Figma’s community-led growth (In Depth by First Round)

Created on

September 14 2022

Created by Medha Basu. This summary was largely done for my own note-taking, sharing it just in case it adds more value to other people. Any errors are mine :)


Claire Butler, Figma’s first marketer


Principles that led to community-led growth approach

  • Bottoms-up GTM strategy
  • Community - design community existed before Figma so it was important to understand that
  • Authenticity - people don’t want fluff

Community-led growth phases

  1. At the beginning, talk to users and ask for feedback and check in with them. No one is using the tools but it’s about planting the seeds and brining people into the journey.
  2. Next phase is about building credibility - when you’re to bring the product into the world. Start talking to people who are using the product, even if the product isn’t quite there yet. It’s about getting them to see that you get them and you’re innovative and they should follow you.
  3. Getting early evangelists: build up a core even if small of power users who love your tool
  4. Expand the group of evangelists and monetise. These people are bringing the tool into their organisations.
  5. Enterprise and scale - find the internal champions who brought the tools in and help them unblock and widen adoption with sales assistance with security, procurement.

What is community

You’re building a passionate userbase who will spread your product for you

  • Get to understand the community. How do they think? What do they want to hear?
  • Build individual relationships and trust into the community by doing things that don’t scale. Do it through connections and hustle - whoever you can find to talk to. It’s not about volume at this point, it’s 1:1.
  • Don’t pitch your product hard at the start. Build trust by getting their feedback, listening to them, and showing them you understand them. Over time, some of them will use your product

When they demoed, tried to see how excited a person was about figma. Seeing reactions was really important to figure out what features and positioning resonated.

  • Used feedback to build trust. At the early stage, it’s all about planting seeds. The product is not ready yet. They won’t start using it for their jobs tomorrow. Just build credibility and a foundation.

Building credibility with the community

  • Messaging and positioning is important but have to figure out how to talk to community in a way so they understand we’re just selling them BS; we get them, we’re building something that will be useful for them.
  • Content was one of the earliest ways to build credibility. Designers don’t want to talk to marketers so Claire wouldn’t be personally the one building credibility with early adopters. Instead, Figma’s designers and engineers would be the ones building credibility.
  • Figma was a very novel and technically difficult product. So instead of sharing messaging and positioning in the blog posts, they went deep into the product. They talked about why they crafted the product the way they did and what they cared deeply about. Designers and engineers wrote a lot of these pieces. For eg, someone wrote about grids and how Figma used them and why they were passionate about it. That drew a lot of attention. Still do this kind of content - people love knowing why they do what they do.
  • Hubspot’s content was “how-to” content, while figma’s early content was a lot more esoteric and geeky. How-to content is great when you’re at scale. But early on, it’s about just creating credibility with end users — specially influencers.
  • It’s also about the market you’re serving. Designers and a lot of technical people don’t want that how-to content - Figma’s early adopters were already professionals trained in design.


  • Design community was really prominent on Twitter. Designers talk a lot about design on Twitter. Think data curious professionals are the same — rishabh and his experience with data fanboys who don’t know sql at all
  • Broke down design twitter - got very specific with it and understood how much influence they built. Targeted a big influencer list to talk about figma on Twitter when they launched — along with anyone else they could find to talk about them
  • Twitter and content was the distribution channel to stay passively engaged with them over time.

GTM for a full stack product (vs starting with a wedge)

  • Once the product was out of stealth, it didn’t mean people would immediately switch over. It was all about trial, and getting people to come back again and again and again until their habits were ingrained.
    • Free tier allowed people to use it on less high stakes situations - like on a sideproject - and try it out before they took it into their workplace.
    • How to re-engage these people over time:
      • Ton of 1:1 outreach. Figma brought in someone from the early adopter community to be the “designer advocate” and essentially the face of the company to the community.
      • Also had to get people to buy in to the pain points they were facing: versioning, for eg. It wasn’t about the hard sell. “Don’t be thirsty”.
  • People were wanting to try the product even when it wasn’t ready yet. They were pushing others out of the way during the demo because they wanted to try it themselves.
  • Coda was their first team to get onboarded. Then, they worked 1:1 to get a handful of others. And once they saw that a bunch of teams were using their tool well, they got others.
  • Figure out the most important thing. For Figma, this was realtime multiplayer mode. So in their free starter tier, they could only have 2 files at most – but could have an unlimited number of people collaborating on each file.
  • Didn’t focus on selling to teams. Instead, focused on getting adoption among individuals and then empowering them to bring it to their teams.