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.
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:
This growth practice will help you create:
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.
📓 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:
📓 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.
SaaS companies may offer funds/grants for different purposes, such as to:
By investing in your SaaS users, community members, and company stakeholders, you’ll access benefits such as:
In October 2021, Coda announced a $1M Maker Fund for people interested in building and promoting finished solutions on Coda.
To make this happen, Coda provides:
To apply for funding, people have to:
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:
The Maker Fund application is always open, allowing people to submit their ideas and receive an answer in a matter of weeks.
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:
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.
As Magdalin notes, the program will provide grants for:
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.”
In 2020, the company announced Atlassian Ventures with an initial investment of $50M.
Atlassian focused on investing in three types of companies:
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.”
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:
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.
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:
In other words, building in public is the only condition to access the Helply grant.
► 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.
📒 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: