The Power of Cult-Like Communities and Intellectual Athletes in Product Growth


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 21, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Cult-Like Communities and Intellectual Athletes in Product Growth

In the world of technology and innovation, there are certain products and communities that have gained a cult-like following. These communities are built around shared beliefs, missions, and a concentrated group of people who resonate strongly with the product. One such example is Roam Research, a tool that has sparked discussions and spread through word of mouth.

Roam Research, much like Tesla, started by targeting a specific group of individuals who were willing to appreciate the subtle and nuanced improvements the product could bring, even if it came at the cost of complexity and price. They went after the "intellectual athletes" – individuals who were willing to learn and adopt new tools and workflows. These were the writers, researchers, and those who sought to express their thoughts and views on various topics and beliefs.

Intellectual athletes often have a following of people who aspire to think and act like them, making them the so-called "thought leaders" of their respective communities. Roam's efficacy in connecting different thoughts and ideas made them likely to personally drive the adoption of the product by these next-wave customers. This initial focus on intellectual athletes and thought leaders allowed Roam to build a strong foundation and develop features that catered to the needs of their target audience.

The first 1000 users of Roam Research primarily came from enterprise license deals with organizations in the AI safety community and the Rationalist Bay Area thinkers. These researchers and philosophers found value in Roam's ability to process emotions, overcome thinking biases, and organize complex information. By continuously building new features, Roam was able to retain these users and renew their enterprise license deals, which played a crucial role in scaling demand beyond the initial 1000 users.

One interesting aspect of Roam Research's growth is the phenomenon of the #RoamCult. This cult-like following has become a catalyst for their current growth. One of the reasons behind this is the product's low entry point and steep learning curve. Despite the effort required to master it, users quickly realize the power and potential of the product, which motivates them to share their experiences with others.

Conor, the founder of Roam Research, leveraged his social capital and utilized platforms like Twitter to spread the philosophy behind the product. He engaged in discussions, debated the merits of rival tools like Evernote, and explained the science, math, and psychology behind Roam's approach to organizing information. By articulating a strong belief in how things "ought to be," rather than how they currently are, he attracted like-minded individuals who resonated with the vision of Roam Research.

To replicate the success of Roam Research or similar products, here are three actionable advice:

  • 1. Focus on a specific target audience: Identify a group of intellectual athletes or thought leaders who are likely to be power users of your product. Understand their complex problems and develop features that cater to their needs.
  • 2. Cultivate a strong belief and mission: Articulate a vision for your product that resonates with your target audience. Emphasize how your product can revolutionize their workflows or address pain points that existing tools fail to solve.
  • 3. Utilize social media and community engagement: Leverage platforms like Twitter to engage with your target audience and spread the philosophy behind your product. Engage in discussions, debates, and share insights that demonstrate your expertise and passion for solving the problems your product addresses.

In conclusion, the growth of cult-like communities and the adoption of products by intellectual athletes play a significant role in the success and expansion of innovative tools like Roam Research. By targeting the right audience, cultivating strong beliefs, and utilizing social capital, companies can create a dedicated following that not only spreads the product but also fuels its continuous improvement and evolution.

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