Interview with Ari Dutilh (Owner of Buildergroop & Photography Lounge)
Hi, I’m Ari 🙂 I’m a French American 17-year-old doing remote high school. As a co-founder of Buildergroop, I focus on supporting GenZ involvement in entrepreneurship by hosting hackathons, podcasts and creating a healthy environment for networking and collaboration. I founded Photography Lounge which has become the largest partnered photography community on Discord and I’m in the process of building a photographer-first platform. I also manage John Coogan’s and Romulus Europe’s Discord communities.
Can’t get enough of travelling, photography, sculling and longboarding ✈️ 📸 🚣🏼♂️ 🛹
A bit about you
Name: Ari Dutilh
What are you up to in life (work, uni, school, etc):
After 3 years in Tuscany and Northern Italy, I’m finally back in the U.S visiting family and friends. It’s good to be back!
How long you have been running your community for:
I founded my community on July 4th, 2020 which means… wow it’s been over two years… that’s wild.
What should we know about you?
I’m a 17-year-old French American high school student 👋🏼 I build mission-driven startups and communities. At 15 I founded my first community, Photography Lounge. It has since risen to be the top community for photographers on Discord, housing thousands of members, millions of messages, and a team of 20+ volunteers from around the globe. From 16-17, I started my first business called Dmod. Dmod created community moderation tools and later became a community moderation and management agency. Our community tools reached over two million people on Discord and the agency reached $300 in monthly recurring revenue after its first three months. Now I’m working on Buildergroop: A community for GenZ developers, designers, and founders. It has evolved from a simple Discord server into a proper startup with $17k made from grants and sponsorships in our first 3 quarters, $500k in discounts and deals for our members for software and co-working spaces, $10k given away in two hackathons, 18 podcast episodes, and nearly a million messages sent by members.
Why did you join/sign up to Discord
I signed up to Discord way back in 2016 so I could play video games with friends.
A short summary of your community
Name of the community: Photography Lounge
What it’s about:
Photography Lounge is a Discord partnered community striving to create a welcoming and inclusive space for photographers to share their work, be thoughtfully critiqued, and have a great time.
What you do in the community:
Photographers can brainstorm gear purchases together, get feedback on new pics, participate in weekly photo contests, and talk with thousands of other photographers about photography or anything else that comes to mind. We also offer portfolios to our most dedicated and supportive members.
How do your members stay engaged (i.e. events):
Hosting events on a consistent cadence, maintaining a high-quality and active staff team, utilizing new features and updating the server, and pruning members from time to time are all things we do to maintain member engagement.
What prompted you to create the community
After growing my photography Instagram account for over a year, I was annoyed by how frequently my account was being shadow banned for no apparent reason. I decided to explore options on other platforms. Being on Discord for so long, I decided I might as well create a photography server. Little did I know what it would become.
What was the main way you grew the community?
Previous to the community reaching enough boosts + partnership to get the discord.gg/photography vanity URL, our primary source of new joins came from Disboard. Disboard isn’t perfect for all communities on Discord, but if you’re in an unsaturated niche (like photography was back in 2020), it’s an incredible platform. We’ve been able to collect reviews, thousands of joins, and reach front-page google searches thanks to their good SEO.
What are your top three tips for growing a community from scratch?
a. Find a way to provide value. If you’re not providing something unique or of more value than competitors in your niche, you won’t get far.
b. Don’t be afraid to be the server’s most active member! People want to see active leadership in communities.
c. Take your time to build a dream team. Vet people over time, make sure that they represent what you want your perfect members to act like, and make sure that they’re happy and healthy.