is powered by Place

Can Place find a place of its own by powering niche communities?

Esteban Contreras
2 min readMar 6, 2015

Even the world’s most influential people struggle launching and scaling products people actually want to use.

Few remember Ning. And few remember Backplane, despite the fact that Lady Gaga and friends were behind it.

Many have built communities in the enterprise space. Backplane — which was able to land some big brand clients — didn’t really have the infrastructure to truly support them. These days, if you want to power a community you have many options, i.e. Jive, Lithium, and Branderati (now part of Sprinklr). In the consumer space — if anyone wants to build a community for anything — most would probably just go to Facebook (Groups), Yahoo!, Google, Slack, Wordpress (Buddypress), or some obscure tool with basic message board functionality.

So how does “Place,” Backplane’s new solution for its past effort differentiate itself enough to be interesting to individual users?

The first step is trying to be different than Facebook Groups. The second step is allowing for monetization of groups — and getting a cut from transactions.

At a quick glance, Place communities (like this one about Anime) made me think of Kickstarter. Hosted on your own domain, as opposed to, Place is trying something that may remind you of Ning — minus the old-school look. In fact, this can be found on Place’s About page:

The future of social networking doesn’t lie in an all-encompassing network, but in niche networks with purpose.

Sounds like Ning, doesn’t it?

Place could expand to be like a Squarespace (or Wordpress?) for hosted communities — which is interesting from a consumer perspective. It could be interesting.

With so many options out there, how much can a celebrity do to build a meaningful platform for communities?

Except for a few cases in which celebrities seem to be the intellectual property or the endorsement (i.e. Kim Kardashian), celebrities and tech rarely mix beyond launches, media headlines and early traction.

Traction is key but there may be such a thing as vanity traction.



Esteban Contreras

VP of Product at Fleetio. Created and curate the Product State newsletter