Meetup

I remember at our first USV Sessions event in the summer of 2006 Scott Heiferman stated that he wanted to spend 20 years building a company that would “last.” This was in an era of quick flips where many entrepreneurs wanted to build and sell as quickly as possible. I was impressed by that long term perspective and told my partner Brad that we should see if we could invest in Scott’s companyย Meetup.

We did invest in Meetup shortly after that, Brad joined the board, and we have been investors in Meetup for the past ten years.

Today, Meetup announced that it is becoming a part of the WeWork network.

Meetup launched in June 2002, fifteen years ago. Over those 15 years Meetup has become synonymous with the idea of community being an in person thing.

Community on the Internet is easy but prone to a lot of bad behavior. Community in person is harder but works better. Humans tend to be more interesting and more decent in person.

And with the ever increasing encroachment of digital devices into our daily/hourly/constant existence, taking the time to sit down face to face with other people is more important than ever.

Meetup, like its NYC community peers Etsy and Kickstarter, has been profitable since its earliest days. As Scott said in the Wired piece “Our number one priority was independence and to live within our means.” That has meant always balancing growth and profitability, like most businesses do.

But on the Internet, particularly now in the age of winner take most, it is hard to balance profitability and growth and very few companies do.

So Meetup decided to do something this year that it had not done in a decade, since USV invested in 2007. Scott went out and talked to investors about investing in more growth. That led to “offers from what Heiferman calls the usual suspects.”

The most interesting of the offers came from WeWork which is building another in-person network, maybe the largest in-person network of scale on the Internet. It seems like such a perfect match. And so Meetup is joining forces with WeWork who will aggressively invest in Meetup to help it scale to reach even more people who want to engage in live in person conversations.

And Scott is going to continue to lead Meetup inside of WeWork meaning he will likely achieve his goal of working on Meetup for 20 years or more.

It is always bittersweet to see a company as important as Meetup leave the USV network. But we agree with Scott that this is the right thing for Meetup and WeWork and we are enthusiastic about the potential of this combination.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Sarah

    This post misted my eyes. Am I correct in thinking that Fred’s approach to USV companies is similar to (his and Joanne’s) approach to parenting? As in, sad to see them go … simultaneously encouraging them to fly away when when the time arrives – “bittersweet” indeed. I was going to scroll back to earlier blog posts to confirm but it is really all here in the text of today.

  2. awaldstein

    This seems just right to me.Big congrats!

  3. Joe Marchese

    F2F is always best. Most of the stuff we build online is of great value when F2F isn’t practical or even possible, but great outcomes are harder. Congrats on seeing the right outcome for Meetup and investing in the model.

  4. TeddyBeingTeddy

    “Taking the time to sit down face to face with other people is more important than ever”This quote may or may not be used against you in the court of VC and tech startups. Millennials don’t like to read stuff or talk to people live. Text me, Fred. But pics only please.

    1. fredwilson

      everything i say gets used against me in the court of VC and tech. why should this be any different?

      1. PhilipSugar

        Ha! I love this comment, and the post. AVC needs to do another Meetup :-)The best is when you mix old and new. Everything goes in a circle. I see more and more people not using Facebook or LinkedIn. More and more saying I don’t want to be a slave to my phone.You know I was just saying yesterday, somebody should just make a simple car, really nice, but simple like the old Benz’s or Bimmers.I was in my new Volvo (my brother is an exec and I got an exec car) It is so darn complicated my head of technology was scoffing at me and I said you program it, twenty minutes later he comes back shaking his head.

        1. LE

          In other words you new Volvo fails the ‘puny brain test’.A few years ago I was given a loaner Cayenne Hybred when I took my car in for service. I drove it away and then pulled into a parking lot to get the radio set or something. The engine immediately shut off (I thought). Actually it had shifted into ‘electric’ mode. So there was nothing to start. You just had to hit the accelerator and it would go and at a certain speed the engine would start. How in the fucking world would I know that? Nobody at the dealership told me they just assumed (and this is why you are confused) everyone knew what they knew and how the car worked. This has afflicted engineers and computer types forever. Not being able to think like everyman that doesn’t know what they know.That said I don’t long for old cars at all. I like new ones.

          1. PhilipSugar

            Look, I don’t think for a second that a new Miata is at least ten times better than my old TR3.But I do think that engineers have gotten too fancy.There are four buttons on that car. The rest is touch screen. None on the fob you open the trunk with a swipe of the foot.And that is one feature I don’t like, the exact one you say where it turns itself off. I was sitting in a parking spot, expecting it to ease back. Nope. Also although it drives itself (kind of as Albert says you have to keep your hands on the wheel) All of the swiping and clicking on the touch screen cannot be safer than just hitting a button.I don’t mind keyless start but this one has a knob you turn. Clockwise both ways to go on and off. At least it has a transmission lever. Lincolns got rid of that.JLM will tell you if you fly every plane is laid out the same. Not that they don’t have different features but the radios are in a stack and the DG is always in a certain place.

          2. LE

            What irks me is that they still don’t do the simple things well.For example why do you have to beep when I start my car and I am in the garage and give me the promixity sensor warning. I am talking about when the car isn’t moving and has been sitting there overnight. Why don’t you know that I am in my garage and I am parked and I don’t need a warning that there is a box near my bumper? Getting rid of annoyances like this is what made the iphone the winner that it is. Simple things that should have been designed into prior phones even if they didn’t have the screen real estate.And if I wash my car and I have my keys in my pocket I get a constant lock/unlock because the car thinks I want to unlock it. I’ve had the front hatch open up when using the sponge. It’s shit like that that makes me think driverless is dangerous. Walk before you can run. My cars have keyless knob turn as well.On my wife’s car if we take that to dinner what has happened is she has the keys in her pocketbook and I drop her off at the entrance and go to park. If for whatever reason the engine stops I can’t start it and I can’t lock it. The car isn’t smart enough (BMW X5) to give a warning ‘hey keys just left the car; keys just left the car’ but it will beep and annoy me for other things that I don’t care about. Also the feature that turns on and off the side sensors is totally impractical you can turn it off by accident.

        2. cavepainting

          I agree. More people are beginning to appreciate the fakeness of social media and the real dangers of being slaves to tech.I hope we continue to see more companies that use online apps to bring together people in the real world.

          1. Drew Meyers

            Agree. We’re one of them.For those who would like to meet other AVC’ers while traveling: https://api.horizonapp.co/g…group unlock code: avcinsider(the group needs an admin to customize..if interested shoot me an email)

      2. PhilipSugar

        And I loved your post about camera. Got my dad to bring these for thanksgiving https://uploads.disquscdn.c

      3. TeddyBeingTeddy

        For whatever it’s worth…I was a Bitcoin troll from the beginning. But…you told me so. You were right and I was wrong. (Which happens to me a LOT)

        1. Maximus Seneca CEO

          You people sound like an episode of Seinfeld

      4. kidmercury

        when you drop an angry rap album on us, this should be a lyric

      5. Maximus Seneca CEO

        Sir Wilson just fund my venture and ill be your ally in the code of VC law. Fair trade

  5. Pointsandfigures

    Congrats. Seems like a good match

  6. LIAD

    Very smart move from Wework. Tons of data. Great new customer acquisition channel. Easy way to bring millions more around the world into their growing fold.Good home for Meetup too.

  7. Brian Schuster

    I imagine that has to be a difficult decision to build something as big and useful as Meetup and then sell it to another organization.Bittersweet, but quite the accomplishment too. Congrats to the team.

  8. kenberger

    The NY Tech Meetup, Scott’s own personal Meetup for a long time, was 1 happening that attracted me to move to NYC from SF in 2005 (Fred’s encouragement was another).

  9. Rob Larson

    Congrats to you and the Meetup team!

  10. JimHirshfield

    Congrats to you and Scott.

  11. cavepainting

    this is brilliant. I think of Meetup as an interest based real life social network. There really is nothing like it. Congratulations to all involved!

    1. Drew Meyers

      Social network, yes. Community, no..

      1. cavepainting

        in some interest groups like blockchain, it is a very real community where there is a lot of sharing and conversation post meeting,

  12. jason wright

    so… WeUp?

    1. Drew Meyers

      ha

  13. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:we have seen Meetup in action monthly when in town. The ever present Photographers Meetup learning the ropes from experienced Photographers. Just a joy viewing people learning from the experienced in any field.The first time we heard of Meetup was when the Howard Dean Campaign was organizing with it. How time flies. Read that Scott Heiferman was inspired to create Meetup after the 9/11 attacks. There is a lot of history from Meetup because it was started in NYC.Just amazing how the smart money is just provided jewels of companies to accept or deny just in pasting. Just amazing. Provides a new view of Money talks and BS walks.Captain Obvious!

  14. paramendra

    How much was the sale price?

    1. paramendra

      https://www.axios.com/wewor…. 200M seems to be one guess. It is impressive Heif only raised 18M over 15 years. Labor of love.

      1. Drew Meyers

        Seriously, awesomeness.

  15. sigmaalgebra

    “Scale”: That seems to be a code word, circumlocution, or euphemism unique to the world of VC funded startup businesses.On just what “scale” might have to do with a company like MeetUp, you lost me:E.g., want to “scale” quickly to much more in server capacity? Okay, dial up the cloud hosting services of a sufficiently large colocation site or just the cloud services of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. “Scale”? Done.Need to run parallel Web servers with load leveling and session state affinity? Maybe there’s a Cisco box for that?Or, for scale, now can get Intel Xeon processors with, ballpark, 24 cores, two executing threads per core, two processors per motherboard (Supermicro?), and, let’s see, in 2U = 3.5″ high pizza boxes,72 / 3.5 = 20motherboards per rack. Get a dozen racks like that along a back wall (cheap floor space in closed shopping malls?) and have, let’s see,12 * 20 * 2 * 24 * 2 = 23,040executing threads. At’s uh lot’s uh threads.And typically the chip sets and motherboards permit 1+ TB of registered, ECC main memory. At’s uh lot’s uh main memory — can do a lot of Web page, user session state, and SQL caching in that. What computing are we trying to do here, simulate the big bang of the universe?Oh, the scaling is about Internet data rate? Last time I checked, it was easy enough to get 10 Gbps connections to the Internet, e.g., just from a colocation site only a few miles from where I’m typing this.And, likely Internet connections with 1 Gbps and static IP address are readily available in commercial buildings. Can send a lot of Web pages per second with a 1 Gbps connection.Ah, maybe it’s not really just about scaling the server farm capacity?Off topic: This just in! From watching the movie The Big Short and Inside Job about the 2008 crash, e.g., to relax after typing in code, let’s see:Suppose investment bank WFU sells CMOs and also CDSs on those CMOs. Supposedly there were a lot of CDSs sold on CMOs, so many that the CMOs were, thus, insured many times, say, 20+ times. So, i-bank WFU was receiving quarterly premiums on the bonds they owned. If the bond defaulted, then WFU would have to pay out ballpark the 20+ times the original face value of the bond.Or, suppose I’m in the insurance business and let 20 people write fire insurance on a house at 101 Elm Street in Peoria, IL. Then as the insurance company, I want to make sure the house doesn’t burn down. Soooo, for all the revenue I’m getting from the 20 insurance premiums, I just have someone go out to 101 Elm Street and buy the house. There I make darned sure the house does not burn down. E.g., I disconnect the utilities, especially the electricity. I install smoke detection and fire suppression equipment. I remove any furniture, draperies, carpeting, etc. that might burn. I lock up and board up the house and install intrusion detection equipment.And if the house does burn down, e.g., gets hit by lightening, then I have a local builder just rebuild the thing in a big hurry.Then I lean back and collect the insurance premiums on a house I’m sure will never burn down!Same for the CDO: As WFU i-bank, with all the premium revenue from all those CDSs, I just go and buy all the houses in the CDO and rent them out. Then I’m rock solidly sure I’ll never have to pay off the CDSs.Hmm.Gee, in the world of insurance, can’t insure something don’t own, but apparently in the world of wonder of pre-2008 CDSs, could do that! Maybe there was a reason the insurance companies would not write insurance to someone on something that someone didn’t own?

  16. sbmiller5

    @fredwilson:disqus curious on your view for competitors of WeWork (or one of WeWorks recent acquisitions) who actively manage meet-ups? Time to find another platform?

  17. Sudha Lakshmi

    Would they have considered going public instead? Because, based on what you say, in many ways โ€” apart from size โ€” they were an ideal candidate for the public markets: profitable but needing capital for growth, a desire to remain independent, a huge public profile, and a large network of users who would have been happy to become investors. I know I would have loved to invest in them if they were a public company!

    1. Drew Meyers

      “I know I would have loved to invest in them if they were a public company!”Me too

  18. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Congrats to Meetup! They really are the Kleenex of in person get togethers. Pretty cool legacy for that team. Perhaps WeWork is becoming the Meetup of coworking spaces…

    1. Drew Meyers

      “WeWork is becoming the Meetup of coworking spaces”You mean a way to discover a coworking space that fits your taste/preferences/passions? So software and discovery for coworking spaces?

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Oh, I only meant in the way that Meetup is the “Kleenex” of in person get togethers. People use “Meetup” to refer to a get together even if they don’t use Meetup to organize it.So if Meetup is now a catch-all term for in person get togethers, maybe WeWork is becoming a catch-all term for co-working spaces… yeah, it’s a stretch, and I was mostly just being cheeky, heh.I do think co-working spaces are hugely beneficial for startups and freelancers, though. I’ve seen it over and over. Orbital has really done great work in amplifying that factor. And it’s true, in my experience, that different co-working spaces even tend to develop different cultures.Are you working out of a co-working space?

        1. Drew Meyers

          I’ve been a member of impacthubseattle.com since 2013. I love it. Very much a community I feel a sense of belonging in. There’s a shared purpose — social impact. It’s all people who give a sh*t about something more than making money.You’re right, coworking spaces do develop different cultures. I’ve been in several wework locations, and never gotten the sense it’s a “community”. It’s private offices, which happen to be in a location with some open/communal space. Some wework members I’ve met there don’t even know the people who work in the offices directly next to theirs.Don’t get me wrong. I think WeWork is a great business. I just don’t think they deliver community (for the majority of their members). Same as I think AirBnB is a fantastic business — but 70%+ of their business has nothing to do with community at all (renting entire homes, apartments, villas & never meeting the hosts is not community).

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Interesting! I’ve been to WeWork spaces around NYC, but I haven’t gathered how much community they had going on or not.Gee, I wonder if they’ll start offering Meetup groups evening access to their conference rooms for a discount rental fee ๐Ÿ™‚ That would be nice!

          2. Drew Meyers

            They surely will, that’s a great win for WeWork. In general, this is a no-brainer for WeWork. I am just struggling to figure out what WeWork can help Meetup with strategically (aside from capital).A few more of my thoughts are here: https://medium.com/@drewmey

  19. Adam Parish

    I love this post. I was just listening to Reid Hoffman’s Master’s of Scale. He and Peter Thiel were talking about escaping competition and if you can’t escape competition they don’t want to invest. Meanwhile VCs on the east coast make long-term investments in companies like meetup that keep on keeping on. Congrats on the long-view Scott, Brad and Fred!

  20. george

    Sweet exit and I hope that the next era proves as meaningful.

  21. Jan Schultink

    Congratulations.Also had to think back to my days in London at the time of the 2000 bubble (burst) and what “First Tuesday” could have become ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Frank W. Miller

    The only thing I worry about here is, WeWork looks like a flameout to me. I give them maybe 5 years just because of the amount of capital they’ve taken…

    1. Dasher

      And they are a traditional real estate company being valued as a tech company.

      1. Frank W. Miller

        Exactly, they’ve taken so much capital to build all these new buildings. When the revenue growth doesn’t match, the investors will bail and that will be it…

  23. sachmo

    I think this is a great outcome for USV, but I’m a bit pessimistic about the future of Meetup. We have a few WeWork locations in my city, it’s a wonderful coworking space, but what do they really have in common with say — dragonboat racing meetup? It’s the more esoteric meetups that really bring value to the platform, because prior to meetup, it wasn’t necessarily easy to find other people into say dragonboat racing. I don’t see what incentive WeWork has to scale up dragonboat racing meetups. I am sure for networking / tech events it will be a great fit, but for a lot of fringe Meetups, I wonder about their future and how the platform will change.

  24. Dasher

    Good acquisition for WeWork to become more of a tech play – I think they are a traditional real estate play valued like a tech company – so vastly overvalued. MeetUp will help them.

  25. Andre Woodley Jr.

    Hey Fred, I have a company called In The Room. We are building a tool/platform for people to build community. Our users/audience are the snapchat/instagram generation. I understand you have relations to MeetUp (we respect that), I am interested in a meeting, investment meeting. [email protected]