Meet The MD: Disciple Media CEO Benji Vaughan on “breaking the social media monopoly” through his creative tech venture
Techno musician and entrepreneur Benji Vaughan is on a mission to ‘change the world’.
Benji, whose psychedelic trance discography spans almost two decades, is the founder of community platform Disciple Media.
Founded four years ago, Disciple Media aims to connect musicians and allow users to create single-interest community spaces outside of mainstream social media channels.
Benji spoke with Bdaily about his journey from beats to business, the growth of Disciple from an agency-model enterprise to an SaaS specialist, and why creating online spaces is important for creatives.
Can you tell the readers about yourself first of all - i.e. your background, where you are from etc?
“My background is originally in the music industry. I was a techno musician and helped run a record label before moving into the world of technology, so it’s safe to say that I did not enter the ‘business world’ in the traditional way.
“I grew up in a small town in Surrey and studied Economics at the University of Bristol. I’ve always been drawn to music and I believe that your audience and community around you is essential.
“As my music career progressed to producing as well as performing, I realised that there really wasn’t a space for musicians to connect with their communities in a way that perfectly suited us; that’s when I decided to build Disciple.
“I guess my unstoppable urge to pursue my passion really set me up to launch a successful startup - I was competing against social media tech giants and focusing on the passion economy in a market that was fighting for consumer attention.”
When was Disciple set up, and how has it grown since then?
“Previously, social networks have been defined by a handful of open, centralised platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
“People capitalised on these networks by building large engaged followings within them. However, as these centralised networks have matured they have become increasingly congested. Reach and engagement has fallen and brand vulnerability has risen.
“We wanted to help businesses and creators build their own single interest networks easily and without any coding skills. Somewhere they can receive value from their community and deepen the relationships with their most valuable customers and fans.
“Since launching in 2016, Disciple has grown from an agency-model business building bespoke apps for musicians into a global SaaS business.
“Our recurring revenue has grown by over 850 per cent in 2019 - driven by 15 per cent monthly growth in new communities and 20 per cent monthly growth in members. Disciple currently has over 200 thriving passion communities all around the world.
“Beyond that, our platform has made it easy for creators to build their own independent communities in a matter of minutes, without any prior coding knowledge. As the passion economy grows, we’re seeing growth in membership.”
What is it about your organisation that motivates and excites you the most?
“Providing the capability and technology for brands and creators to build a community platform that they own entirely. Between 2017-18 consumer trust in Facebook decreased by 60 per cent - Disciple enables creators to build independent community spaces outside the traditional social media networking platforms.
“Focusing our activity around the growing and thriving passion economy, which revolves around individual single-interests, is both rewarding and motivating as every day more and more people seek out a space they can trust and thrive.
“I’m excited to see new communities being formed and community member numbers grow, and it’s rewarding to see smaller creators grow their communities and build a successful business from their passion.
“As the Disciple continues to evolve, we aim to break the social media monopoly and enable more creators to build a community without needing to know how to code.”
Looking back on the past year, what has been your biggest achievement?
“This past year has been another great one for Disciple. I look at the communities we’ve helped to build and their growth and it’s been phenomenal.
“This year our portfolio has really grown, we’re working with creators and brands across a multitude of industries from yoga enthusiasts, niche musicians to new parents and even cattle farming enthusiasts.
“The passion economy champions individuality and we’re proud to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity that large social networking platforms limit.
“From our native web platform to our Progressive Web Apps, creators can safely share content, interact with their audience, and feel empowered to capitalise on their exclusive content.”
What does the future hold for your company? Any exciting projects in the pipeline we should know about?
“We want to continue to empower creators to build their community, outside of mainstream social media such as Facebook and Instagram. For the past two years, we’ve been helping hundreds of creators and businesses, such as The Rolling Stones and Forbes, build and grow their communities.
“After receiving a lot of interest from smaller communities we decided to create a more affordable community platform.
“We have recently made this even more user friendly with the launch of our new community platform, built with the latest Progressive Web App (PWA) technology. PWAs are a hybrid of traditional web and mobile applications as native web platforms are now compatible on mobile applications, giving creators even more freedom to customise their community space with branding and exclusive content.
“PWAs improve engagement as members can create their own profile, connect with community members and message within their dedicated space. Such capabilities benefit both the host and community members.
“Creators have more ability to grow and capitalise from their passion as PWAs are compatible on both iOS and Android and community apps have discoverable URLs.”
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