Anyone built community first, then developed and sold new software to it?

Do you know of any cases when a community was built first by enthusiasts, and only then came an idea for industry-specific software, then the software was built and sold successfully to the community?


Don’t we see that all the time here? Jeff and Sam have effectively built this community and all kinds of commercial offerings have sprung up in terms of hosting, plugins and bespoke customisations.

I think hosting was the initial business plan, because it was known from the start that the software itself was going to be 100% Open Source. More to that, the community was built along the way while building software, and the community serves the software.

What I’m asking is different though: you first build a community, not for some software, but just a community to gather people, share experience etc. Then in e.g. few years an idea comes for a piece of software out of the community talks and needs expressed, and you build that software. That’s what my question is about.


This is exactly what we’re doing over at our small site and, to be honest, we’ve stumbled upon some interesting ideas and opportunities to create even more value for our members as we’ve grown.

We source ideas from the community… validate them… and then decide what to build. Our first such iteration is this, a small curated news app for mobile. Our community wanted such a thing so we’re going to build it for them.


Yup, that’s what happened at the first community I managed – SitePoint. It started as a tech community and then became a publishing house, selling books and courses to the community members. From there we spun out two very successful businesses, 99designs and Flippa – both of which were initially markeplace categories on the main forum.