One of the companies I work with recently sent the following email to the CEO’s of a number of similar companies (I’ve redacted the email a bit to preserve the privacy of the company):
I’m the CEO of [really cool portfolio company]. We’re a [insert company attribute/industry here] company as well I have been talking to a number of other [attribute/industry] players and I think we all are facing some similar issues as we try and both mature our businesses and the [attribute/industry] industry at the same time. I’m pulling together a private discussion group for a select set of these businesses where we can have open conversations with each other about issues we face and how we are dealing with them. I feel like we’re all treading a lot of the same ground right now. For example, how do you [list of things that we're dealing with].. I feel like CS industry is a bit where the Open Source industry was 5 years ago. Lots of standards to learn still.
I’m focusing on high level members of these companies (CEO, a CTO, your community manager, or some combination that makes sense) to participate in this group. It will be informal but have basic no-blog rules as a backdrop to it.
The result has been amazing. There are over 30 participants now in this email discussion group (that has only been up and running now for about 10 days) and the pace and depth of the discussion has been remarkable. My favorite email started with "I’ve never taken longer to reply to an email" – this group is extremely engaged and is tackling topics that are similar across all of their companies and sharing the results of their respective efforts. We’ve taken some of the topics off-line at our portfolio company and had in depth discussions about how what we’re learning from the group is changing our thinking about certain product features and informing how we’re tackling a handful of sticky problems, etc.
There’s no magic to doing this. It just took the initiative of one company to start to pull together a core group (which has now expanded as the initial participants have brought additional people into the fold).