It’s increasingly difficult for an online business to do something new today, but that’s what Discord has managed to accomplish. They have built a communications platform with a soul, and with a social and community-centric purpose at its core. It gives people a new home to talk, have genuine conversations, and build long-lasting relationships around shared interests and passions.
I first met Jason Citron, Discord’s co-founder and CEO, in 2017. It was supposed to be a quick coffee, but he wanted a detailed breakdown of why an e-commerce startup investment I backed had been struggling. That wasn’t really how I’d hoped to impress a founder! But we hit it off, and at dinner with a few of my partners the next night Jason shared Discord’s user engagement metrics. We were all blown away — I’d never seen numbers like that and still haven’t. We moved in record time to get term sheets sorted. Jason, along with CTO and co-founder Stan Vishnevskiy, have both proved to be unusually scalable entrepreneurs who are growing in ambition and capability with the business. The fact that they are both so down to earth makes the relationship even more rewarding.
The team never compromised on quality while they were building the site. Discord was something they were building for themselves and for the user community they felt so close to. It’s still an unusually engaged audience; the critical metric here is how many of their 100 million monthly active users use it daily. Only the biggest social media sites can claim a ratio of 50%, but Discord has a truly extraordinary level of engagement.
I believe Discord is the future of platforms because it demonstrates how a responsibly curated site can provide a safe space for people with shared interests. Rather than throwing raw content at you, like Facebook, it provides a shared experience for you and your friends. We’ll come to appreciate that Discord does for social conversation what Slack has done for professional conversation.
Discord’s journey hasn’t always been up and to the right. Another curious parallel with Slack is that both companies began as a game studio, but ended up focusing on the communication channel they’d built for their own use. Jason had founded Hammer & Chisel in 2012 and then launched the mobile battle arena game Fates Forever. It was during this time that Jason and Stan noticed that using chat apps to play games was not a great experience, a sentiment shared by their users who also struggled to find a good service to play the game. They pivoted to launch Discord to provide that rich, community-based environment for people to talk while playing games in 2015.
Five years later and Discord has grown far beyond the gaming community. In France this year, Discord was adopted as the primary app for distance learning after the government’s official service failed. As a result, Discord reached the top ten app downloads in France in March and is still in the top 50 in the US and UK today. Usage during lockdown only became more inventive and indispensable than ever, including yoga sessions, book clubs, and art classes. As Discord plans its next phase of growth, it will become even more inclusive and welcoming for new users and communities and it will continue to be guided by the users that have informed its development from the start.
This latest investment round marks another step in the maturity and growth of this exceptional company. It will enable Jason, Stan, and their team to strengthen and develop Discord as a more mainstream and appealing brand outside gaming, expanding on the 13.5 million active servers (the name for a community on Discord) per week that it now hosts. It will allow them to increase hiring and develop some powerful new product features. And it will deepen their commitment to trust and safety — a team that already accounts for 15% of Discord’s employees and will continue to grow and reinforce the site’s responsible and forward-thinking safety policy.
I’ve always said that life on this earth is about people, which is why I love the Discord team and why we are excited to lead their most recent $100 million round. They now have an opportunity to position Discord as the online home for communities, where the world goes to talk openly, hang out, and build relationships. We couldn’t be happier to work alongside their team to help make that happen.
Published — June 30, 2020