Meetup.com: facilitating offline group meetings across the world!!!
What is Meetup.com?
Based in New York and Launched in 2012 – Meetup.com is a portal that brings together people from thousands of cities to do more of what they want to do in life.
Basically, it is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.
Meetup.com helps people in finding and / or creating communities (groups) that are based around the ideas and activities that matter to them. These groups are usually formed around common interests or cause, such as politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies. These are then sustained through regular, in-person gatherings.
So how do such Meetups help?
Well, Meetups help in several ways, including: to help you do what you love, to find and make new friends, to get involved in new local communities, learn & teach & share, Rise up or stand up & unite to make a difference, or for that matter to become a part of something of something bigger – both locally and globally, etc…
Meetup Pro is Meetup.com’s latest addition that offers to help Community Managers scale a network of Meetups, drive and track community engagement, and build real relationships with members at the local level. It has been developed keeping in mind most of the features requested by community managers, including: Increased Visibility, Data and Analytics, Community Intelligence, Central Communication, etc…
What is their operating model?
Join a Meetup GroupàJoining a Meetup group entitles one to receive notifications for that group, RSVP for events, and participate in communication and activities for that group – both online and offline.
Once you have narrowed down on the group you wish to join, all you need to do is: –
- Visit www.meetup.com
- Click on the Meetup group
- Click “Join us” on the homepage of the Meetup group
- Answer some profile questions to submit your membership request to the organizer (If prompted)
- And then depending on the settings of the group, you’ll either be added to the group immediately or you’ll be notified about your membership
- It also allows users to contact Meetup group members through a messaging platform and comments left on individual event listings.
- Additionally, after every event an email is shared that allows users to click on “Good to see you” and establish further connection with group members.
- You can also leave the group at given point of time. No questions asked! Although, that would also unsubscribe you from all notifications for that group!
Start a Meetup group à if you wish to create your own Meetup group, all you need to do is: –
- Visit www.meetup.com
- Click ‘Start a Meetup Group’ at the top of any page on the site
- Follow the steps and customize your group as per the purpose
- Enter your credit card information and select an organizer subscription plan
- Once you finish the creation process, you will receive a receipt for your organizer subscription payment and your Meetup group will be live on the platform. You will be able to find it under your new Meetup group, under My Groups.
You must make sure that your group description is clear and in line with their community guidelines. After the creation, their Community Experience Team will be reviewing your new group to make sure it aligns with their Community Guidelines, and only after it is officially approved (usually within a few days), they will announce the Meetup to all the interested members nearby and invite them to join.
Additionally, the organizer must also clearly facilitate community building and group connections around a shared interest, passion, or activity. They must also have a precise group description, which must include:
- Describe your ideal members (Who should join?)
- Is it to learn more, challenge their skills or have fun? (Why should members join?)
- Describe typical activities that would be involved! (What can members expect out of the group)
As an organizer, there are a range of functions that a group must perform, some of them include:
- Schedule meetings and automating notices to members
- Assign different leadership responsibilities and access to the group data
- Accept RSVPs for events
- Monetize groups, accept and track membership and/or meeting payments through WePay
- Create a file repository for group access
- Post photo libraries of events
- Manage communications between group members
- Post group polls
What is their present Revenue Model and all the remodeling done in the past?
The service is completely free of charge to all the members, but if you wish to create a group as an organizer, then you’ll be charged a small fee. That’s their revenue model.
Meetup receives revenue by charging fees to organizers of groups. They currently have a ‘Basic Plan’ for $9.99/month that consists of 4 organizers (max) and 50 members (max), and an ‘Unlimited Plan’ for $14.99/month or six months for $90 that entitles the organizer up to three groups, and Unlimited members and organizers.
So, Meetup had initially begun with a revenue model in 2002 wherein they charged $1 for each individual that went to a bar, cafe, or another establishment for a Meetup. Because of too many flaws in this system, this model didn’t work. Additionally, people also used the tool in ways that the company didn’t initially imagine.
That is when Meetup tried to pursue other additional revenue streams by charging political organizations for using the website, adding AdSense, and experimenting with a premium offering – Meetup Plus; but sadly, none of these made a difference.
Now, Meetup.com since its launch had attained near-instant success; but in April of 2005, after 5 years of launching, the company made a decision, that put its future in jeopardy. They decided to – “transition from a free service to charging organizers of meetings”.
The company, just like anyone would, had anticipated that people would stop using the site if they didn’t want to pay for the services, but instead, people took it personally, and the backlash resulted in a loss of about 95% of their activity. They went from being one of the hottest start-up featured on 60 minutes, to a failing enterprise.
Since, Meetup couldn’t turn profitable, due to the ineffectiveness of their revenue model, they were forced to re-evaluate their future, which led them to all surrounding questions ––– What business it was in? Who they wanted to serve? How to establish a business model that aligned with these goals while getting paid?
Having a simple and sustainable business was obviously the ultimate goal.
Another problem that bothered them was that the meetups were easy to start and most of them turned out to be pretty bad and unsuccessful, they lacked energy, and the organizers didn’t seem to be committed – which meant, a bad experience for the other users.
Hence, after many internal discussions, Meetup decided to resolve both the problems at by charging people. The intended to use charging as a filter! This would automatically filter out all the junk and only the legit ones would stay back.
Without further ado, they started the pricing model and announced that they would charge $19/month to the organizers. After minor immediate backlash, and after sometime, the trick worked. Although it didn’t initially appear it would, charging organizers eventually turned out to be the right decision for Meetup.
Who leads the brand?
It was co-founded in 2002 by Scott Heiferman and Matt Meeker.
Scott Heiferman acts as the CEO of Meetup!
He has completed his education from the University of Iowa. His mother passed away, when he was just a sophomore, and since then he was raised by four siblings that were 15 to 20 years older than him.
Scott started his career in May 1994 as Interactive Marketing Frontiersman with Sony Electronics for about 11 months, post which he moved on to found his first entrepreneurial venture – “i-traffic” in March 1994. He ran this profitable media-buying agency for about 6 years and then sold it to Agency.com!
After selling off this business; he decided to take a career break and began working as a counter person at McDonalds for about 2 years, and then also founded Fotolog.com in 2002 itself, but ran that for more than 6 years.
Then – finally, in 2001 Meetup.com was formed!
Scott has made several (6, to be specific) Investments worth a little less than $30 mil, in his personal capacity, which include companies like: – Change.org, Skillshare, Kickstarter, 20×200, JustFamily, and Path101.
He has quite a few accolades attached to his name. Including: –
- Received the Jane Addams Award from the National Conference on Citizenship (NCOC). Later, he also got on the NCOC board
- M.I.T. Technology Review awarded Scott with “Innovator of the Year” award for his work with Meetup.
What is their story and how has their growth been?
Scott had started a social website that was social at a time that was before social was cool.
Coming back to the story – the year was 2001. Matt had just left a start-up that had received $15 mil. But to his luck, the bubble burst happened and recession took over. Many start-ups didn’t make it. Matt’s $15 mil company didn’t make it too, that too, without ever releasing a product!
Anyway, he had started to get coffee with Scott. They had worked together at i-traffic. They had started talking about start-up ideas. And they had lots!
Before they landed up with Meetup.com, they in fact, had planned to start a high-end and luxury set restaurant that only served breakfast cereal. They had gone too far with that idea, but for some reason they kept coming back to Meetup. Two reasons: –
One ––– Robert Putnam’s book about the collapse of community in America, “Bowling Alone” and the second was ––– after September 11, people had suddenly become aware of each other. Something had changed in New York: Strangers had started saying hello. There was definitely a craving for community, and Meetup.com was it.
Hence, without further ado – Matt had Scott raised some capital from friends and family, and began scouting for a technical cofounder. After some searching, they found their perfect match, but unfortunately he didn’t want to do it. After a lot of back-and-forth, yes-and-no, begging, following him to Paris, he finally agreed!
But later, after the two came back, the techie called from Paris asking for a week. This pissed off Matt and Scott, and they put up an ad on Craigslist. After going through 400 applications, shortlisting (for interview) 60 applications, and interviewing man more, they finally found their match – in Peter Kamali!
Building of the website started. Time passed by, and they were now in need of funds. That is when they raised an angel round of funding, using which, they completed the site and launched it on the 12th of June!
They scouted the internet for groups–Yahoo groups, blogs for pug lovers, beer lovers, Wiccans, hockey moms, the works, etc. and sent out emails notifying these groups of an upcoming made-up holiday–International Pug Lovers Meetup Day and International Witches Meetup Day, and would instruct them to go to the website to find out the Meetup location.
The launch turned out to become an immediate success, thanks to a clever marketing campaign.
Over the period of time, the company has only grown bigger and larger, and attained nothing but success!
In 2009, according to a TechCrunch article; they received a slide deck that the company used for an August 2009 shareholder update, that revealed its current financial situation and past revenue forecasts, and has been doing well.
By that year – their cash sales had gone up by 37.2% from $558,576 in July 2008 to $776,495 in July 2009, they were then clearing about $9.2 million in annual revenues, and the number of Meetup groups had also increased from about 19,700 groups to 27,500 as well. More than 85% of Meetup.com’s income now came from the organizers who paid for the service; the rest came from sponsorships and on-site text advertising.
This further extended to more than 10 million events being scheduled through Meetup, which now was hosting more than 140,000 groups worldwide in 2013. The number of non-U.S. meetups has doubled in the past year, with some of the hot spots of growth being France, Spain, Asia and India.
And when you look at the company today, Meetup.com has grown from 23 mil members to claimed to have 30 mil members in 180 countries and 210,240 groups.
The company today boasts of having political candidates using Meetup for elections. Some of the names include: Howard Dean, Barack Obama, along with Bernie Sanders using Meetup.com to do a lot of activity for the 2016 election organic activity.
They have raised a total of $18.3 mil in 5 Rounds from 7 Investors including Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), Omidyar Network, Union Square Ventures, eBay, etc