The Tribal Network Effect (nfx #15)
In 2017 we published the NFX Manual which laid out 13 types of network effects. We later identified and published the “Expertise” network effect, which was the 14th type.
Today, we’re sharing the 15th type of network effect: Tribal Network Effects.
The easiest way to understand Tribal network effects is to start by looking at the powerful network forces of school alumni networks, as discussed in Your Life Is Driven By Network Effects. Tribal network effects most often develop in alumni networks of schools, military units, fraternities and sororities, accelerators, languages, regions, and religions.
Tribal network effects are another of what we call “social” network effects, joining the three other social nfx we’ve identified: Bandwagon, Language, and Belief. This is because they exist in the minds of people and not in data and wires. The unique attribute of Tribal network effects is that they exist because of how people form their identities around (no surprise)… tribes.
We suspect this was the very first network effect historically, as Homo sapiens evolved as a pack animal, trying to survive. The ones that built the best tribes survived to procreate, so we are all descendants of the best tribe builders. Those who weren’t good at building or joining tribes died off. Thus, our brains are wired to join tribes.
A few key things contribute to the formation of strong Tribal network effects:
Not all tribes share all six of these characteristics, but the more they do, the more powerful the tribal self-identification becomes in the minds of the tribe members, and thus the stronger the Tribal network effect.