The Power of Community: How Substack and Dely Design Fostered Collaboration


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 02, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Community: How Substack and Dely Design Fostered Collaboration


Building a successful community requires careful planning and a clear understanding of the target audience. Substack, a platform for independent writers, and Dely Design, a company bridging the gap between design and engineering, both recognized the importance of cultivating a passionate and engaged community from the very beginning. By focusing on specific groups of professionals and utilizing unique strategies, these two platforms were able to spark their early communities and pave the way for future growth.

Finding the Right Allies: Professional Writers and Designers:

Substack founders understood that to create a thriving community, they needed to target a specific group of professionals - in their case, professional writers. By recognizing the challenges faced by journalists and providing them with a publishing alternative that offered more independence and control, Substack was able to attract the right allies. This cognitive clarity on their target audience allowed them to build a tool stack tailored to the needs of professional writers, ensuring their success.

Similarly, Dely Design recognized the importance of connecting designers and engineers. They experimented with different approaches to foster collaboration and discovered three key elements: space, time, and language. Creating a shared space where teams could work together, sharing a common timeframe through sprints, and using a common language such as velocity for effective communication became crucial in bridging the gap between design and engineering.

The Power of Personal Outreach:

One common thread between Substack and Dely Design is the value they placed on personal outreach. Substack founder Hamish McKenzie personally reached out to writers he believed would benefit from the platform, leveraging his existing relationships and understanding their specific needs. Similarly, the founder of Dely Design, through trial and error, discovered the potency of personal outreach. Courtland, the founder of Indie Hackers, sent 50 personal emails to entrepreneurs, sparking a community that now boasts 60,000 members. These examples highlight the importance of personal connections in attracting the first members to a community and establishing a solid foundation for growth.

Best Practices and Collaboration:

Both Substack and Dely Design understood the importance of collaboration and the value of sharing best practices within their communities. Substack's team actively engaged with writers, learning from their experiences and discovering common patterns of success. They found that making the best piece of writing free to readers, publishing prolifically, covering niche topics, and writing in long form were effective strategies. By connecting publishers and facilitating the exchange of ideas, Substack fostered a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.

Dely Design, on the other hand, found that creating a shared language was crucial for effective communication between designers and engineers. Concepts like velocity and other common terms allowed for a deeper understanding and smoother collaboration. By establishing a common language, Dely Design ensured that both disciplines could work together seamlessly, enhancing productivity and creativity.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Identify and focus on a specific target audience: Just like Substack and Dely Design, identifying a specific group of professionals who share a common pain point or interest can help create a passionate and engaged community.
  • 2. Prioritize personal outreach: Don't underestimate the power of personal connections. Reach out to individuals who are likely to be early adopters and invite them to join your community. Personalized outreach can make a significant impact.
  • 3. Foster collaboration and share best practices: Encourage collaboration within your community by providing platforms and opportunities for members to connect and learn from each other. Facilitating the exchange of ideas and sharing best practices will not only benefit individual members but also contribute to the overall growth and success of the community.


Building a community from scratch requires careful planning, targeted outreach, and a commitment to collaboration. Substack and Dely Design exemplify these principles, focusing on specific groups of professionals and implementing strategies to foster engagement and collaboration. By understanding the unique needs of their respective communities and incorporating actionable advice, you too can create a thriving community that benefits both its members and the platform as a whole.

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