Acquiring an Online Community: Interview with Todd Kunsman of Tech Workers Club

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Online communities have become an increasingly popular business model in recent years and with good reason. There’s a lot to like about communities, including excellent income potential, recurring revenue, and lots of options to grow and promote the business.

Todd Kunsman has experience with several different types of online businesses, including SaaS, services, and content (read our previous interview with Todd about his experience growing and selling a personal finance blog). Recently, Todd and a silent partner acquired Tech Workers Club, an online community of people looking to advance their tech careers.

In this interview, Todd shares why he and his partner decided to acquire the community, as well as their plans to create value for members, grow the community, encourage genuine engagement, and, of course, make money. This interview provides excellent insight into the thought processes involved in an acquisition with plans for improvement.

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Tech Workers Club provides value to members by creating original content that people can’t get elsewhere
  • Todd emphasizes the importance of the owner being actively engaged in the community
  • Todd covers pricing strategies for communities and how brand recognition impacts what members are willing to pay

Please tell us about yourself and your background.

Hi, my name is Todd Kunsman, and I’ve been in B2B and SaaS marketing for over 12 years now. During my career, I have also had side hustles in marketing (freelance or contract work) and launching media sites. 

I previously founded and started an investing and personal finance site in 2018 that was acquired in 2021. And since then, I’ve launched a few other projects:

  • Remote Work Junkie – a media and job board dedicated to all things remote work.
  • RevFoundry – productized “marketing as a service” for SaaS startups in the pre-seed to ventured-funded stage. 

I’m essentially self-taught in marketing, but I also learned quite a bit during my time in a marketing agency for SaaS businesses. 

You could say I definitely have an entrepreneurial side, although I have not fully committed to it in a full-time capacity yet. 

What is Tech Workers Club, and how and why did you acquire it?

Tech Workers Club is where tech professionals find jobs faster, network with industry peers, and build thriving careers. Our private community has 20,000+ members worldwide. 

Just a few things you can do in the community include:

  • Browse job channels specific to different fields in tech. Talk to recruiters/hiring managers, build connections, and start landing interviews faster. 
  • Ask questions and get community feedback on jobs, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, or anything else.
  • Participate in AMAs, virtual job fairs, and other career workshops with experts and industry leaders to help you navigate the tech world and grow your career. 
  • Get exclusive discounts on tools and resources. 
  • Meet other like-minded members based on criteria you fill out with a partner app. Building your network is huge to getting your foot in the door at tech companies or starting projects. We are facilitating that across the community. 

We found it on Acquire.com, and something about it sounded familiar. When I requested access, I immediately recognized it as I had been a member of the community since 2023. 

We acquired it for a few reasons:

  • Both myself and my partner in the business have been in tech for 10+ years.
  • We are both passionate about tech, but also helping tech workers network, find jobs, and learn and grow. 
  • There were 30k+ people in their database and 20k+ members in most of the community’s channels, many representing Fortune 500, startups, and FAANG companies. 
  • Communities are so important today, and people tend to love them. 
  • We saw an opportunity to clean things up, provide more value, and better monetize the community in a fair way. 
Tech Workers Club

You’ve been involved with several different online business models. Why did you choose a community for your next project?

I’ve been fascinated with online communities for a long time. 

Not only as a participant but as someone who gets a ton of value from being active in them. 

And while there are a lot of communities out there today, it’s still a great way to directly connect with real people, learn, and grow.

One good aspect is that there can be fewer time requirements for the owners once things are going. Yes, you still need to be active, curate, and help spark conversations, but as these grow, the people themselves begin to generate the bulk of conversations. 

Does it mean I can abandon it and add no value? Of course not! (: 

What do you think are the key elements of a successful online community?

While we’re still learning, here are some things that we’re implementing to help make this community successful:

  • Be present. People need to see us in the community, participating, helping others, and genuinely showing passion for the niche of the community. That alone helps get people excited or interested in joining back in. 
  • Define the guidelines and make it clear what is and isn’t allowed. This is something we are just adding in now because it wasn’t done before. Hopefully, this can help clean things up and ensure people know we’re taking this community seriously. 
  • Finding ways to drive value. If there’s nothing interesting in the community that is educational or impacts the members’ lives, your community isn’t going to survive. 
  • Creating exclusive content. Besides making it easier for people to find more jobs and connect with recruiters, what content could be exclusive to being a member? That’s why we want to launch AMAs, workshops, and virtual job fairs with companies. Something you can’t get elsewhere and provides immense value to members. 

Paid online communities are gaining popularity as a business model, but growing and maintaining a successful community isn’t easy. What specific challenges do you expect to face?

I think right now, it’s re-engaging the current community back to the levels where it was when this was first started. There was a lot of excitement and hype when Tech Workers Club was founded in 2022, and during tough tech economic times, it was a good outlet. 

However, many of the promises or things that were in motion were abandoned. And engagement from the community’s founders/managers stopped. So trust was lost and people stopped checking in as much. Conversations were still happening, but it was limited. 

Since we just took over a few weeks ago, we have been rebuilding that trust and introducing new content and benefits to positively impact the members. And if we say something, we deliver. 

So a challenge is fighting through skepticism and wondering if the same issues will happen again. But so far with getting active and sharing things, people are slowly coming back. 

We had some great feedback on our announcements of content, new conversations, and participation in a few things already. Seeing an 80%+ spike of members checking in. We still have work to do, but I think we can get there by continually delivering value. 

Setting the right price for a community can be difficult. What advice do you have for others who are unsure what to charge?

The challenge was that this community was free for the first almost two years. The previous owners started to figure out monetization but weren’t sure where to go. 

It’s also tricky as we want to incentivize current members to upgrade because of the new things we’re doing, but they also know the community was basically running on its own with no support the last few months. 

So for us, the price point had to be high enough to support the business. But low enough not to scare anyone off. Plus we’re just building trust with the community as the new owners, if we came in demanding money and a high price right away, people would ignore it or tell us to politely pound sand, haha.

We looked at a lot of the various membership sites and communities and felt a price point lower than most is a good place to start. If you are new or just getting started, your entry to the community will probably need to start at a lower price point so it’s less risky for them. 

People who aren’t aware of you and don’t know what’s in the community are not going to spend $300+ a year. It’s different for an influencer or celeb launching a community. They have personal brand recognition. 

Build up rapport, make sure you can deliver the value, and get people excited to have premium access because it’s affordable and delivers. 

Of course we’re eager to make money and build an awesome business, but spending time with the community first, showing you’re an active owner, and coordinating value is the place to start.

How do you plan to grow the community and attract new paying members?

The big thing is more tech jobs and exclusive content. We want current members to get excited and be that word-of-mouth engine for the community. 

That is only a phase of the plan, as much of it will be marketing and sales-focused. While I don’t want to give our whole plan away, some things include:

  • Rebuild the website to better show value/tighten the brand
  • Product Hunt launches
  • Building in public on social channels
  • Launching a free newsletter with great content
  • Exclusive partnership deals with companies, services, and products
  • Down the road, open an affiliate program to help members get paid to promote

As the community continues to expand, how will you ensure that it remains tightly knit and retains its sense of community?

The big things are offering support, being empathetic, and building trust. That means sharing about who we are, our plans, and offering help when we can. 

And lastly, providing value. How are these members learning, growing, and finding jobs? Is it helping them in their lives? 

If the answer is “no” to any of the above, people will become inactive, not want to participate, or cancel the membership. We want to pack in SO MUCH value that you are surprised we don’t charge way more. 

Online communities can face challenges such as spam, trolls, or maintaining a positive atmosphere. How do you handle moderation within Tech Workers Club to ensure a constructive environment for members?

First, we just created our community guidelines which will be pinned to the main channel. It will also live on our website, so anyone can learn how we view a good community. But we have details in there about how to report anyone and that we will ban people who abuse the community. 

That, of course, doesn’t stop spammers or trolls completely. But it’s also a reason we charge an affordable membership fee. This helps weed out some spam and trolls.

Previously, the community was a bit of the wild west, where anyone could invite anyone without even admin approval. So there were limited checks and balances in the last year. Now, that definitely helped facilitate early growth for the community, but also caused issues. 

Fortunately, it wasn’t too overrun with spam and we revoked many old invites or removed those that have been inactive for a long time. Some folks that try to spam, we have given warnings too and so far have stopped the few that did. 

And it will improve more so now that new members are joining, paying, and seeing how we operate the community to keep it a great place to learn and grow. 

What is your tech stack for Tech Workers Club and how would you compare in terms of complexity or simplicity to other online business models?

Since we are just rebuilding things, the tech stack is pretty simple:

  • Slack
  • Trello
  • Intros.ai (our networking matchmaker partner)
  • Zoom (for our live workshops)
  • WordPress
  • LaunchPass
  • Stripe
  • Google Drive

I’m sure there will be some more over time, but light and simple is our motto right now. 

What metrics or indicators do you track to measure the success and health of the community?

Since we’re in the early days of owning the community, there are just a few key areas we’re looking at right now. 

Slack provides some basic analytics on the free plan, something we monitor a bit. These are things like: 

  • Active weekly and daily people in the community
  • Members who posted in public channels and DMs
  • Are we seeing new posts outside of our own in the different channels?

I also look at feedback, thread conversations, how many DMs we get as the founders get around ideas or general comments.

Of course, we look at new members and who is paying to join the community as well.

What are your plans for the future of Tech Workers Club? Any upcoming features or initiatives you’re particularly excited about?

Definitely! Besides the jobs channels and other public ones currently in the community, we’re expanding content offers for paid members. I mentioned some of them above earlier, but here are a few of those we just recently announced:

  • Ask Me Anything (AMA) Events: We will be hosting different guests, including tech recruiters, business leaders, and other industry professionals to answer any questions about the industry, their work in tech, finding jobs, hiring processes, and anything you want to ask.
  • Career Workshops With Special Guests: Join us for live workshops with recruiters, coaches, partners, and experts to help you grow in your tech career and land more interviews. You’ll also have access to all the recordings to watch at any time. We may expand topics later.
  • Build Your Network and Get Intros: You get to meet new people in tech, help each other find jobs or land interviews, start projects together, and build genuine connections. We’re partnering with an integrated tool which will help you match with other members who have similar interests, experiences, skills, hobbies, and more. 
  • Virtual Job Fairs: We will be hosting companies to share various jobs they’re hiring for and that can talk about the roles, answer job seeker questions, talk about culture, benefits, the leaders, hiring process, and more. Find new opportunities, learn about tech companies, and start landing interviews faster.

Besides those, we’re launching a free newsletter that covers tech, tech jobs, and more. So if someone isn’t ready to join the community, they can still learn and grow from our content. 

And a partnerships program for companies, recruiters, and other tech companies that want to get in front of our large audience. We’ll be selective to be protective of the community, but I think we’ll be able to offer some exclusive deals only found in Tech Workers Club and build a sponsorship revenue stream for the business as well. 

Rebuilding the website. When we acquired it, the previous owners just had a simple website. It’s still up, we just cleaned up the copy and backend a bit. 

But the next phase will be a complete overhaul to better tell our story, what members get, and how we help support the tech community. If you are interested in learning more or joining, check out Tech Workers Club.

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