Community Name: Enter Network
Community Leader: Jochem Gerritsen
What is Enter Network: The community for early-stage European founders
The story behind Enter Network
I started back in 2018, and the vision for the community came from the fact that I was working on a different startup at the time and I found it quite difficult to meet with other founders in my area. I wanted to talk to people about the same challenges and issues that I was facing, but I didn't know many other entrepreneurs, partly because I'm based in one of the biggest cities in the Netherlands (Utrecht), but not the biggest (Amsterdam).
Amsterdam isn't too far away from Utrecht, but I still found that it was a bit of a hassle to go to events to go to Amsterdam every time. And there are entrepreneurs here too, so why not bring entrepreneurs together in Utrecht instead?
So I started Enter Network with that in mind, hosting monthly meetups using Meetup.com for one and a half years or so. I loved doing it, but it wasn’t quite a business yet.
How he thought about monetizing for the first time
Generally, people expect meetups to be free. I was making maybe 50 euros profit every month, which I was happy with.
And then the start of this year we started doing everything online, which is something I wanted to do in any case. It's nice to meet in person, but it's much more scalable if you meet online. Alongside the shift to online, I also started looking at, okay, how can actually start monetizing the community.
So I did some interviews with founders, and one thing that I heard was that if people go to a meetup it's quite nice to network and to talk to other people, but it's still relatively superficial. You don't really dive deep into either a specific topic or get to honest conversations about, for example, how your conversion rates are super low. And that’s why I started offering more services. We now have a private Slack group, several mastermind groups, weekly networking sessions, startup deals, and much more. Considering there is a membership model, that’s really the main source of income right now.
On the risks of going from a free community to a paid community
We used to do a lot of these things for free. Only the mastermind groups were paid, but I offered free networking sessions every week and a free Slack community. This worked well, but it also led to very un-engaged people in our group. People that simply joined sometimes but didn’t really give anything back. In addition, it wasn’t a sustainable business model; I had to ask for some commitment in order to continue to offer these services to entrepreneurs from all over Europe.
So my idea was to launch a beta version of our community. To contact all free members (basically almost everyone), and then ask them to start paying. But first, I wanted to try and boost the engagement in our Slack community. The reason behind that was that if people see more engagement, I figured they would be more likely to become a paying member.
On the other hand, moving my community from free to paid was a very scary thing to do. Of course I talked to members beforehand, but I was scared that if I would suddenly announce that people would have to commit — that everyone wouldn’t see enough value, and there would simply be no community left to speak of.
On the success of the launch
So we finally launched on 9 November. I postponed it a couple of times (because I felt that other services I was setting up weren’t fully ready), but I’m happy I finally jumped the gun. As I said, it was really a watershed moment; after this launch date, I would either have an engaged community that was interested in what I had to offer (and was prepared to pay for it); or there would not be any community left.
On his launch plan
I guess because of my launch plan and the way I approached it, I’m happy to say we DO still have a community. Before launch, I contacted all 130 members of our community individually, to basically tell them about what would be included in the new version of Enter Network; a special discount; and why they should join.
In addition, I set up an email campaign to contact those people that didn’t respond on Slack, and that I had to deactivate when the launch day came. All things considered, this was quite a useful thing I did (I sent them 3 mails), because even though some didn’t respond on Slack, a number of them still wanted to join our community.
Because of this personal approach (which was a massive amount of work by the way), I now have around 20 paying members, aside from our mastermind members (that are on a higher ‘tier’). In total, Enter Network now consists of 30-40 entrepreneurs from all over Europe. So that’s pretty good!
On the feedback he's gotten so far
The feedback so far has been quite good. Many people are more active members of the community then they used to be, and I think that precisely because I asked them to pay, is the reason that they start putting more of their time in the community too. And of course, aside from an engaged community, they get access to a private Slack server, weekly networking sessions, weekly Q&As with expert entrepreneurs, a member database, 10+ startup deals, a list of 20 vetted startup mentors, and more. This is all €30 per month, so it’s still affordable if you’re a starting entrepreneur.
However, I think the real test is not whether or not they join for one month, but it’s whether they will continue to be a part of Enter Network for the next few months or even years to come. That is the real test. And I can only improve those chances by continuing to build on my community. By continuing to acquire more members, and offer more services. I’m glad I can say we’re an active community of 30-40 early-stage entrepreneurs from all over Europe — but I plan to increase that number tenfold over the months to come.