Holly Firestone

Head of Community at Venafi
October 27, 2020
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Najva - How do enterprise communities you've worked with come to exist? Did they start when the company was small and scale? Or did they get added in once it hit a certain size?

I'd love to hear more about that journey!

They were all different, but at both Atlassian and Salesforce, the communities actually started from the community members!

Atlassian’s first community was the Atlassian User Group program (AUG). The first meeting was he’d by a bunch of customers in VA, and they invited some of the product team to join. Atlassian saw the amazing opportunity and decided to jump on it. The first iteration of the AUG program was led by Brittany (Walker) Caldwell, an awesome community, marketing, and events pro, now at Webflow: linkedin.com/in/brittanywalker/. Brittany grew the initial audience for the AUGs for around a year (2012) and left Atlassian a couple months after I started working there. I picked up the program (2013) and really focused on building out the structure to make it the program measurable and scalable. I also put a lot of focus in bringing more value and resources to our incredible AUG leaders. I made internal marketing a priority as well- to ensure the program got the resources and support it needed. I didn’t have the most supportive manager at the time, quite the opposite in fact, but the program grew massively during that time. That was around 10 years after the company was founded. I’m really, really proud of the foundation I built and it’s amazing to see where it is today.

The Salesforce Community was also started by the community members. It was kicked off by a customer named Pete who put together the first User Group meeting. If memory serves me correctly, there was also a listserv created where customers were sharing tips and tricks. Erica Kuhl, now CEO of Erica Kuhl consulting, (linkedin.com/in/ericakuhl/) saw the potential in what was happening, and she started building the community. That was about 7-8 years after the company was founded, I believe. Now, as many of y’all know, it’s grown into a massive powerhouse of a community, and at the point I joined, the online community and MVPs programs were on fire (in a good way!), so I turned our attention to the User Group program, which definitely needed some attention. There were probably around 50-60 active groups when I started, and when I left where were over 1200. So to answer the question, the community started a long time ago, but has also evolved, grown, and taken on new programs that have had a huge impact.

At Venafi, we’re around 300 people. The company started around 20 years ago. Venafi had their first customer summit in 2019, and it was a huge success. One glaringly obvious thing they saw at the event was that the customers stuck to each other like glue. Meals would end and they’d still be in deep, deep conversations with each other for hours! These customers had never really had a chance to connect with that many other people that do what they do. It’s pretty much how I felt the first time I went to CMX Summit 🙂 Anyway, that kicked off the idea of starting a community. The idea began as a community for customers, but has since evolved into a community that spans all of our audiences including customers, developers, partners, etc. It’s really exciting to see the community vision evolve and be elevated so soon after it’s getting started. The Venafi leadership understands the power of community and knows it’s something they want to invest in and prioritize.