KP Product Fellow Application
Prompt: “What is the latest product you’re absolutely obsessed with and why? Briefly explain what the product is, provide a broader analysis on why it plays such a significant role, and come up with any recommendations you might have for future improvements. You can provide your submission as a link to your blog post or video.”
What is Buildspace?
For the past few months, a product I have been obsessed with is Buildspace (https://buildspace.so/). Buildspace is a community for learners who are curious about web3 to develop new skills, build relevant projects, and dive into crypto/web3 head first.
Buildspace landing page
Courses span topics such as creating an NFT game in your browser, launching your first smart contract, and more. There are over 35,000 developers who have used the platform since its launch in late 2021. Users come from all over the world and are made up of experienced developers looking to jump from web2 -> web3, and complete beginners looking to get started.
I’ve used buildspace so far to work on 2 projects:
- “Mint your own NFT collection and ship a Web3 app to show them off“
- “Build a Web3 app on Solana with React and Rust“.
I thoroughly enjoyed using the platform as it felt fresh, simple, and effective. While Buildspace may sound similar to other online learning platforms at first, there are a few key differentiators that I believe make Buildspace special.
To start, Buildspace places an emphasis on community. Learning is best done in a social setting, and Buildspace uses Discord as the means to achieve this. While completing a course, users are prompted to share updates on Discord to check in with their peers, and community members often share tips and answers to user questions.
The courses run on a regular cadence with a cohort system, kick-offs, co-working sessions, and other synchronous activities to enhance the feeling of doing something with a group.
The other key differentiator is the lead instructor, Farza, and his straightforward and clear approach to teaching. There is a perfect balance of what you need to know to complete a project, versus what you can dig into if you are interested or would like more detail. Courses are made with the latest technology and teach what many startups in the space are actively looking for.
The combination of multiple positive factors has led to the rapid growth of developers (12,000 -> 35,000) over the course of 2 months. Looking at the online learning industry, and the inflection point web3 is currently in, Buildspace is in a perfect position to rapidly scale. The global market for E-learning was estimated at US$250.8 Billion in the year 2020, and is projected to reach a revised size of US$457.8 Billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 10.3% . Buildspace has locked down $200,000 in booked revenue from a large protocol and is on track to continue to build other similarly sized partnerships .
I have formed recommendations across 3 different product areas that I believe can positively impact retention on the platform. Problems were discovered by speaking with existing users and performing a heuristic evaluation of the product experience. I believe the product has proven its ability to grow the top-of-funnel user base over the past few months and will now face the challenge of retaining users and keeping them active over time.
Community — Accountability Buddies
Problem: Many users who are new to Discord and online communities face initial social anxiety when joining. This may cause users to sign up, get started, but not take advantage of community features.
Example Form Questions
A way to enhance the community is to create an accountability buddy program that connects a small group of 2–4 developers together. This would be used to help make friends, stay motivated, and work on future projects together.
A very simple form can be used (on an opt-in basis), and the relationship can be facilitated through a discord bot. I believe this simple matching program can help make users more comfortable and improve retention.
Monetization — Sponsored Sections
Problem: Users often drop off mid-way through a course as there is no immediate incentive for the completion of a step. Courses may take multiple weeks for users to get through, and users may forget or be demotivated to continue over the initial excitement.
A way to keep users engaged is by providing the opportunity to earn micro-rewards or prizes for completing individual steps. I believe there’s an opportunity for mini-challenges and rewards that are beneficial for both the students and potential sponsors (similar to hackathon API prizes). This would be useful for smaller protocols and technologies as they can sponsor specific steps in a course. This would allow students to become familiar with new technologies and receive micro-rewards based on completing individual steps.
Example of Section 4, sponsored by OpenSea
For example, here is a step of creating an account on OpenSea to view your NFT. OpenSea could sponsor this step and provide each user who completes it with a reward to motivate the user and build brand recognition. Currently, Buildspace offers a job board to Web3 companies where users can connect with employers, and has begun to direct developers to certain protocols as well. This would be extending that relationship and create immediate user value.
Education — Blockchain Micro-credentialing
Problem: There are cases of employers hiring previous Buildspace students; however, there is no standardized way to know what courses someone has completed and what specific skill sets they have. This is a problem that extends beyond just Buildspace or web3 and is an industry wide issue.
The final recommendation would be to introduce a micro-credentialing program that allows students to achieve skill-based accomplishments and badges that are transferable to skills employers would recognize.
As traditional higher education is quite inaccessible and has faced many pressures due to COVID-19, people and institutions are shifting focus towards self-learning and continuous education. Students can be given quizzes, achievement-based incentives, or even social incentives (e.g how many likes a project has) as forms of validation.
This can be done by creating an in-house system as implemented in prior research  or by working with an existing third party service. If done internally, it would be a resource-intensive endeavour but would be a powerful differentiator when compared with other learning communities. Buildspace also has the exciting opportunity to set the standard on web3 credentials since it is early to the space and there are not many well defined global frameworks for web3 education. This would be a great opportunity to cement the platform as the leader in the space and create a defensible moat.
Each of the recommendations builds towards unique goals and can be prioritized depending on the immediate, medium, and long term plans for Buildspace. A preliminary prioritization exercise can be done based on effort and impact.
As seen above, the low-hanging fruit would be to build the community pairing feature, while features like micro-credentialing would require a significant engineering effort. Depending on available resources, I would recommend initially validating the credentialing and sponsorship ideas through user research and running low-fidelity tests with a few companies and users.
Alternative solutions and tradeoffs should be considered further to determine the best path forward. Once additional research and alternatives are explored, I believe solving these underlying user problems can help with growth, retention, and the ultimate success of Buildspace.
I think Buildspace has proven that there is a large market of excited developers and a huge opportunity for growth. If executed correctly, I think Buildspace has the potential of upskilling millions of web3 developers and making learning about software development more fun and community-driven than ever before.
Thanks for reading! If you would like to discuss these ideas further, or anything else related to product/design, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org!
UPDATE: The creator of buildspace enjoyed the case study!