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.