On online communities and customer driven product building: a conversation with the founder of WavelengthFeatured

I spoke with @SarahStites, co-founder and CEO of Wavelength, a science-based app to help you eat better, without punishing diets or body shame. The approach is based on the best research in food psychology, nutrition, addiction, neuroscience, and mindfulness behavioral therapy. Ten years ago, Sarah was desperate to control her eating habits and her weight — she’d just been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and PCOS. She tried everything, including nutrition counseling, public weigh-ins, point systems, meal replacements — even a failed weight loss surgery. Her mom, Dr. Martha Katz (a PhD in microbiology with a Masters in nutrition science) was in the same vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting and mental exhaustion. The two began a journey to understand the science behind why we eat, and change their own eating habits, for good. Together, they created Wavelength, mapping research to the “lived experience” of feeling out of control with food. In the process, Sarah reversed her pre-diabetes, started managing her PCOS, and both she and her mom lost over 150lbs (more than a decade ago!). Their goal with Wavelength? To help people make eating choices they are happy with. Sarah shares her advice on growing online communities, customer driven product building, and managing stress eating during social isolation. Users come for the content, but stay for the community. Before Wavelength, many users felt uncomfortable sharing their struggle with food and body image, even with their closest friends or families. So Sarah’s team created a platform for them to connect organically with each other, even as they’re having their own, personal experience with the content in the app . In Wavelength’s virtual community, users connect with each other and finally feel seen. This is a huge part of healing — knowing that you’re not alone, your experience is completely normal, and there’s nothing wrong with you for being just as you are. That’s why members stick around. Be your own first customer. Sarah truly understands the needs of her target audience, soshe was able to connect with early customers in Facebook groups and other online communities and share an especially resonant message and product with them. She quickly onboarded 1K people for free trials and used a similar marketing strategy along with referrals and paid advertising for the paid product. Find trends in aggregate level customer feedback. In the very early stages of product development, you have to rely on a blend of anecdotal user feedback and gut instinct. But as your user base grows, it’s important to step back and start looking for trends — and this happens earlier than you think. Instead of building to overly niche circumstances or use cases, look for patterns in a larger sample of customer feedback. Even with a fairly small sample size, if a trend is strong enough, it will show itself. If 100% of your 30 users are telling you the same thing, pay attention! And if the data is confusing, don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to make sense of it. Instead, go out and increase your sample size to give additional trends and clarity the opportunity to emerge. To manage stress eating, find ways to calm your nervous system. During times of stress and uncertainty, our nervous systems are on high-alert. These are the moments when we tend to rely on our unconscious coping mechanisms, like social media, alcohol, and, of course, eating. When you do feel the impulse to stress eat, start from a place of self compassion and try to understand what the impulse is telling you — you likely have an unmet emotional or physical need that’s triggering stress response in your nervous system. Take a moment to see if you can identify the root cause, and use techniques like breathing, watching TV, reading a good book, or even ASMR to calm your nervous system.