Tenacity And Persistence Pays Off

Continuing the theme of case studies for MBA Mondays, I want to use a milestone that was passed last night to make a bigger point about startups.

I have known Scott Heiferman since the late 90s. He was one of the early NYC web 1.0 entrepreneurs. We were quite friendly with Scott but we were not early investors in Meetup, the company Scott started right after 9/11. Scott and I were at an event together and when asked about something he replied that he viewed Meetup as "a twenty year project." He said that it would take at least twenty years for Meetup to achieve all that he wanted from it and possibly a lot longer. And that he was patient and committed to that timeline.

As we left the event, I turned to my partner Brad and said "we should invest in Meetup, Scott is the kind of entrepreneur that we like and respect." And eventually we did invest in Meetup and we have been investors in Meetup for almost six years now.

Meetup is in its second decade as a company and growing rapidly. Last night Meetup booked its hundred millionth RSVP. You can see the counter at the top of this page. That is one hundred million people who used the Internet to get off the Internet and go out and meet other people and talk about things they are passionate about. Now I realize that some of these hundred million people are the same people doing this again and again. But even so, a hundred million RSVPs is a big deal for a company that has been plugging away on this mission for more than a decade.

When you are at something for a decade or more, it can become a slog. It requires tenacity and persistence to keep pushing and innovating. In the past year Meetup has started growing faster than it has in quite a while. The chart below shows that:

Meetup 30 day actives

Scott and his team are as passionate about the Meetup mission as they were when they started the company. They have a very long timeframe in their minds and they are executing against it. And they are winning with tenacity and persistence. Which is why we backed Meetup in the first place. Well done Meetup.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. Tom Shakely

    I’ve been a fan of Meetup for a few years now, and has been especially great in connecting Philadelphia journalists, new media types, etc. for the first time in a way that gets them out of their specific industry silos and into broader conversations and relationships. Meetup is about “using the internet to get off the internet”, but I also think it’s subtler and more powerful impact is that it’s getting its users to step outside themselves and into the wider community. In other words, it’s a website for special interests, but whose value is more civic rather than just personal.

    1. fredwilson

      well said

    2. Kevin Prentiss

      This is perfect. I wish colleges / career centers did a better job connecting students to meetups for exactly that reason.

  2. Richard

    Yep, in a way Meetup set up the code of ethics in the startup community to be one of selflessness and openness. And now it is this code that has spread. Well done Meetup.

  3. Jeffrey Hartmann

    Having twenty year goals for what you want to achieve is super important to me. I think if you have an idea of where you want the story arc to go, you will be better at executing and slogging out through the small stuff that really doesn’t matter so much in your vision but that has to get done. Too many people get lost in these details, or have trouble making good decisions for the long term when there are presented with the reality of what it takes to build a company.I’m starting to not really looking at things as goals though, I think having overarching themes is a better idea. Having specific goals are great, but rarely do things go exactly as planned. In the vector field of life, if all your arrows are pointing towards the same thing eventually you will flow towards what you want to accomplish. It might not look exactly like you taught it would, but when you execute against and stay true to a theme things eventually build up a momentum that gets you where you want to go. Executing on just singular goals can be great, but I feel that we are missing out on the rhythm and beauty that unfolds when we try to align our decisions towards overarching goals instead. It also might take you a little longer to get a single thing accomplished, but as you build momentum you will accomplish things faster and faster.So my feeling is be tenacious and don’t sweat the small stuff, execute in the general direction of your own true north and you will go far.

    1. Richard

      Good thing here is almost everyone has twenty years to plan with!

  4. Richard

    As a side note: this time series is a great example of seasonality. Also look at the slopes in each of the years and how they increase. The slopes of the lines within each segment provide a terrific characterization of the increasing trend of the interest in Meetup.

    1. Cam MacRae

      I was just about to comment on the time series, specifically on the multiplicative seasonality, but figured I’d have a quick skim first. Voila! I love this community.Interested to know what happened at the end of ’11.

      1. heif

        focused more on network discoverability for people (& some other things)

        1. Cam MacRae

          Apparently it worked. It’s a good looking curve.

    2. ShanaC

      I wonder why they display seasonality in the first place

      1. PhilipSugar

        Big push for meetings at the end of the year, drop-off at beginning of new year. I know what my meeting schedule looks like in December versus January.

        1. ObjectMethodology.com

          Yes and weather plays a part.

  5. Barry Nolan

    This post reminds me of Om’s excellent article on foursquare last week. In particular “Building things that are different, inventing the future and creating a real business is a long and often very lonely slog. But you don’t hear about that. Instead what you get is a lot of babble about startups from so-called mentors, advisors and startup gurus. Peel away their sharkskin and you find they have never started a company, and they continue to live in the reflective glory of the company that once employed them. Others are the creation of social media, having struck a pose. And some are born consultants. They find willing listeners among a growing army of entrepreneurs who like enterprenuership as a lifestyle. Sorry guys, entrepreneurship isn’t a lifestyle, it is life.”

  6. Rohan

    I faced a crisis of sorts when I came to Sydney two months back. Three days in, the weekend was fast approaching and I didn’t have a place to play football. Unlike in London, football (or “soccer”) isn’t played in every path of open space and my friend here had no idea where I’d find a group to join.Google search -> Meetup.com -> Sydney football group -> Buy football shoes -> Saturday football games back on track.What a great time to be alive. Thanks Meetup.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a great story

      1. CaseyWhitehead

        I relocated to Sydney to London in November with my wife – it has been a source of some of the best nights out since we got here and removes so much of the friction of meeting new people.

        1. markslater

          Ha! i had the same issue – i now play 3 times a week with a bunch of fellow entrepreneurs (including my competitor!!) at the fields at MIT.http://www.meetup.com/Kenda…would not have happened for me without meetup.

    2. heif

      awesome! is it cheaper and/or better than a traditional league or group? what’s the organizer’s story? i love it when there’s an emergent league/group that wouldn’t have normally happened. ps. aus on fire http://bit.ly/XBUKT0

      1. Rohan

        Hi Heif, it’s free. So, I guess that removes the cheaper question.As for better, I hardly ever played in a league. Typically, it was a group that got together for a saturday/sunday kickabout (slightly competitive but no crazy tackling :)). Same concept here.The other thing I’ve learnt is that there isn’t so much choice for casual football in Sydney. There are only 2 (!) organized groups online for a game on Saturday – the culture here is from kids to learn football till they are teenagers as their moms don’t like them playing rugby/aussie rules and then they ‘graduate’. So, it’s the ones from abroad who keep these groups going.. πŸ™‚

        1. takingpitches

          What’s the story with the move to Sydney?

          1. Rohan

            Just on a 3 month work project here. Wish I could be here longer (stay restricted by the length of visa they’d give an Indian passport unfortunately..) – beautiful city.

  7. SallyBroom

    Fantastic, congrats Meetup.com. This is what business is about.

  8. JimHirshfield

    Way to go Scott! Keep on truckin’

  9. awaldstein

    I’m a fan.I’m also somewhat obsessed with the idea of using the web to drive real world connections.A great read about when they went from free to paid for those interested:http://37signals.com/svn/po…I know you can’t share their numbers but I’d love to understand the economics of their model.Big congrats to them!

    1. jason wright

      i think things will change, from what we have now where people seem to be having to reshape their lives around the web in not natural ways , to one where ‘naturalness’ is restored. at the moment the tail seems to be wagging the dog, and the dog is chasing that tail all day long.

      1. awaldstein

        Nicely said.I have a draft of a post called “Trading Places’ (big fan of the movie obviously!) on my desktop, I’ll use some of your words when I get around to finishing it.

    2. Russell

      Arnold – and Fred – I’ve just started reading lean start-up, and the intro has a great section about publicly releasing private company data. Why not?

      1. awaldstein

        Bigger discussion.I believe in transparency. I also believe in playing to my strengths and not disclosing your financials is really a great advantage building a business.I should read that book again as I missed or forgot that. Thanks.

        1. Russell

          If you look at any of the big listed tech companies, quite a few of them have serious problems, however I’ve never seen any criticism of them losing market share by releasing their accounts. But it is an open question … would love to hear @fredwilson and @bfeld ‘s thoughts on this.

          1. awaldstein

            Each to their own way of doing business.Being transparent is smart. Being an open book without purpose other than transparency seems squandering a benefit you have being private.

          2. Russell

            But is the benefit of secrecy overwheighted vs the benefit of being transparent with your employees, customers and the public?

          3. awaldstein

            This is not about being secret it is about managing your business which is about managing information flow as well.Good questions, too broad honestly to answer out of context, I have this conversation with clients all the time and while I have a point of view, each circumstance is different.

    3. heif

      100% of revenue is ~$15/mo from 100K+ meetup organizers; org success rate is growing as the network grows; the other 99% of people who use meetup pay us nothing (but it’s these members who usually become organizers); no ads or bizdev, we get to focus on serving the people & making product. questions?

      1. heif

        team of 85, mostly dev+product+design, great community support team, little marginal cost, solidly profitable

        1. William Mougayar

          Wow. Surprising. I would have guessed you at about 150-200.Mighty Meetup! You have a big mindshare for that size. It’s because you touch so many people via the multiplicity of the meetups.

        2. Richard

          Have you considered an enterprise level Meetup. For example have a major-league baseball franchise use Meetup to promote a game day event.

          1. heif

            maybe but we’re focused on serving people now; making a great easy product is hard & we’ve got a lot of work to do it right (& a big opportunity for impact & revenue with the core); serving enterprise customers would distract us

          2. PhilipSugar

            I can tell you from decades of serving the enterprise you are correct. No matter what they will demand features that you don’t want to do and it is very hard to say no. I will also say if you are trying to make any money from sports teams you need to figure out how to get money from their fans and pay them (think of TV networks). Sports teams sign the backs of checks not the fronts (except for their players and that literally is it). This I know from experience which is the product of a failed attempt to serve that market. (fortunately it was a hole above the waterline)

          3. fredwilson

            i love that line”sign the backs of checks, not the front of them”i will be using it regularly from now on

          4. panterosa,

            I will follow you on this Fred!

          5. Richard

            Not if you can fill empty seats…

          6. PhilipSugar

            Have you sold to sports teams?I mean having them cut you a check, which is selling. Not to their fans. Not giving them a rights fee for a credit card deal, not giving them a sponsorship for a ticket resell deal, not giving them an upfront payment for the ticket rights, but actually selling to them?You know what sports teams believe fills empty seats? Winning. So that is the one area they spend money on. Players. Want to guess how much a marketing intern makes at a sports team? Zero. Want to know who gets paid better coming out of college four year degree working at a sports team or a waiter/bartender/waitress?

          7. LE

            “You know what sports teams believe fills empty seats? Winning.”(Agree.)But didn’t Mark Cuban also (before winning) make a better family friendly experience that increased attendance?Separately people go to casinos to win but most don’t they continue to go because of the lights, bright colors, sounds and “hello Mr. Jones” bullshit treatment? Aren’t seats in stadiums in fly over country regularly filled because they have nothing going on and the people are brainwashed into the social aspects of supporting sports?(Will repeat I agree with you just thought of the above contrast so I’ll mention.)

          8. PhilipSugar

            You think after meeting Cramer and his Dad they are Aholes?I am born in Fort Worth, raised in Dallas and the only bigger prick I’ve met in my entire life life is Jerry Jones. The only reason why Mark doesn’t win out is because even though he is a more self absorbed pompous asshole he at least is aware that he is and enjoys being one.I assure you anything Mark does with a vendor he asks them to pay for the privilege, literally pay. At least Jerry only asks you do it for free.I know for a fact that a podiatrist that was in Daniel Synders wedding asked him if he could be the team podiatrist. Daniel said sure only $500k a year sponsorship. At least Mark only asked me for $100k

          9. LE

            Fascinating. But makes total sense. You don’t get to that point without stepping all over people and/or making tough decisions. Once again in general.Remembering many years ago when my ex wife’s best friend was a minor partner in a real estate company and held all the purse strings as CFO. We were asked to bid on a large printing job by one of the underlings of the “best friend” who iirc was in our wedding party (the wife). We were told by the underling that we weren’t going to get the job because we weren’t the lowest bid. So I called the friend (you know “IBM” style) to make sure he knew what his lackey was doing. And he literally said something l like “hey business is business to bad – hah hah” almost with glee as if it was a game and he enjoyed doing that.The way I was raised it didn’t work that way. You would check pricing and then give your friend a opportunity to do the work for the lowest (realistic) price you received. Or at the very least carefully bullshit your way out of the situation. For example the friend of the ex wife could have easily said the major partner had a contact that trumped his contact. But he didn’t even have the courtesy to lie to us! He really enjoyed being able to exert power. I mean when you don’t want to go to a party do you say “hey I don’t like you” or do you say “wow sorry I can’t we have something else planned”.That said of course there are two sides to this issue. When you have money people come out of the woodwork and do all sorts of things because of what you have and how they perceive what you can do for them. And as has been noted by several well know people who have gone bust (example: Trump) when you go bankrupt those same people are nowhere to be found and no longer are interested in your company.

          10. Richard

            Can you tell us a little about the how your team is structured. Everyone has sense of how 3 developers build an application like Meetup, but what is lacking in most discussions is how do deploy developers during growth and scale up. What are 85 deployed in the Meetup Stack? What are there skill levels? etc. Thanks.

          11. Donna Brewington White

            I was wondering that too.

      2. awaldstein

        Thanks….I have a side project that is about to expanding driving events from the merchant side as neighborhood marketing– http://www.thelocalsip.comIf it intrigues, love to have a coffee.

      3. William Mougayar

        So you don’t make anything on transaction fees when attendees pay for the meetup? Would you disclose some metrics around fees from attendees? PayPal must love you.

      4. William Mougayar

        These are great numbers that put you at about $15-$18 mil revenues with $3-5 mil profits. (just a guess)I read about your being influenced by Pierre Omidyar & Craig Newmark, and your aha moment being that the charging part was a quality filter. Brilliant.How big is the altruistic drive behind Meetup? It strikes me that you are doing more good than you’re getting paid for because you are spreading benefits around, way beyond the meetups themselves. Do you think about being a B Corp?If not, where do you go from here? How big is this market segment? Do you think about additional revenue sources and product/services?

        1. heif

          we’re mission-first: we maximize meetups; i think the world is too broken and would be better if there were a lot more meetups (decentralized resilient local irl community/economy vs. centralized+corrupt+cronyism creating disparity & disconnection)also, we like money. thankfully, our model is aligned with our mission (we get paid when there’s more meetups). revenue will grow a lot, but we’ll always “create a lot more value than we collect”. we’ll do well, we get to focus on product/experience/mission.i like the b corp idea & the people involved with it, but haven’t gotten around to it. meantime, we’re generally conscious of just trying to do the right thing.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Great vision.

          2. William Mougayar

            Nice comment, and it confirms that you have a higher purpose and values that you stand for. That’s very important and few startups have the luxury to own something like that.I think it would great if you could communicate this clearly on your website. It’s kind of there in a subtle way, but what you have described is very valuable. It’s part culture, part brand value.

    4. panterosa,

      Arnold, you posted this story recently and I read it. It was an interesting read, especially now we are doing case studies at CBS’ IE program. As an artist/designer reading case studies I am finding tie backs to art. We even found an HBS case on Pina Bausch. Now that’s cool.

    5. PhilipSugar

      This is a GREAT read. Seriously can’t emphasize that enough.

    6. Drew Meyers

      “I’m also somewhat obsessed with the idea of using the web to drive real world connections.”Likewise, and that’s what I’m working on for travel scenarios πŸ™‚

  10. William Mougayar

    Meetup is definitely now part of the fabric of the Internet. Even, the word “meetup” has replaced “meeting” like Kleenex is used for tissue.It’s interesting that we get surprised about the longevity of a startup, yet that should be the intended goal of starting a company: to grow it, make it big & long lasting.

    1. awaldstein

      When does startup become a company? By age? By solvency of model?I’m a big believer personally in perpetual adolescence but wonder when startup becomes business?

      1. heif

        u stop being a startup when you lose the hustle & scrappiness

        1. William Mougayar

          But you can stay aggressive & smart even as you evolve.

        2. Jeffrey Hartmann

          I totally agree here. In my opinion there are some huge companies that I still consider startups. They have huge momentum but still have founders willing to take risks and they continually push to change the game. I think a company can be a startup for a very long time. I think it is a state of mind personally, more than a classification.

        3. ShanaC

          i think we need to start rethinking the “what is a startup” question

      2. William Mougayar

        It’s a loaded question, but one step is when building the company becomes more critical than building the product (for the CEO).

      3. Cam MacRae

        I always figured it was when you found a workable business model.

        1. awaldstein

          That works.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          By workable, you mean sustainable? Groupon “works” – just not in long-term.

          1. Cam MacRae

            Groupon is a listed company, not a startup. Some companies are relatively short lived. Some deservedly so.

        3. Donna Brewington White

          Is a venture-funded company still considered to be a startup as long as it is being held by a VC?

          1. Cam MacRae

            No. I really don’t think the composition of investors is relevant.If we flip the question to “What is a startup?” then we probably end up with an answer like “A start up is a company with potential to scale in search of a workable business model”.Whether it’s bootstrapped or funded by PE, VC or a bank loan doesn’t really matter.As an aside, you might recall that Accel put $60m into Atlassian when it was 8 years old and quite profitable on about $58m rev. You’d struggle to claim that investment turned Atlassian from a company back into a startup πŸ˜‰

          2. Donna Brewington White

            That makes sense. I realize that funding doesn’t determine whether a company is a startup since there are different types of funding but where I get a little confused is when a company is funded by VC and is not a startup. Although, I’ve been hearing more about “expansion stage” VC and companies. It seems like the line between “venture capital” and “private equity” becomes finer at that point. Although I guess that technically VC is a form of private equity.Thanks, Cam. You are a veritable information house. πŸ˜‰

      4. PhilipSugar

        When you attain profitability.

  11. Tom Deierlein

    β€œNothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ― Calvin Coolidge

    1. fredwilson

      that is a great one

  12. reece

    awesome storylove the persistence. very relevant given that it’s the Boston Marathon todayand if you guys have 4 minutes to watch a seriously inspiring story, check out this video on Team Hoythttp://reecepacheco.com/pos…Team Hoyt is a father/son running team in which the son has cerebral palsy… together they’ve done over a thousand races and this year will be their 31st Boston Marathon… absolutely amazing.

  13. muratcannoyan

    Terrific milestone for a terrific platform! Having a 20 year vision for the company says a lot about Scott’s understanding very early on how important Meetup was going to be.

  14. Elie Seidman

    Great story.

  15. Tom Labus

    It’s like a baseball season.There are times when you look good and times when you look real bad.Then there are times when you go into the zone and you can do no wrong.It’s business/baseball

  16. Lee Blaylock

    Good story and as I like to say, “true ‘dat.”Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes I learned in college…”Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”Calvin Coolidge30th president of US (1872 – 1933)

  17. andyswan

    Awesome. Also love seeing the chart of their “core metric” that you shared with us a while back. Glad to see they are still using that metric to measure against…and crushing it.

  18. Pete Griffiths

    I think Meetup was a significant contributor to the success of Instagram. By the time they were acquired there were literally hundreds of Instagram meetup groups.

  19. panterosa,

    I love that Meetup is so long on where it can go.Very happy to see this be of interested to an investor. I have a long road map and hope to find people who invest to get to where I dream we can go.

  20. howardlindzon

    just awesome. founders are a wonderful thing.

  21. JLM

    .One of the conundrums of any investment is whether one is investing in a company, a product, a gig or a money making proposition. Of maybe just an individual. They are all the same and quite different as well.This story shows the wisdom of getting products and companies growing from seedlings into mighty oaks simultaneously.In the broadest sense, this is exactly what the startup and entrepreneurial culture — something quite unique to our times — contributes to the broader economy. While MeetUp may not have enormous numbers of workers from a national perspective, they have provided steady employment for a number of folks for a protracted period of time.They are part of an ecosystem of startup up and entrepreneurial zeal which will be duplicated thousands of times and thereby lend a huge weight — a positive thumb on the scale — to national outcomes.This is a successful enterprise, a good investment but more importantly it is old fashioned business vigor which translates into job creation and the injection of energy, vigor and money into the national economy.This is why such initiatives as the stalled JOBS Act are so critical to the long term health of our economy.It is also an example of how the often short term focus of venture capital must evolve to appreciate such long term opportunities.JLM.

    1. Jeffrey Hartmann

      I totally agree with your assessment that venture capital must evolve to appreciate the long term opportunities. There are definitely VC’s out there that get this right, but as an asset class I think there is huge room for improvement. There is variety of wonderful seedlings out there that can become forests of mighty oaks. Not every tree is a siberian elm that grows almost overnight.The companies that I have had the pleasure of meeting doing a local open coffee club for entrepreneurs (we organize through meetup btw) here in Oklahoma City are great examples, many interesting seedlings with passionate caretakers. I’m not sure we have many siberian elm’s (maybe one or two), but we sure have lots of people that will make substantial good businesses over time.

      1. ShanaC

        What’s ironic- it used to be that venture capital WAS the long turn opportunity – pressure from Wall Street and stocks gave their returns too much of a baseline

        1. PhilipSugar

          I disagree. Venture Capital has always been about investing in an idea with a big market, growing it quickly and then selling it.What has changed is when you could go public. It used to be that VC’s would push to get you to $20mm in revenue. Then you could go public. That is a joke today. Alex Brown used to have the best technology conferences ever. They would showcase public technology companies that never had revenue of more than $100mm. I remember when Quicken was really small.In the early nineties somebody like Alex Brown would take Meetup public and Fred could provide the share to his LP’s and everybody would be happy. Now that is not an option.

          1. LE

            Goes along with how stock investing as a whole has changed over the years. Remember [1] blue chip stocks? Remember stock brokers? Remember when there was no programmed trading? Remember when info was all over the place? Things moved much slower and that actually did have some benefits.Stock investing has always been gambling. Somehow though it seems in the last “internet” years that has become much more true.[1] Remember when the WSJ was actually a business newspaper (with stipple drawings, no color, no photos) and wasn’t trying to be a general interest wide appeal paper that had human interest stories on the front page, sports and lifestyle features?

          2. pointsnfigures

            Government regulation and tax policy has changed the incentives to go public. VCs have raised ever larger funds, making most of them unable to invest in companies with a less than 10M valuation. The game has changed because technological costs are far cheaper and companies can bootstrap longer. The realization is that VC capital is expensive and hard to get. Would MeetUp be funded if they launched today?

      2. JLM

        .The Instagrams are the outliers by such a huge proportion as to be beyond belief and yet they get the press.Even currently big companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft were nurtured for a long, long time before their promise became a reality. There were many pitfalls along the way.Slow and steady growth is the norm.JLM.

  22. LE

    Something that I’ve noticed over time is that there is somewhat of an odd inverse relationship to how easy things come to people and how well they persevere.People who are academic high achievers, those who don’t have to break a sweat to get good grades or awards, tend to get frustrated much easier than people who have to work hard and don’t find that things come easy to them. The high achievers are so used to phoning it in that when they hit something difficult that doesn’t immediately click they tend (once again from my observation of many people) to give up and not persevere.The people who have to put effort into getting the grades, assembling the furniture, learning the hobby, doing the sport (but succeed in the end) tend to be willing to put more effort in to new things or situations simply because they aren’t used to having an easy time and have always had to do that.I observed this starting back in college where many high achievers would fall apart at getting the first “b” and never developed the habits necessary in high school to study and work hard because they didn’t have to do that in prior years. It all came to easy and they got frustrated when put in an environment where there were many people just like them and they had to actually work hard.

    1. btrautsc

      this is an excellent point. In business/ sports/ life, you always want the kid on your team who’s been beaten up a few times, because she/he knows how bad it sucks to get beaten up.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        My daughter is a runner and at the meets I’ve been watching the kids who come in last or near the end, especially in cross country and in the distance races in track. Some kids give it all they’ve got in the home stretch even though they are last.In some ways I am more impressed by those kids than the ones out front. My daughter is one of the frontrunners and I know that she works hard, so I am not making a judgment about those kids. But I’m thinking that those hardworking kids in the back may be more likely to have something special in terms of character.

    2. Elia Freedman

      Maybe I’m the exception that proved the rule. I had a 3.7 in high school and 3.9 in college, didn’t really work that hard at either, and have a ton of perseverance. I’ve been pursuing the same business idea for 16 years with the same company with incredible ups and downs. Even one of my investors asked me why I continued at one point.

    3. Richard

      Not sure I agree….particularly in music

    4. takingpitches

      Yep. β€œThe phoenix must burn to emerge.”

    5. MikeSchinkel

      Have to say I think that is a gross generalization that’s not much different than saying pretty girls that don’t work hard because they get given so much by men of means who pursue them. In both cases I’m sure you can find some anecdotal evidence that would appear to support your thesis but even with a cherry-picked set I think you are more like to find correlation than causation.

      1. LE

        I’m highlighting a pattern that I have recognized.Is it a generalization? Yes.But I do the same thing all the time when making business decisions and particularly in negotiating. where I don’t have to be right anywhere near 100% of the time and in the end the same generalizations seem to work out for me because I consider many data points in any final decision that I make. So this is real life as opposed to getting a test question right (which is why I probably didn’t do as well in school tests because accuracy is more important in grading as opposed to nuance).The thought process that anyone uses in decision making is always made up of a large amount of generalizations where you weight the various evidence and decide how to react.I have an entire set of generalizations on pretty girls for that matter. I can tell you that back in the day I could judge fairly accurately a woman’s looks and weight (put down the pitchforks) based on her voice and attitude over the telephone.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          It’s one thing to generalize for purpose of your own decision making; it’s your right. It’s another thing to publicly recommend a form of prejudice for decision making related to potential decisions for hiring, especially without statistically valid data to back up your assertion.On the other hand there is free speech so you have a right to say it here (as long as Fred allows.) But by the same token I have the same right for free speech to point out the strong potential for fallacy in your approach. People casually reading this thread without a counter-point might be forgiven if they didn’t challenge the premise themselves.Speaking of real life, in real life there are many variables affecting any outcome and so people have had the great luxury of oversimplifying cause and effect. People have become very adept at confirming their own opinions to their own satisfaction no matter what is indeed true simply because it’s too hard to prove otherwise. There have only been at least a billion examples of this throughout history…As for your comment on women, I’m starting to come to some privately-held generalizations of my own…

  23. John Revay

    Looks like USV invested in a Series D round http://www.crunchbase.com/c…If CrunchBase is accurate – I am surprised that USV invested in this later round#20yrproject

  24. ShanaC

    I think I needed this post. Growing is difficult, and seeing how it works makes me feel better

  25. Yasser Ansari

    20 year projects with 20 year roadmaps. Persistence needs to be matched by a big vision. Today’s post reminded me of an older post from back in 2011: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/201

  26. ObjectMethodology.com

    “When you are at something for a decade or more, it can become a slog.”Tell me about it! HealthRMS is one of those kinds of projects.

  27. kirklove

    Been plugging away on this mission for more than a decade + a twenty year project = badass (not to mention rare air in Web 1.0 circles).Stellar job Scott and team.

  28. Martin Eriksson

    Meetup is above all else an object lesson in the power of network effects, which is why it’s such a great fit with USV’s investment thesis.I run a meetup that has grown from London to 11 cities globally http://www.producttank.com, and despite severe pain points as an organiser (their pivot to open meetups in 2010 broke a bunch of our events, I have to have 4 accounts to manage my meetups (their chapteriser product isn’t big enough and charges MORE per meetup than individual accounts)) the simple truth is they have the network so when we go to a new city we can build a community much more quickly than starting from scratch.

  29. Brandon Burns

    Good UX pays off, too.I’m not surprised Meetup’s growth started speeding about a year ago. That was just around the time they made some badly needed UX improvements.Moving a button can double a conversion rate, and the aggregation of small changes across a platform can double revenue.Still, so many people and companies have no idea how to hire the right folks who can make that magic happen, mostly because they don’t understand the science of good UX; they don’t know how to spot it, hire for it, nor create it for themselves. Unfortunate.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Is this the kind of thing where someone could do a primer? Like you, perhaps?Just a few minutes ago I just got off a website to buy tickets for one of my kids’ performances and it was a frustrating experience — just nonsensical.Ever since doing that UI/UX developer search last year, I have been so much more aware of what I experience online and so much more appreciative when it’s good — and of the effort that went into making it that way.

      1. Brandon Burns

        I just try to give examples illustrating the importance of good UX when and where I can, hoping that I help enlighten a few folks along the way.

    2. fredwilson

      very observant!

  30. Drew Meyers

    I know full well my vision for oh hey world is going to take 5-10 years to execute on. and I’m ready for that journey.

  31. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Thank you.In the day of the “soundbite”, “tweet”, and “overnight success” that belongs to digital media (that is so wholly scalable and distributable) it is so good to hear credit for perseverance.Did anyone read “longitude” – the story of a lifetime quest to tell the time at sea,or “reach for the sky” the tale of disabled wartime pliot Bader who flew with two prosthetic legs (and escaped from capture).Many admirable things take time, effort and the investment of unwaivering conviction.Ask JLM – I am sure he would have a tale or two.Romans 5: vs 3/4 – expresses the concept quite brilliantly: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hopeAnd whether it is a startup or a social condition that leads you to battle – you battle only because you HOPE.

    1. LaVonne Reimer

      Beautiful thoughts, beautifully and encouragingly stated. Thank you.

  32. Vineeth Kariappa


  33. Tim Dierks

    Excellent story, and @heif is a great and visionary entrepreneur.It’s great for a founder to have a 20-year horizon; does that require that the rest of the team has a similar perspective and goals, or can you mesh with different individuals at different times? Does a patient founder need a patient team?Great to see y-o-y growth accelerating at Meetup. Not sure what’s driving recent growth, but I love the vision of community engagement.

  34. Friv 2

    They are part of an ecosystem of startup up and entrepreneurial zeal which will be duplicated thousands of times and thereby lend a huge weight — a positive thumb on the scale — to national outcomes.

  35. MikeSchinkel

    @Fred: I’ve always been curious about how Meetup looks from a VC perspective. I was a very active meetup organizer for a web entrepreneur group for 3+ years with well over 1500 members (until I burned out, not Meetup’s fault) but all during that time I wondered if Meetup was a good VC investment or not.I’ve often heard this rule of thumb “If you can’t potentially be a US$1 billion business that can cash out within 3-7 years then don’t bother the VCs because they won’t have time for you.” I know USV is different, but I presume you still have the same pressures from your LPs that most other VC firms have.So can you speak to the quality of a long-view company like Meetup from the investor perspective? I’m very curious about this and I’d be appreciative to understand it. (And a follow-up post might be better than a comment, for both of us. πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      we don’t feel pressure from our LPs. we invest in what we think makes sense.that said, it is a good question about meetup. it doesn’t yet look like a billion dollar opportunity.but i think scott may see something we don’t yet see.

  36. Steven Rosenbaum

    As a Meetup organizer I can share a few things that make a difference. My monthly NY Video Meetup makes a powerful difference in my life. I feel a commitment to the community, enjoy giving new startups a chance to get some exposure, and meet amazing people. It isn’t work, or anything like it. It’s a joy. Of course, as the founder of a startup, there are some benefits to being a community leader in our space, but that’s hardly the reason I do it – or anyone does. What Meetup has done is to turn an idea (let’s get some like-minded people together) into a set of elegant, sharable tools that make it possible. Our meetup wouldn’t happen without Meetup – and I’m grateful to Scott and his team for having the long view – both as a business and a movement. It’s great to see it working, and the missing growing. Congrats Meetup for making it possible.

  37. jaxmobile

    fred, thanks for sharing. I did not know that Scott Heiferman was the creator of Meetup. Thank you Scott. I joined NJTech Meetup and have been attending the meetings for the past few months. They are informative and energizing. Being an entrepreneur is a tough and sometimes lonely road, yet coming together in a community where others share the same path and can provide insight, leads, support is INVALUABLE. Thank you for investing in Scott’s Meetup idea, an idea that is inspiring and supporting entrepreneurs as never before.

  38. awaldstein

    Great comment.My two:-I think the pricing is too low for the value and out of whack with the costs of other pieces associated with the event itself.-Mobile?

  39. heif

    charilie, thanks & congrats on your meetups so farnice pic! http://www.meetup.com/start…& i love how you say (caps emphasis mine): “Lancaster Community Gardens IS YOU and anyone who wants to join together to create gardens on public and private land…” http://www.meetup.com/Lanca…(sounds like obama’s: “we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for”)re: your issues… i’m a big believer that there’s got be big innovation around group/community collaboration but unfortunately, we probably won’t solve your 1st issue soon — because we’re quite focused on your 2nd issue (design) — not sure if it will be with the kind of customization you want. swing by meetup hq when you’re in nyc sometime — we’d like to hear what you’re trying to do.also, regarding your 1st issue, there’s this: http://www.meetup.com/help/

  40. ShanaC

    I’m a user, and I love the site overall – I just hate the emails. Combo of too many and hard to read

  41. awaldstein

    Cheaper is better I agree but honestly the value you get is much greater that $20.When it costs more to buy coffee for the group than it does to organize and communicate with it, I think there are dollars being left on the table.Just a thought.

  42. fredwilson

    “people just found us”that is what Meetup’s primary value prop isit is not the tools, which are important of courseit is the community, discovery, and engagement that drives the value

  43. awaldstein

    ‘membership acquisition’ is valuable (and hard to replicate) secret sauce.I realize these are groups not businesses per se, but I would pay more.

  44. PhilipSugar

    Its always interesting that from the outside looking in it always seems like you could charge more. From the inside looking out I’m sure there are tons of people that tell Meetup they are too expensive. Heck getting people to pay at all for things on the web is impressive.There is a psychological barrier at $20. People will pay less than that without thinking, more they really think.I am super impressed that they charge and getting 100k+ people to pay is super impressive, talking about a diverse customer base! As I put below that is a real company, that can sustain and pay its employees.The only challenge I see is an exit strategy, and that wouldn’t be an issue except you have VC in the deal which means you have to think about that, but that really is a personal issue, and doesn’t distract from the fact that this is a great natively profitable web business.

  45. andyswan

    So not Groupon

  46. awaldstein

    Clearly put.Don’t get me wrong. Meetup is part of the fabric of our lives. I’ve used in personally and with companies.I just think (maybe wishfully) that the idea that the web needs to be free is changing.If meetup was about events for businesses for example, would the price still be correct at $19, the price of a cocktail at one of the social events here in NYC?Not complaining just that success should in a perfect world roll down hill to everyone including the investors who made this possible.Feeling optimistic and maybe a bit soft today.

  47. Vasudev Ram

    >There is a psychological barrier at $20. People will pay less than that without thinking, more they really think.I’m interested to know why you think so. Any examples of that?To make it more clear, I’m sure there is a psychological barrier at some point, for everyone, for every kind of product. But do you think it is always $20 for everyone, for every type of product? Or were you referring to a Meetup type of product only? I would have thought the barrier amount would vary to a good extent both by type of product and type of person (nature/personality, preferences/likings, economic level, etc.)

  48. PhilipSugar

    Well there are two pieces to charging. One is based on the value and the other is commodity based how do it for this much and make money.The problem with the first is that if you have wildly different values you do have a big consumer surplus. I.e. my business phone call is worth more than somebody calling me up to shoot the breeze. The problem is once you start trying to collect that surplus your pricing can become absurd and people will go to great lengths to get around it. Here is a great writeup: http://www.joelonsoftware.c…People forget that low pricing is a moat. If I was thinking of competing you’ve just sucked the air out of my room. In some ways when you are providing a service you shouldn’t care. Who cares if you are playing games on a computer or doing super complex trading calculations. Its costs the same.

  49. Matt A. Myers

    There is a tipping point that exists that the value paid will not be questioned for the value received; I think I know what it is and how it exists – and putting my bets on it too.There will a certain optimal efficiency that should exist in all ecosystems that hold the same/similar structures, and that efficiency will allow for certain synergies to exist. If you structure pricing around those, and online pricing based on geographic area is of course still possible if needed, then costs can align with their natural state within that ecosystem; Sometimes it is hard costs in a specific geographic location though that inflate the cost of other things, such as a$19 cocktail – which comes through a developer complex, leading to high rents, etc..True that the internet is its own ecosystem without physical borders, though what people can spend, what they have available to spend is still connected and in competition with what they must spend in the physical world. Many people can’t see the value of a service until they’ve experienced its value (why freemium is important/popular), unlike the value of food and shelter which of course we’re naturally driven to seek out.

  50. awaldstein

    Quite a read.

  51. Russell

    I’m not only a client, I’m the playa president!

  52. takingpitches

    Founder who engage like this rock!

  53. Richard


  54. fredwilson

    yes they do

  55. PhilipSugar

    I cannot share the actual results with you but we have run some groups, 100k to 500k members and I assure you it doesn’t matter who you are, there are beaks that you see at signup, tenure and retention and above or below $20 is one.Of course the biggest break is between free and one penny and that is a huge gap. This is a great writeup of that: http://redeye.firstround.co…People assume the demand curve is a straight line. That is just one of the biggest fallacies of economics.

  56. Vasudev Ram

    Thanks for the answer. I’ll check out that redeye link. I took an economics class – in high school (11th grade), not graduate level, and am not into that area professionally, but find it interesting, though I’ve always thought that economics seems to ignore the human aspects that impact, well, economics :-). Had a big argument with my high school teacher about that once … Agree that there are a lot of fallacies in (or of) economics.

  57. PhilipSugar

    You are welcome. Understand in economics assumes that the curve goes down to the right. It doesn’t always. You could have increased demand if you increased your price and people think its exclusive, hopefully you also provide that value.Think about restaurants which are near and dear to everyone here. You can be under $20/head and people think: I’m getting dinner cool. You can be over $100/head and people think super fancy we are splurging, that middle ground is tough, that was expensive but not so exclusive.Surprisingly not so dependent on income. Lets take another example: branded clothing (the stuff that has the makers name emblazoned on it) People in high income brackets think: bullshit I’m not advertising for them, I’ll just buy regular stuff. (unless its stupid expensive, then they like a really subtle logo that only those in the “in” know, back to my increase in demand due to increase in price), but lower income brackets will spend the money so they can show that they can.Suffice to say you see breaks, and you are completely right that is dependent on a TON of stuff, but $20 is one, $50 is another (but small), and $100 is a third. Probably because of our system of currency, but I am not an academic just an simple observer.But that biggest gap is a penny. Making the decision to spend anything is a huge one. Its why micropayments don’t work. If you had to spend 10 cents to read this blog you wouldn’t.If you want even longer, read my Joel on software link. I wouldn’t post this long, but I’m sure this post is over because of Boston.

  58. Vasudev Ram

    >Think about restaurants whichand>Surprisingly not so dependent on income. Lets take another example: >branded clothingYes … I’ve seen things like both of the above, among people I know or have observed.Thanks …

  59. Vasudev Ram

    Sad about the Boston attack.

  60. PhilipSugar

    Absolutely senseless.