Factory Berlin is where some of the world’s most ambitious creators come together to collaborate and thrive. While the network accepts only 25% to 35% of candidates, it has curated a membership of more than 4,000 and built a community where everyone has something to add.
Members are drawn from the tech and creative industries and include individuals, startups, founders, investors and corporations. They have access to two campuses as well as educational and social events, mentorship programmes and a host of networking activities. Factory Berlin’s partnerships with global organisations, such as Google for Startups, give members opportunities and resources to take their ideas further.
It has scaled rapidly, increasing its membership from 700 at its start, and Slack has been the engine that has driven that growth. Martin Eyerer, the co-CEO of Factory Berlin, says, “When we launched in 2014, a lot of our members came from the tech industry and were already using Slack, so it made sense. Slack also had all the functionalities we needed to create a really connected community.”
Internally, employees use Slack to collaborate, communicate with members and measure community engagement. On the membership side, Slack is where relationships are made, with channels—a central place for sharing messages, tools and files—for everything from jobs to virtual meetups. Here’s a look at how adopting Slack organisation-wide has helped Factory Berlin build a thriving ecosystem where everything and everyone is connected.
Building team bonds and supercharging productivity
Factory Berlin wants its members to grow professionally and personally, and it uses many different tools to give them a seamless experience. To move work forward faster, it integrated its most-used apps, such as Wootric and Jira Cloud, into Slack and used Zapier to pull data from tools like Unbounce and Pipedrive into dedicated Slack channels.
With information directed into Slack channels data is now easily discoverable, so Factory Berlin’s employees can deliver more complex work within a shorter time frame. “Our knowledge isn’t siloed in a dozen places anymore,” says Julian Feierabend, the head of community and a product owner at Factory Berlin. “If we want to check our Net Promoter Score or view survey results, we just have to go to a channel.”
“Our knowledge isn’t siloed in a dozen places anymore. If we want to check our Net Promoter Score or view survey results, we just have to go to a channel.”
One tool that goes to the heart of Factory Berlin’s mission is Unbounce, which it uses to create membership application forms. As a curated community, the network tries to ensure that members are a good fit, so it asks for a lot of detailed information up-front. All the answers are delivered into a dedicated Slack channel so the appropriate people can see and assess them right away.
Every Factory Berlin team, from finance and campus operations to marketing and PR, has its own channel in Slack, and there are companywide channels that are open to all. “Slack really is our central messaging platform,” Eyerer says. “We do a recap of our weekly all-hands meeting there, and we have channels to boost morale. The
#factory-success channel is where we share our success stories to the whole team, while the
#crew-love-true-love channel is for birthday messages and celebrations.”
Slack allows Factory Berlin to create a culture of connectedness—it’s a place where employees can meet on a human level no matter where they are working. That’s something that became especially relevant when Covid-19 hit. “Most of us are working at home, and it would have been easy to lose our attachments to our jobs and colleagues,” Feierabend says. “Thanks to Slack, it didn’t happen. We can drop into the social channels for a team chat, share information about what’s happening with a project—it gives us an incredibly flexible way to work and socialise.”
“Slack enables us to keep our company culture alive, even if we’re not all in the same place.”
A vibrant, diverse community comes together in channels
As Factory Berlin scaled, the challenge was to keep its diverse membership engaged and connected. With Slack, it could. Factory Berlin has built a thriving Slack workspace where discussion flourishes and work happens. Whether members want to ask a question, advertise a job or find a project partner, it’s easy to do, with seven different channel categories that cover every eventuality: Inform, Ask, Circles, Fun, Discuss, Market and Connect.
Inform is the first place where members get community updates, announcements and success stories, while Ask is where they go for help and support. One of the most popular channels in the Ask category is
#ask-an-expert. Members who are experts in various topics monitor it, and they jump in when they see a pertinent question.
“We set it up when we saw how people were just reaching out to experts in random channels, which could be hit-and-miss,” Feierabend says. “This way, they are guaranteed a response.”
Circles is home to several channels centered on members’ shared interests, industries and projects. There are channels for solo entrepreneurs and designers and for specific topics such as educational technology and sustainability. It’s where members find like-minded counterparts, exchange ideas and inspire and support one another.
Factory Berlin keeps its Circles vibrant by appointing two captains to each channel. They lead peer-to-peer activities and arrange meetups and expert talks, which keeps engagement high. The network also encourages members to cut their own path in Slack. If there is a sub-community that is growing and producing content for its members, it can apply to become an official Circle.
How Slack insights sparked new products and ways of working
Even as it scaled, Factory Berlin wanted to maintain a close relationship with its members and encourage them to share their thoughts, needs and issues. Slack allowed it to stay true to its values.
“If you think about most companies, they communicate with their customers via email or push notifications,” Feierabend says. “They rarely have an open space where staff and customers talk on a human level. Slack allows us to be transparent and show our members that no matter how big we get, we are all in this together.”
The organisation is committed to continually refining its members’ experience, and it uses Slack analytics to help it decide on future developments. “By digging into which channels are most used and where people send the most messages, we can come up with better ways to keep them engaged,” Eyerer says. “When people aren’t on campus, Slack is Factory Berlin for them, so it has to be somewhere they want to go.”
“By digging into which channels are most used, we can come up with better ways to keep members engaged. When people aren’t on campus, Slack is Factory Berlin for them.”
Factory Berlin also uses Slack to gauge how members are feeling in real time, and their feedback influences its product development. For example, when it was considering a change to its pricing structure, members shared their thoughts in Slack channels. That led to it introducing membership tiers for the first time. “Slack was incredibly crucial to that decision,” Feierabend says. “Without those threads, we wouldn’t have known how strongly our members felt and what changes they wanted to see.”
Today, Factory Berlin has three main membership tiers. “Hold” is a digital-only membership that allows full access to the Slack workspace. As a result of Covid-19, interest in this tier has skyrocketed. It is now one of the network’s most popular products and is proof positive of the business benefit that Slack brings.
“People didn’t cancel; they just downgraded their membership to Hold, which was super-cool to see,” Feierabend says. “It shows the value of the community we have built in Slack. It’s something that people are willing to pay for on a regular basis.”
In summer 2021, Factory Berlin will open a third campus, in Hamburg. As the organisation takes its ecosystem outside the German capital for the first time, Slack will be more important than ever, says Eyerer: “We’re not coming at this from scratch. We’re coming with 4,000 people in our Slack channels, all of them ready to connect with and work with our new members in Hamburg. Slack is going to play an absolutely crucial role in this ramp-up phase for our community.”