What Do Curated Communities Look Like In 2020?

It's Nearly Time For the On Deck Writers Fellowship

On the morning of the 9th September 2020 I checked my emails and was beyond excited to see one titled:

You’re In (On Deck Writers Fellowship)

I’d been not only accepted, but was being made a direct offer, circumventing the usually rigorous interview process.

So what had I become a fellow in?

According to the Program Structure document for the fellowship:

On Deck is here to maximize your chances of successfully achieving your writing goals, whether growing your audience, establishing expertise, generating income, or just improving your craft.

Although the Fellowship officially lasts eight weeks, On Deck is a community for life. We’re aiming to foster the digital-first, 21st-century version of the influential writers’ circles that evolved in certain places in the early 20th century, like the Bloomsbury Group or Gertrude Stein’s 1920’s Paris salons—what Kevin Kelly called “scenius.”

As you’ve no doubt already gathered from the application process, the Writer Fellowship is highly selective. We’re filtering not only for excellent writers, but for those who are going to contribute to the community more broadly.

We’re also aiming to build a community that’s diverse in both background and subject matter. Our first cohort includes college professors, venture capitalists, founders, tech execs, professional authors, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, students, marketers, bodybuilders, sailors, fashion models, politicians… the list goes on!

The fellowship kicks off on the 10th October and I will be joined by an incredible cohort of talented writers and entrepreneurs all hell bent on exploring the boundaries of their writing and its influence.

Usually an On Deck Fellowship would take place in person in San Francisco, but due to COVID On Deck Writers will take place over Zoom, Slack and other virtual communication and connection tools.

What about the broader On Deck?

On Deck started in 2016 when Erik Torenberg was thinking about leaving Product Hunt and wondered: Who else is exploring new ideas? Turns out, talented people are often thinking about what’s next. So he started hosting dinners with soon-to-be founders.

Those dinners turned out to be a hit. Soon enough, they spread to other cities: From Detroit to London to Sydney, founders loved to explore ideas in a nurturing and collaborative space, going on to start companies.

Fast forward to 2018, when David Booth joined the team as CEO and decided to take On Deck to the next level. The Fellowship was born: A 10-week program gathering 200+ talented founders to work on their next company, featuring workshops, cofounder dating, VC dinners & more.

Today, just 16 months and 5 cohorts later, the On Deck Fellowship (ODF) is booming: 250+ companies have raised over $150M+ from funds like FoundersFund, Sequoia, FirstRound, Initialized, and other top tier funds.

ODF is the perfect place to explore ideas, meet a co-founder, or build on an early concept.

What is my goal for the Fellowship?

I was involved in similar curated communities from the mid 1990’s having founded and sold Paradigm Violators, helped run First Tuesday and been a co-founder of Innovation Bay. While these had a virtual component they were also very much centred around a physicality. I am interested to explore what a modern, COVID constrained community evolves into.

All of these groups were instrumental in furthering my venture guy and entrepreneurial career. My focus has since shifted significantly to my writing. Connecting into a rocket ship of inspiration and momentum that will supercharge my writing platform is what the fellowship is about for me, while also giving me an opportunity to add value to others on a similar journey.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress.