Benji Vaughan discusses his ‘David vs Goliath’ startup journey in this week’s Founder Feature.
Starting off with a record label, Benji sought to engage with fans worldwide, however, found the giants of social to be too restrictive and lacklustre. With that in mind, he set up Disciple, the niche community growth platform focused on passion economy and meaningful connections.
Learn more about Benji Vaughan’s venture in the interview below.
Q: Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?
A: Disciple Media is a Community Growth Platform which enables brands and creators to build owned, independent community platforms centred around shared passions. We support people who want to connect with their community without the restrictions and limitations of centralised social networks like Facebook.
By having a community platform, creators can engage with their network on a deeper level, freely sharing content and creating exclusive feeds for their members. Community members can benefit from tailored content and messaging features, without being slaves to the Facebook algorithm or getting distracted by the noise of low-quality content on these mainstream social networking platforms.
Q: Can you tell us who your mentors and heroes are, and what impact they’ve had on you?
A: One of my heroes is Chris Blackwell who took a passion he had for Jamaican music in the early 60’s and combined it with the vision he had to bring that passion to a global audience and nailed it. He inspired and changed the culture around the world through this.
Q: What made you decide to take on the challenge of founding your business?
A: My passion and background is music. Before founding Disciple, I ran a record label, toured and released a few albums. I wanted to connect with my fans and I quickly came to the realisation that social media platforms like Facebook restricted the ways I could connect, engage or grow my following. It became obvious that there was no way for creators who had built their own niche communities to perfectly interact and maintain relationships with those who shared our passions.
I set up Disciple to compete with social media giants and focus on the growing passion economy. I wanted to help creators deliver niche content and services based on the passion points of their audiences. At around the same time, users began to lose trust in sites like Facebook and the digital attention economy matured. My aim is to give niche community hosts the opportunity to leverage the value and connections they’ve created, without the limitations of third-party involvement.
Q: What has surprised you in your journey so far?
A: I’m always pleasantly surprised by the communities that we work with and who want to work with us. Our communities make significant impacts on the wider society and really change lives, so, I guess I’m surprised by how rewarding this journey has been so far. I hear about hundreds of community success stories and people using our platform for good.
The ‘Action for Happiness’ community was an early adopter of Disciple and now they’re a 190,000+ strong community. They have a mission to improve mental wellbeing and have helped thousands of people with their Oxford, LSE and UCL-evaluated happiness courses which are now used in over 19 countries.
Q: How are you measuring your success? What are your metrics?
A: There are certainly varying levels of success we have achieved so far. For me, seeing the growth in both our customers and their communities has been a key indicator of success. We have such a vibrant and varied customer base, from the likes of The Rolling Stones to niche communities, decided by those who are passionate about health and wellbeing, and even a community for cattle farmers! That’s the beauty of the passion economy, it’s extremely diverse and constantly growing.
What’s more, I also measure success through customer testimonials. One community ‘Her Spirit’ actually convinced 30 women to complete the London triathlon and supported them entirely through their community platform. They played a huge role in transforming the physical and mental life of hundreds of women across the UK.
In terms of metrics, we’ve seen significant growth in numbers – in the past six months, we have seen 100% growth in community groups and in just five years, we now host over 300 communities around the world.
As the pandemic hit, we found that community became more important than ever as people sought support, encouragement and a sense of belonging. This became evident as the past 90 days saw the quickest growth rate in new communities since our founding.
Q: Tell us about some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
A: Everyone has competitors, but what if your competitors are one of the largest companies on the planet? When we started Disciple we knew it would be a David and Goliath story. We pride ourselves in being the ‘anti-Facebook’ as we believe that people can’t truly connect or engage with their community through such a centralised platform, that frankly, has matured and become saturated.
Despite having such a strong competitor we’ve shown incredible growth and created a real alternative to brands and creators to host their communities in independent, positive and secure spaces
Q: What are your goals over the next 12 months?
A: We recently launched a more affordable version of our community platform that perfectly fits smaller communities, for the short-term our focus was bringing this product to the market. Even at the pre-launch stage, we had over 5000 sign-ups and we got over 1000 new communities created on our platform in less than 10 days after the launch.
In the long-term, we are developing our own community for community leaders which has a lot of resources on how to create and run your community. We are also implementing a mentorship program where more experienced community managers can train newcomers.
Q: What’s most exciting about your traction to date?
A: When we started Disciple, the idea of having a community outside of social media was unheard of. Everyone thought that having a page on social media was a must-have. Now, we see things have changed and more businesses are creating their own communities. Our journey was an interesting one. We started with the music industry, but now we work with over twenty industries. I think the most exciting thing about our traction is to see hundreds of communities growing and thriving. They all create a positive and safe environment to inspire conversation and help their members to feel a sense of belonging.
Learn more about Disciple, the niche community-driven social networking app. Visit their website: www.disciplemedia.com