Death of Meetup

Meetup.com is/was a 2002 startup which was all about using the Internet to create community meetings of people with shared interests. It gave you a message board, allowed members to RSVP and sent out reminders about meetings. Its legacy is that of the software used in Howard Dean’s successful social media campaign in 2004; the first successful use of social media in politics.

Today both the Adelaide and Brisbane Bloggers’ Meetups closed. Sydney and Melbourne limp on, with about 10 attendees at each meeting. We closed the Perth Bloggers’ Meetup over a year ago.

Writers and geeks are not known for their social proclivity. So all these groups struggle to attract party numbers anyway, but it highlights a bigger picture. I can’t find any Meetup groups in Perth that regularly have 10 people attend.

Despite a capital infusion from high-flying good-guy Pierre Omidyar, Meetup has had it. They started charging people (ie the organiser) for using the service in 2005. At that time, numbers were growing but they’ve flattened out at 5 million subscribers. They’re a victim of Facebook. Meetup comprises small special-interest groups and the $100 to $150 a year is a significant cost. Facebook provides all the core functionality of Meetup, has a wider installed base and is free.

At one point Meetup was valued at US$40 million, but its current income stream looks to me like less than $2 million per annum. There are 50+ employees (~$2 million in salary alone) and without a growth factor, it’s Goodnight Nurse.

Interestingly, they’ve recently switched to an employee-driven model, much like Linden Lab – Omidyar invested in that business too. In this structure, if that’s the right word, employees create their own projects rather than inheriting them from all-knowing managers.

On paper Meetup are dead in the water. If they can manage to survive, it should be seen as an endorsement of this (sorry; here it comes) new management paradigm.

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One Comment

  1. Meetup is far from dead, in the US and UK it is big and pulls in a huge number of people, and money. In Australia, different story though it still does reasonably well in Sydney and Melbourne as you mentioned. In Perth, aside from a couple of groups, yes it is dead though the groups still manage to hold meetups nonetheless. I guess people aren’t very social in Perth or, simply already have enough friends that they don’t feel the need for it. Quite strange really considering the amount of people that do join groups (and there are plenty) but who don’t bother attending any of the meetings or even join in the discussions on the forums. One thing I have noticed about Perth and Australia in general is they aren;t very active online when it comes to forums, like it’s some no go zone for them. That is probably one of the reasons why meetups are largely dead in Australia, just no interactivity from people online. Sure facebook is used a lot but it’s usually pointless drivel and uninteresting updates on people who let’s face it, are simply only looking for a date. I guess that’s the main difference between Australia and the rest of the world. Australians are looking for people to fuck while everyone else is just looking for a good conversation, regardless of whether it’s online or in the real world.

  2. Thanks Demon; you may be right about Meetup in the states and UK, I don’t have any stats on it. My impression from what I’ve read is that subscribers are holding level. I think it’s going to struggle long term because the Facebook events notifications are adequate for most groups and are free, but I could be wrong. Agree about Perth; it’s harder to get cultural/intellectual traction in a place with so much lifestyle on offer. Don’t agree that sex has anything to do with it. People are sex crazy everywhere. It’s a human thing.

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