Fact: network effects have created the most valuable companies over the past 10 years. Simple interactions between people create something powerful when they happen in a network. Just look at the rapid rise of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and LinkedIn. These businesses have created billions of dollars in value for the entrepreneurs and companies who understand them.

The catch? Until now, startups needed millions in capital, a team of engineers and an office in Silicon Valley to build a product with network dynamics.

But the tide is turning. There is a new breed of services designed to offer network effects to entrepreneurs around the world who want to bring together interesting people who wouldn't otherwise meet -- with no code or capital required.

Founders are rapidly adopting these new platforms to create innovative niche networks that haven't existed before. The best part? These services deliver networks as native mobile apps that meet people where they live -- on their phones.

Niche networks are the future of network effects.

The world has gone niche. People are adding more hashtags to describe themselves than ever before. Increasingly, humans want to be multi-hyphenate -- reflecting a combination of unique identities, interests, specialties, professions, values, causes, conditions or diagnoses. People aren't general or generic, so why should their networks be?

The evidence is everywhere. There are 1.5 million apps, one billion people using Facebook groups and 75 million Wordpress blogs. Yet, most apps don't connect people, Facebook groups are limited (and prohibit you from creating a business or a brand) and Wordpress requires a relentless cycle of publishing to grow an audience.

Community entrepreneurs driving new mobile niche networks are challenging the one-size-fits-all model by bringing together interesting people who wouldn't otherwise meet. They attract strangers with a unique hook that perfectly describes who should join to meet people like themselves.

For example, today niche networks bring together craft hairdressers, DIY drone enthusiasts, young Latino parents, couples navigating infertility, women learning to code and even people preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Niche networks are specific, but they definitely aren't small.

And with network effects, specific = valuable.

The beauty of this model is that the bigger the network, the easier it is to manage because people are contributing their own posts and having their own conversations. They are most interested in talking to each other, not just you.

It's the definition of a great party. Once it's set up, you get credit for creating something amazing and meaningful for people without a lot of work.

What's changed? Mobile.

The next generation of successful businesses will be native to mobile. Yet, of the 1.5 million apps in the app stores, only 25% are used more than once. Even with time, money and expertise, people's expectations of mobile apps are rising everyday, meaning new startups can't learn fast enough or reach enough people before the crowd has moved on to something better.

Today, community entrepreneurs like Randy Taylor and Gerard Scarpaci or Kayla Itsines are taking a different approach. They are seizing new software-as-a-service products that offer everything they need to create a community and a business on mobile - at a fraction of the price or the risk of custom software. These services eliminate the need to know how to code or raise a million dollars to hire a technical team. Most importantly, they aren't at risk of building software that fails to meet member expectations. Instead, they are taking advantage of cutting edge personalization and proven social software their members love.

Whether it's inspiring the next generation of craft hairdressers or leading a global movement to get in shape, these successful community entrepreneurs have found that their own niche network apps are more valuable to their business than an Instagram or Facebook following alone.

The new leaders in tech focus on their customers - not raising VC money or building software.

With the freedom that comes from not having to invest in custom software development or raising money, new community entrepreneurs are able to focus on the people they bring together who should know each other, and the services their members need. Whether it's a network of Native American community leaders, Futurists or people living with diabetes, these are important communities that spark new relationships and need to exist in the world.

Why do people join niche networks? Three reasons stand out:

  • Instantly connect with people like them to achieve a common goal
  • Benefit daily from tapping into the "hive mind," a.k.a. a crowdsourced collection of ideas, inspiration and experiences
  • Navigate topics that don't have easy and obvious answers (like those that can't be found in a Google search in a few minutes)

Only 3 decisions stand between you and a successful mobile tech startup.

So, you're ready to join the ranks of successful community entrepreneurs building a network effects business. Now what? Launch by answering three simple questions:

  1. Who will your niche network serve? (The more specific, the more valuable the network will be.)
  2. Why will people join? (The motivations above give you a great head start.)
  3. What do you want members to do together? (Think topics, polls, questions, meetups and live chats.)

From here, success is as easy as coming up with a relevant, memorable name and recruiting a handful of early members to spread the word.

That's it. You don't need to know how to code. You don't need to raise capital. You have everything you need right now to build the easiest and most meaningful side project or business that only you can bring to life.

More entrepreneurs armed with the power of networks effects means the three billion people with mobile phones - no matter how isolated or multi-hyphenated they are - can open an app and instantly connect with not only the people they already know, but the people they should know around the things that are most important to them.

Who will you bring together?

Published on: Apr 7, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.