Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Launch HN: Openland (YC W18) – Community platform with automation
82 points by yurylifshits 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 39 comments
Hi, it's Yury and Steve from Openland (https://openland.com). We make it easy for any person or business to build a chat community.

We believe that in the next five years there will be a massive shift from audiences (top-down content broadcasting) to communities (two-way communication between organizers and members and among members). For members, communities fulfill fundamental social needs: new friendships, safe space for self-expression, learning from peers. For organizers, communities help collect leads, sell, drive customer success, or earn direct revenue from members.

Today, building a great community is super hard. Getting people in one place, explaining and enforcing the rules, collecting member info, and interacting in a scalable personalized way takes a huge amount of time.

That's why we've built Openland. At its center, there's a new fully-functional messenger, comparable to FB Messenger or WhatsApp. On top of that, we added tools for onboarding, automated messaging, integrations (CRMs, etc.), analytics, and paid memberships. Community automation is what sets Openland apart from other messengers and community platforms.

Openland has actually started as a marketplace for urban land. While working on its messaging module, we realized that professional messaging in general is much underdeveloped and our talents are better suited for building a horizontal messenger than a vertical marketplace. We made a pivot shortly after YC graduation and spent the next two years quietly building a new messenger for communities.

Since our soft-launch this Summer, 250+ communities launched on Openland around educational programs, professional services, tech products, content creators, and nonprofits. There are also standalone communities built from scratch. The largest community has 14k+ members who've already sent 500k+ messages. Openland is free to use. Today, we take a small revenue cut from member-supported communities and will add premium plans for business-led communities later in the future.

If you want to start a community for your customers, students, fans, or followers, we'd be delighted to help. To coordinate, ping Yury at https://openland.com/yury or email at yury@openland.com.

Openland is built on FoundationDB, Node.js, and React Native. For anyone interested in messaging tech, we share our engineering lessons at https://openland.com/tech.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions. Do you run a community? Thinking about starting one? What tools have you tried so far? What worked and what didn't?

Hey Yury and Steve,

Is the landing page aimed at the person setting up a "forum", or the average person looking for a community to join or both?

I am not seeing anything there that makes it stand out enough from the plethora of platforms.

You say above "Today, building a great community is super hard. Getting people in one place, explaining and enforcing the rules, collecting member info, and interacting in a scalable personalized way takes a huge amount of time."

If the landing page could make me feel that and show me how you solve those problems, and why discord or slack won't, I'd be more convinced.

Would be good to know who it's for. Do I get my existing community and move it over to you because I'm fed up of Slack. I come with a laundry list of pains. I have the people I just want to have an easier job moderating?

Or for a newbie to building a community that has no members yet who wants to find their audience. My problem is how to I get people to find me, what do I set up to make it entertaining and keep them coming back, etc.

Yes, Openland is primarily built for organizers who have the audience but need better tools for onboarding, engagement, moderation, and monetization. Happy to email/chat/talk in more details on what we have. We know the pains of Slack well and have solved many of them. Feel free to reach out at yury@openland.com or https://openland.com/yury

The landing page is for community members. We'll add a separate landing page for organizers soon.

A page comparing yourself to other similar apps (Slack, Discord) would be nice. The front page just gives me the impression that this is yet another fragmented chat app that people will be hesitant to download.

Your "member guide" (https://www.notion.so/Openland-Member-Guide-a249051153614aef...) only contains bullet points and your "why another social network" (https://www.notion.so/Why-The-World-Needs-a-New-Social-Netwo...) is extremely vague.

I very much second this. Have no idea why to use Openland when there are so many more alternatives with an optimized vision for their usage.

Openland vs Slack

Openland vs Discord

Openland vs Facebook Groups


The classic of course is hubspot -> https://www.hubspot.com/products/sales/salesforce-vs-hubspot

Openland advantages over Slack / Discord:

- Member onboarding

- Integrations (CRMs, Zoom, etc.)

- Automated messaging

- Hashtags for messages and profiles

- Threaded comments (Discord don't have them)

- Community analytics

- Paid communities (one-time, subscription, donations)

- More to come. We work directly with community organizers on new functionality they need the most.

We'll be expanding our articles and guides soon. The community building playbook is the one I recommend to read now https://www.notion.so/openland/Openland-s-Playbook-for-Commu...

Wait - are you claiming that integrations are an advantage Openland has over Slack? Care to elaborate on that?

Yeah... most of this is highly theoretical and hand-wavy. Needs a real marketing department to handle this narrative, not the CEO.

I was obsessed with social networks in my early career. Wanted to build a new one but felt it doesn't worth it.

I have a small observation which I can't explain it in a clear way (pardon my poor English). There are some designs that look desirable to work with. Things feel just right. I am not a designer, but I can feel it.

But something is wrong with openland design. The column in the middle is too wide. The font doesn't attract me to read it, it is like it is designed to look good, not for reading.

If this doesn't make sense to you, just dismiss it.

Very interesting! We actually use the system fonts. I.e. Openland is set in San Francisco on Mac/iOS, Roboto on Android, and Calibri on Windows. We do this to minimize distraction of an unusual font.

On column width, I am curious, what device and browser size have you used? Many of our users use the desktop version and resize it to the proportions they like.

I am on Windows, a 14 Inch machine. And using the web version. It is not resizable.

Readability is a big priority for us, we'll keep working to make it better across all devices. Yes, the web version is only resizable with the browser itself. For more control over the app dimensions, consider using Openland for Windows.

Hmm, I don't see it. It looks a little enterprise-y, but otherwise good IMO. What are some examples of peak social media design to you?

I like that openland is more casual and easier to jump in and out. It would open up the opportunity for non-tech folks to have their own place online.

Slack feels too structured if I just want to have some casual conversations with people with mutual interest. Telegram is a general chat app and it’s too light.

Openland fits in-between and I think that’s what most people need when it comes to starting / participating in communities.

Thanks! Indeed, we strive for simplicity. It's still too hard for people and organizations to start a chat group or multi-chat community. More to be done here with community templates, organizer resources, and organizer onboarding.

This is pretty cool and I like the UI. Congrats on the launch!

For anyone that's interested, I created a "Programming Career Advice" group: https://openland.com/invite/sX8kTKR

Dave, congrats for launching your own group on Openland so quickly. We'll help you find members among people who are already on Openland.

If Openland is VC-funded, my first question is what is to stop Openland from eventually introducing ads, invasive practices regarding user data, etc, in order to maximize it's investor's return?

In other words, why should we believe Openland is simply not the next Facebook, etc?

That said I think the product looks cool and the ideal - as it is expressed - is admirable.

But on a real-deal level unless you are a B-corp, nonprofit, or your financial incentives are aligned with what's best for the user (the way that Apple has a financial incentive to ensure user privacy, for example), inspiring words are merely ... words.

We think that sustainable people-first social networking will follow from the new business models. Openland's bet is on SaaS model for community organizers + revenue cut from member-funded communities. This business model has better incentive alignment between Openland platform, members, and organizers.

Interesting - thanks for your response.

If I'm understanding correctly, do you mean you hope for your primary customer base to be community organizers and member-based communities?

Great platform with a diverse groups of startup founders, entrepreneurs and experienced CTO. I'm visiting it regularly and there is always something interesting to read.

From the technical side I like that I can use `markdown` inside messages. Web version is also smooth and fast even on mobile Safari.

The platform reminds me of Reddit and will be great to get weekly or bi-weekly digests pointing out to interesting discussions in different groups. Also, Reddit has lot of NSFW groups and NSFW posts. I wonder if OpenLand can be used for NSFW content or NSFW groups?

Mighty Networks https://www.mightynetworks.com/about started in 2017 as something similar to what you're describing. Now they've shifted to "powering brands and businesses that bring people together via online courses, paid memberships, events, content, and community–all under your brand, instantly available natively on every platform" Might be relevant for you

Yes, we follow them closely. Key differences:

— Mighty's main focus is on top-down content, not messaging with organizers and among members.

— Mighty's communities are all separate, with individual accounts and sometimes even separate mobile apps. On Openland people have just one account and inbox for all their communities. Much simpler than Mighty, Slack, or Discord.

According to ToS you might be required to provide your real name. They can delete your stuff or cancel your account at anytime without warning for any reason.

As for the landing page. It uses spans with javascript for links instead of normal a, thus stopping people from opening link in new tab (I'm not even mentioning accessibility or using it without javascript).

Congratulations on launching.

My question is why would anyone pay for a community which they could get for free elsewhere?

There are two business models here:

1. Community is free for members, organizers pay Openland for premium features. This is useful for businesses who use communities for volunteer management, lead generation, product sales, support, and referral programs.

2. Members pay organizers, Openland takes the cut. This is useful for various "knowledge products": premium content, consulting, coaching, courses, mastermind groups, and networking clubs.

Hey! I'd love to pursue this for an energy efficiency community I'm apart of, but my chief concern is "What happens to my community if you close down"? With phpBB and self hosted solutions, you can run your forum in perpetuity on whatever you compute you want.

Would love to talk more about your community. How can I reach you? I am at yury@openland.com

We guarantee easy export for all organizers. If something goes wrong or you simply want to move elsewhere, we will not keep you locked in.

Will there be integrations with Patreon, Youtube, and SoundCloud oriented towards community building?

Yes, this is high on our priority list. In general, we'd like to work with every business-in-a-box platform (Coursera for teachers, Shopify for sellers, Spotify for musicians, etc.) to help their creators run customer/follower/fan communities.

Looks like a morph of reddit into something modern?

I like this analogy! Key differences from Openland to Reddit

— Most users use their real name

— Focus on direct and group chats, not posts

— Ability to save people in contacts, profile hashtags to find interesting people

— More professional-grade tools for organizers: automaton, integrations, analytics, payments, etc.

Literally everything on the home page is already possible with Facebook. Why use this?

Also, without any explicit monetization alternative other than advertising displayed, there's really no guarantee that this won't just devolve into the same thing as Twitter and Facebook.

EDIT: Also, upon looking at the other people who commented on this, other than myself and one other person everyone has fewer than 10 comments total.

Thanks! Openland is almost intentionally very close to FB Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram in its user experience. We want to make it super familiar and easy to participate for everyday people who join for access to special communities and people we have on the platform.

Today, our biggest and most distinct advantages are on the organizer side. Automation and integrations are key for larger organizations and individual leaders to launch and operate their communities. With Openland there will be more communities in the world.

This tells me that you’re going to have a huge discoverability problem. People won’t know which group chats to join, unless they are explicitly invited. If you’re going to replace FB Messenger, then you have to have an established community that is the size of FB. Or you have to have a really strong network effect that will rapidly build the size of your community to that range.

Things that I hate about Discord are that it forces me to have just one global account name across all servers, and one icon. Sure, once I join a server, I can change my nickname there, but I still can’t change my icon. But names (and nicknames) aren’t globally appropriate or useful. Nor are icons.

But at least Discord servers have public forums, some of which might be announce-only, others might be discussion oriented, and then there might be private forums that are only available to certain people with a particular tag. It doesn’t sound like your service is going to have any of this.

great alternative to the bloated mass-messengers!

Thanks Sasha! The magic of new messengers and new communities is that early on, its always a special group of people. There is culture of trust and collaboration. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep this spirit as we grow.

I'm English, and every group I joined was full of Russian language posts so I quit.

English speakers aren't going to stick around, it's a horrible experience.

Fair, there are groups in various languages on Openland and the group language isn't always obvious from the group name. We need to make our community recommendations more aligned with people's preferred languages.

The most useful communities on Openland are single language and well-moderated.

Congrats on the launch, Yury!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact