Swedish Startup Space

7 Reasons why Startups and Tribes are a perfect match

Written by on June 26, 2013

Tribes and startups share a lot in common. They are often both driven by passion, as well as a desire to challenge the status quo. In many ways startups and tribes make a perfect match. Let’s examine 7 reasons why.

7 reasons why startups and tribes make a perfect match

1. Startups are open to new ideas

Whether you are working with development or communication it is crucial to know who you are innovating for. Tribes as an audience is a new concept for many, and only briefly touched upon – if at all – in education. It shouldn’t be, considering how our tribes affects our behavior and decision making. Many traditional companies are bogged down by internal politics and an entrenched in a top-down, one-dimensional and inside-out approach. You could say that companies have traditionally been acting like fishermen, with a blind spot towards our social nature, while they really would benefit from becoming more like marine biologists.

Many startups have a head start, because they have less baggage than established companies, and it lies in their nature to challenge the norm and try new things. I find that many startups have a gut-feeling about tribes from the get-go, even if they lack the tools and practices to fully engage them.

2. Startups need to be successful

All startups strive for that magic moment when they make a major breakthrough. A popular way of stimulating growth is to identify and woo influencers into sharing news about products. However influencers gain much of their status and recognition from tribes. When information travels organically across the web, it weaves it’s way across many tribes. Startups need to be successful, and they can increase their chances by tapping into the social backbone of tribes.

3. Startups have limited resources

Many startups run on a tight budget, and need to focus on leveraging their strengths. Entrepreneurs tend to have a stronger passion and energy than others, and they also spend more time on their work. If there is anything they can do themselves they often will. This can be a good and a bad thing, but when it comes to earning trust and relations it’s mostly good. Some things need to be nurtured, and shouldn’t be outsourced, such as tribal relations and communications.

4. Startups can be authentic

All tribes value authenticity, but what that means differs. Startups will often find that their team members already are an integral part of some of the tribes they plan to reach. This means that they can leverage their insider skills when it comes to providing unique experiences and stories. Regardless if this is the case, startups can be less commercial in their approach, and more personal and native.

5. Startups need to be people-centric

While many startups naturally get caught up in development, they should never to lose sight of their end users. The users will after all determine and help build the startup’s success. Once a startup has identified and mapped the tribes they want to connect with, they should keep them in mind in everything they do.

6. Startups need to deliver value

Your brand is not what you say it is, but what others do.

This quote places on emphasis on the importance of delivering products that people truly value. The tricky thing is that value is not static, but negotiated in social settings. Tribes are like stock markets that together determine the value they place in a new product. With a particular tribe in mind startups can tailor features and content that they will love.

7. Startups don’t have to wait

The sooner startups identify tribes, study their culture, and identify their influencers the better. Building relationships and trust require time, and with a portion of creativity a startup can get involved in tribal sharing and co-creation at once. This can range from arranging meet-ups, helping newcomers to sharing expertise. Not at the expense of missing a deadline of course.

Examples of startups and tribes

This is a list of 4 startups that recently have been awarded by Vinnova, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, and the Swedish Energy Agency. Identifying the less obvious tribes is important for finding new user groups, but for the sake of example I have listed an obvious one next to each startup below. Once a tribe has been identified the next step is to create a map that can act as a launch pad for tribal collaboration and communication.


Aqwary and the Deep sea diver tribe. Aqwary has a pending patent for an underwater network that allows divers to share data


Dramatify and the Film producer tribe. Dramatify is a service offering screenplay management & online call sheets for film and TV productions.


Ontheflea and the Vintage tribe. Ontheflea is an flea market app that uses geo-location.


Playwerk and the Songwriter tribe. Playwerk is building an online recording studio.

Are you using tribal communication in the startup space? Or have come across relevant examples? Let me know.

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