Participating in three of On Deck’s fellowship programs, ODCB, ODF, and ODS, Rao is now the CEO of Threado, “the command center for your online community.”
Where it Begins
Pramod Rao has been an expert on community building in startups for over a decade. Now, as co-founder of Threado, he’s offering a platform for businesses that have a community focus.
Based out of Bangalore, India, Pramod has two dogs, loves traveling, and was the core team member at Zomato leading user growth, content and community. After eight and a half years at Zomato, he took some time off to develop Threado along with business partner Abhishek Nalin.
Initially, the idea behind Threado was to provide a new communication platform that took the best from programs like Slack or Discord. But it soon became clear that building another community platform would not address the real problem that organizations were having with community building: continued activity and engagement with their members.
“We had built a forum that had the best of Slack, Discord, and other tools, but realised that the burning problem existed elsewhere. There is no dearth of community tools today but even if you have a community on Slack or Discord that starts highly engaged, you run into the issue of people getting inactive.
The community tends to zero with time in terms of activity. So how do you help members engage and add value to each other consistently? How do you scale intimacy? These were the problems that had to be solved.”
A Common Thread
When Pramod was in the early stages with Threado, he found out about the On Deck Community Builders (ODCB) Fellowship on Twitter. An opportunity to work with peers in his own field made perfect sense.
He applied for the program, and in March 2021, he joined the first ODCB cohort.
“When I saw ODCB, it just made sense. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a program just for community builders and it happened around the time when we were just starting out. I really wanted to connect with a great set of community builders and understand the problems and help them in whatever way I could.”
Instead of deciding what his customers needed, he now could speak directly to community builders from all over the world to address their challenges and insights in their own words.
From his experience, Pramod was able to identify two distinct problems that arise in community building. First was the initial growth from zero to one: defining the purpose and getting in the early members to shape the way forward for the community.
A second question was: what happens when you have a community that’s scaling up? How do you keep your community engaged? If you’re managing a community, you need to keep up the activity on one hand, but on the other, you also need to be able to read the pulse of your community. The attention to detail that is necessary when first reaching out to people cannot disappear once they join.
Through conversations with ODCB, Pramod now knew the direction where Threado had to go.
“Our focus is providing a great experience. As you are scaling up, how do you still provide the quality such that anybody who joins feels like they belong to the community?”
Tying It All Together
If you work with your organization’s community, you can come to Threado, add your integration with Slack or whatever other tools you use. You can see how the community is engaging, who are the most active contributors, who's at risk of tuning out, and then take actions from your dashboard. You can see messages that have questions that have been pending for more than two days, and you can respond directly using the dashboard rather than logging onto each specific app.
“It's like giving superpowers to community builders. Usually, these are teams who are three to five members strong managing thousands of members in a community and hundreds of thousands of messages going on. So our product helps them make sense of it and intervene wherever they can provide value.”
As a new CEO for Threado, Pramod joined On Deck Founders (ODF), for CEOs leading high- growth venture-backed companies from around the world, and On Deck Scale (ODS) for outreach and company growth.
As a new founder, he was able to relate to a lot of the problems that other Fellows in his cohort were going through.
For him, ODF was about trying to connect the dots and help others where possible.
“I really like how there is continuity to the journey and from the time we start our Mastermind group [a small group of Fellows who meet regularly to discuss their entrepreneurial journey and problem solve] to seeing the progress over the weeks where people get candid and know the shared problems, and I've seen those problems get resolved over time. So, it's about celebrating small wins to help each other with their own context of what could be a potential solution.”
On Deck Scale (ODS) has been a completely different but equally invaluable experience. In Pramod’s words, ODS is a more hands off cohort than ODCB but of extremely high value in terms of the interactions and the content and how it's structured.
Pramod makes it a point never to miss the On Deck Scale Talks, even when they fall on odd times, like 2:30 AM India time. Pramod says that serendipitously, each session and presentation seem to apply immediately to whatever stage Threado is currently in.
“With ODS, you actually get a set of peers who have or are going through the phase we are in and can help us in the journey. ODS has been doing that phenomenally well, especially the one-on-one connects that I've had with the folks from the community and also the sessions that I've attended. I'm able to implement them almost immediately in my current context.
From thinking about, "How should we plan for our next round of funding?” to “How do we set realistic targets?” I can take three or four key takeaways that I can apply immediately and that's great to see from almost every session I’ve done.”
Timing has been perfect for Pramod’s whole journey with On Deck.
Without planning it to be the case, ODCB, ODF, and ODS each came to him when he needed it most. ODCB provided him a cohort of people dealing with similar concerns around community building and advancing community engagement. This helped him articulate what and where Threado needed to be! He was given support as a new CEO through ODF, learning and teaching through the complexity of organizational leadership. And he continues to scale up his company with ODS, learning the best practices for growth.
On Deck has been a community for the community builder himself. From the seed-stage to scaling up, Threado has emerged through the team’s innovation and insight as well as the mentorship and knowledge of Pramod’s On Deck peers. From his experience, Pramod Rao knew he had to address challenges for the organization's community building. But it was in a communal mentorship program itself, where he pinpointed what those challenges were and co-created Threado to meet those challenges head on.
“We had a much deeper understanding of the persona that we were building, as an outcome of On Deck. On Deck actually adds value to its members, it's not just a place where the members exist. Like it could be on Slack, Discord or any platform, but I think a lot more now on how you enable connections, understand the community really well and then find out where the values lie in order to activate the community.”