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Kickstaring a Marketplace

Former Country Manager at Airbnb and Director at eBay, APAC

IP Interview
Published on May 30, 2020

Why is this interview interesting?

  • How to focus on purpose and the narrative of what a marketplace brings to both supply and demand
Executive Bio

Sam McDonagh

Former Country Manager at Airbnb and Director at eBay, APAC

Sam has over 20 years experience running online marketplaces. He is the former Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand at Airbnb where he scaled the platform to over 250,000 listings from 2014-19. Sam was previously the General Manager of Australia for Dollar Shave Club and spent 5 years running eBay Southeast Asia from 2000-05.

Interview Transcript

How do you kick start a community?

In the early days of a community, there needs to be something that they gravitate towards. So understanding what they stand for and what are the values that either a company or a community holds dear to them and what they can grasp hold of. Then, it’s somewhat tactical and it’s not how every community builds, but it’s, how do you give them a place to come? Online community boards, the opportunity to interact with each other, it has its pros and cons and you need to moderate those community boards and the things that are going on and being said. But then it’s really, how do you mobilize those communities, in different ways? That could be appointing local ambassadors, on a city or region basis, not in any employee-like capacity, but to give them the opportunity, if they are passionate about the community that they are involved in, to give them the tools to tell those stories and bring folks along.

If I look at the Airbnb side of things, I think that’s been important for helping to establish good regulations around the world, in different communities and cities, to tell the story, in terms of what good Airbnb hosts, as a community, have been able to achieve, together.

If you were to mention two or three core factors that drive a community and, also, how these communities typically fail or break up, what would you say?

Perhaps, the most significant aspect of community, is actually having a shared goal, value, belief that people can gravitate and attach themselves to. Then how does that manifest itself, back into the community and grow? There’s one community growing, a phrase called the Snowflake Model, that refers to how communities can grow by just planning an ambassador, in a particular location, that helps grow out a business.

I think, when communities fail, it’s when they don’t have that shared vision, in what they actually stand for and, importantly, the ability to articulate it. It’s all very well and good to be passionate about something, but if you don’t have the ability to easily talk about and don’t have the tools to help grow that community, that becomes a real challenge.

What are some common reasons why communities typically break down or fail, even after somewhat growing and evolving?

If there isn’t that mission, that true north, that a community can attach itself to, that would be a reason that they might fail. We see, particularly in the tech space, growth in businesses that evolve quickly and then disappear, as quickly as they came along. Sometimes that might be the result of not being able to understand what a business or a community actually stands for and that’s really important.

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