world, there’s a similar concept called the buyer persona-who would purchase your products and services if offered the chance. This is slightly different from the ICP, in that it’s less specific.
A buyer persona includes the people you most want to market your products to, not necessarily the people who are most likely to benefit. So, for example, in a buyer persona world everyone can afford to buy-if they try hard enough. On the other hand, in the ICP model you only care about whether or not they’ll benefit. That’s why companies like Homobiles are successful: they work on donation or a freemium model.
But how does this apply to the metaverse? As an alternative reality iteration, the metaverse immerses users/subscribers into a world that’s both imaginary and all-consuming. One metaverse community might, for example, imagine that unicorns are real or that there’s no such thing as war because people work out all their problems peacefully.
How do ICPs generate value within the Metaverse?
Within the Metaverse, there are a lot of people who will benefit from these NFT communities. There are a lot of subcultures where people look for acceptance and community, and many NFTs focus on these demographics.
In turn, people are willing to pay money, whether it’s through a subscription, purchasing an NFT, or buying other community-related merch, to be part of the community. At the same time, there are often opportunities for cost-free participation.
Lessons learned from Galactic Gaylords
Observing multiple of these here's one I would like to highlight: Galactic Gaylords. You can find the community at GalacticGaylords.com. They also have a Discord channel with over 400 people and an active community. Time to learn from Galactic Gaylords how they treat their ICP.
For Galactic Gaylords, the target market is members of the LGBTQ+ community. Its premise is that, several centuries in the future, heroes will roam the galaxy freely. The goal of these heroes is to ensure that the highest power in the universe is love-no matter who you are, and who you love. In the Galactic Gaylords community, everyone is accepted, so long as they honor the diversity of love and relationship styles. For an historically marginalized group, this storyline is highly compelling.
There’s even a mixture of humor and social commentary in the brand vocabulary: "emerging from metaverse closet", and "hold onto your butts." The first slogan has a clear meaning: Galactic Gaylords creates a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and the overall NFT is built around IRL queer cultural themes, such as glitter and poppers. You can come out of the closet here without the social stigma of RL coming out.
The second slogan is a sort of tongue in cheek reference to “hold on to your hats,” or prepare for a big surprise. Here, the idea is that community members will be surprised about the acceptance from the rest of the community, and the safety they’ll enjoy where queer culture is dominant.
For many members of the queer community, this alone is valuable.
However, Galactic Gaylords also provides value (and revenue opportunities) through Utilities: most of the NFT communities don't have tangible utilities but we have "kinky merch dungeon" and Discord community is full of suggestions such as Galactic Gaylords poppers, jockstraps, Grindr partnerships, and more. Merch, of course, is sold to not only raise revenue, but give an IRL crossover from the metaverse to reality. The merch lets the happy feelings of Galactic Gaylords be carried into the user’s everyday life.
How does this work out for the community? In a nutshell, the ideas generated in Discord provide opportunities for more people to join the NFT community. For instance, since Grindr is a social network with broad appeal in the Queer community, collaborations related to Gaylords can pull more people into the metaverse. The same thing goes when Gaylords merch shows up at parties, and turns out to be the coolest stuff ever.
In other words, Galactic Gaylords provides extremely tangible utilities for the ICP! It’s a world where anyone can participate, but safe for the subculture it appeals to. Also, if you visit their website, you’ll see much more than a summary of the project. You’ll get clear CTAs to join the Discord. Sometimes, all you need is an invitation.
Galactic Gaylords is successful despite a small-ish niche
Let’s be honest. On the world stage, the LGBTQ+ community is relatively small, even in places where it’s most accepted. For this reason, Galactic Gaylords has fewer people who will draw value from the project. On the other hand, this is made up for somewhat in that the queer community can be close knit in some parts of the world.
What’s the bottom line? If Galactic Gaylords can do it, so can you. All that you need to do is set up your NFT properly and learn how to maximize our ICP from the start.