Makers Funds & Grants: Investing in Your SaaS Users and Community

Victoria Rudi
May 19, 2022
⌚ 9 min read

→ Your growth practice

Grow your SaaS brand by financing other people’s dreams and projects. Launch funds and offer grants, enabling users, community members, or company stakeholders to become makers/creators.

→ Quick explanation

Create the right environment and incentivize people to create new products and assets based on their product or industry-related skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm. Grow and nurture an ecosystem of makers/creators dedicated to building something new while promoting your company’s mission and values.

The mechanics of this practice are quite straightforward: be willing to give and offer support. Invest money in industry professionals and get them to:

  • Build assets upon your product (templates, integrations, apps)
  • Launch content/media products
  • Create something new
  • Grow a business
  • And more

This growth practice will help you create:

  • An entire ecosystem of new products
  • A network of professionals who’re willing to expand your mission

You have to allocate funds and distribute them based on specific criteria to existing users, company stakeholders, or community members who want to create or build something from scratch.

→ Definitions

📓 Users: People who use your SaaS product to achieve a specific goal. You may acquire trial, non-paying, or paying users.

📓 Community members: Leads, prospects, users, and customers who are part of a community launched by a SaaS brand.

📓 Company stakeholders: People who have a vested interest in a company. They can be:

  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Community members
  • Users
  • Customers
  • Industry associations/organizations
  • And more

📓 Makers/Creators: People interested in creating and building things. They may create something upon an existing platform, such as templates for Notion. Or, they may build something new, such as a side project or a full-fledged company.

📓 Makers Fund: A sum of money available for a company’s users, community members, or stakeholders who want to create or build something.

📓 Makers Grant: A sum of money allocated by a company to its users, community members, or stakeholders interested in becoming makers/creators.

→ Types of funds/grants

SaaS companies may offer funds/grants for different purposes, such as to:

  • Building upon the platform. In this case, SaaS brands focus on incentivizing users to build third-party assets (templates, integrations, and apps) related to the platform.
  • Create something related to the brand/industry. SaaS companies may invest in professionals who want to launch industry media assets, such as podcasts, vlogs, communities, and more.
  • Start something new. Finally, some SaaS brands fund new endeavors, helping entrepreneurs to launch projects or build full-fledged companies.

→ Your growth opportunities

By investing in your SaaS users, community members, and company stakeholders, you’ll access benefits such as:

  • Strengthen your product ecosystem. If your fund requires makers/creators to build on top of your platform, you’ll be able to enrich your roadmap, expanding the capabilities of your product. Also, you’ll offer your existing users an entire library of third-party solutions (integrations/apps) and content (templates) to improve their experience.
  • Retain existing users. Once SaaS users and existing customers become makers, they’ll find themselves even more invested in your product.
  • Grow and nurture a network of dedicated makers/creators. They’re the best advocates of your brand.
  • Increase brand awareness. Considering that makers/creators will promote their template, integration, app, content, or project, they’ll automatically ensure brand exposure for your company.
  • Grow a strong community around the same mission and values.
  • Provide a nurturing environment for mutual help.
  • Strengthen the connections with future industry leaders.
  • Contribute to the future of your industry, ensuring its consistent growth.

→ Case examples

>> Coda, document creation and management platform

In October 2021, Coda announced a $1M Maker Fund for people interested in building and promoting finished solutions on Coda.

Coda Screenshot

To make this happen, Coda provides:

  • Funding. People get paid for creating solutions and docs on Coda.
  • Resources. Makers can access tools, best practices, and communities to develop their ideas.
  • Promotion. Finally, makers can take their idea to market and launch their solutions via Coda’s Gallery.

To apply for funding, people have to:

  • Submit their idea
  • Discuss project details and development plans with the Coda team
  • Get accepted

According to Coda, the amount of funding depends on the idea and the level of demand. Also, makers can work on several ideas at the same time. One Coda maker, for example, received funding for three projects simultaneously:

As Jeremy Olson, Product Manager at Coda, highlights, the company created the Maker Fund in hopes of empowering makers to create authentic, elegant processes within Coda.

To get accepted, makers have to meet criteria such as:

  • Effectiveness. The idea has to solve an existing challenge.
  • Product-marker fit. Makers have to show experience and expertise, proving they’re the right people to build that specific solution.
  • Sustainability. Whether it’s a side hustle or a multi-million dollar company, makers need a roadmap and the ambition to sustain their creation.

The Maker Fund application is always open, allowing people to submit their ideas and receive an answer in a matter of weeks.

>> Hubspot, inbound marketing, sales, and service software

In 2022, HubSpot launched the New HubSpot Creators Program, dedicated to investing millions in emerging talent.

HubSpot Screenshot

As the Program’s page highlights, “HubSpot Creators is an accelerator designed for emerging creators. The program is built to reward creators through payment and support for the content they are building in partnership with HubSpot. We have a vetting process to identify diverse and emerging creators that would benefit the most from HubSpot’s amplification.”

Although HubSpot plans to expand to other forms of media, for the time being, the company’s looking for podcasters only. Each cohort of 6 to 8 podcasts will launch quarterly. The compensation is a fixed and variable amount that creators move through four tiers:

  • Seed
  • Series A
  • Series B
  • Series C

According to HubSpot, “Program tiers will be standardized across the network and be based on the performance of a podcast in terms of monthly downloads.”

Apart from the funding, the HubSpot creators will also receive operational support and guidance from the company’s internal team.

>> Webflow, a no-code website builder

In March 2022, Vlad Magdalin, co-founder and CEO at Webflow, announced a $10M grant program for community members.

Webflow Screenshot

As Magdalin notes, the program will provide grants for:

  • Community engagement, learning, and networking events worldwide
  • Educators creating content or curriculum to teach others how to build a career in visual development
  • Programs that empower marginalized groups to learn and build with Webflow
  • Freelancers who are building projects for non-profit and humanitarian causes
  • Community members who create innovative content or programs that inspire others to succeed and thrive with Webflow

As the page highlights, “Webflow Community Grants will focus on amplifying the reach and impact of those in our community who are helping to empower many others.”

>> Atlassian, software development and collaboration tools

In 2020, the company announced Atlassian Ventures with an initial investment of $50M.

Atlassian Screenshot

Atlassian focused on investing in three types of companies:

  • Early-stage startups building apps for any of Atlassian’s cloud products
  • Larger, more established ecosystem product partners scaling their business
  • Members of the Atlassian Partner Program

One year and a half later, the company announced it would double down on Atlassian Ventures.

As Philip Braddock, Portfolio Management Lead, and Matt Sonefeldt, Head of Atlassian Ventures, note, “Today, just shy of 1.5 years since its inception, we have deployed over $110M in funding. Through our investments, we now support over 30 organizations growing with Atlassian’s cloud products and platform. We’re already ahead of schedule – and just getting started! This means loads of opportunity for SaaS startups looking to work with Atlassian’s cloud products and platform.”

>> Groove, shared inbox and knowledge base software

The founder and CEO at Groove, Alex Turnell, is a visionary and pioneer in multiple ways. But the number one thing that stands out is Alex’s determination to do something people thought would end the company.

Eight years ago, he went against the advice of his friends, colleagues, mentors, and team members to try something unique. As Alex highlights:

“I decided, against nearly all advice, to pull back the curtain and share everything our company was going through.”

In other words, Alex took the “Build in Public” road. Nowadays, you won’t surprise anyone by sharing your company’s revenue, failures, or internal data. Eight years ago, however, building in public was a brave and unpopular thing to do.

Eight years later, Alex built a collection of more than 40 detailed articles on how he built Groove. The “Startup Journey” collection gathered:

  • 5,000,000 readers
  • 25,000+ comments
  • 3,500,000+ shares

As Hiten Shah, co-founder and CEO of Nira, notes, “Alex’s startup journey is a must-read for anyone looking to grow their business online.”

Alex Turnell became the go-to Yoda of the online business.

In 2022, Alex embarked on another endeavor, even bigger than the first one. His move was equally brave and bold. As Alex writes:

“If this seems crazy, that’s because it is. But so was revealing our most sensitive company data along our growth journey, and that worked out pretty well. So we’re not afraid to try something crazy again.”

Alex launched Helply by Groove, the first no-strings-attached $1M grant for entrepreneurs.

Helply Screenshot

As Alex notes, Groove’s goal is to help e-Commerce and SaaS entrepreneurs grow their companies while being in complete control of their businesses. In other words, no equity stake, no board seats, no pressure.

The Helply check sizes range from $50MK to $250K+ based on the needs of the business. Moreover, the grant gives access to a 1-year remote accelerator program which will provide entrepreneurs with guidance and mentorship.

To access the fund money, the entrepreneurs have to meet one condition only: to document their journey and share their wins, failures, and financials publicly through:

  • Blog posts
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube interviews
  • And more

In other words, building in public is the only condition to access the Helply grant.

→ What to consider?


  • Do I have the resources to create a fund/grant and finance my users, community members, and company stakeholders?
  • What type of fund/grant do I want to launch?
  • What conditions should the applicants meet?

► Quick note: Apart from funding, you can also contribute by offering assistance and expertise. For example, you can create a micro-team inside your company to assist your fund recipients, helping them achieve specific goals.


  • Money (duh!)
  • Bandwith, in case you want to offer support to your beneficiaries

→ Your action framework

📒 Evaluate what type of assets (templates, integrations, apps, packs) your users can create.

📒 Enable your users to become makers/creators and transform their product-related skills into non-monetizable and monetizable assets.

📒 Wait and evaluate whether your users have a strong interest and involvement. Are they active in submitting templates? Are they interested in building integrations and apps on top of your product? Do you have a marketplace your existing clients access and use?

💡 To consider: The investment should come long after you’ve built a community of makers. Having a number of users who’ve become makers and built things on top of your product is crucial to understanding the viability of this idea. If nobody wants to build on top of your product, a fund or grant is irrelevant.

📒 In some cases, it may be impossible for users/creators to build something on top of your product due to your platform design and functionality. However, they may contribute by generating vlogs, podcasts, blogs, TV shows, and more. In other cases, you may decide to help people launch or grow their companies.

💡 To consider: The key is to identify an activity you want to fund and the type of beneficiaries you want to support. For example, your company may have different stakeholders or target groups, yet you may decide to invest in one.  

📒 Agree upon the amount of funding you’re willing to invest in your users/creators. It all depends on your resources. Remember that you can always start with a small investment.

📒 Set up specific requirements and decide what criteria you’re applicants have to meet.

📒 Discuss the fund’s dynamic, tackling topics such as: how will you pay the money, what’s the end product your users have to present, and more.

📒 Create an application page and introduce the fund/grant to your audience.

💥 To remember: If you don’t have the money to launch a fund, you can always create an accelerator program by:

  • Connecting the program applicants with your team from whom they can learn.
  • Attracting mentors to your program and connecting them with the program applicants.