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Jono Bacon: WeWork to Aquire Meetup.com: Some Thoughts

Mar, 28/11/2017 - 7:30pd

Rumors are abound that WeWork are to acquire Meetup.com for $30 million. I wanted to share a few thoughts here. The caveat: I have no behind-the-scenes knowledge here, these are just some thoughts based on a somewhat cursory knowledge of both organizations. This is also (currently) speculation, so the nature and numbers of an acquisition might be different.

It is unsurprising that WeWork would explore Meetup.com for an acquisition. From merely a lead-generation perspective, making it simple for the hundreds of thousands of meetups around the world to easily host their events at WeWork spaces will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect of people registering as WeWork members, either as individual entrepreneurs, or hiring hosted office space for their startups.

Some of the biggest hurdles for meetups are (a) sourcing sponsorship funds to cover costs, and (b) facilitating the target of those very costs such as food/beverage, AV/equipment, and promotional costs/collateral. WeWork could obviously provide not just space and equipment but also potentially broker sponsorships too. As with all ecosystem-to-ecosystem acquisitions, bridging those ecosystems exposes value (e.g. Facebook and Instagram.)

The somewhat surprising element here to me is the $30 million valuation. Meetup.com used to publish their growth stats, but it seems they are not there any more. The most recent stats I could find (from 2012 on Quora) suggested 11.1 million users and 349,000+ meetups. There is a clear source of revenue here, and while it may be relatively limited in potential growth, I would have expected the revenue projection, brand recognition, and current market lead would be worth more than $30 million.

Mind you, and with the greatest of respect to the wonderful people at Meetup.com, I feel they have somewhat missed the mark in terms of their potential for innovation. There are all kinds of things they could have done to capitalize on their market position by breaking down the onboarding and lifecycle of a meetup (from new formation to regular events) and optimizing and simplifying every element of this for organizations.

There are all kinds of services models that could have been hooked in here such as partnerships with providers (e.g. food, equipment, merch etc) and partner organizations (e.g. major potential consumers and sponsors of the service), and more. I also think they could have built out the profile elements of their service to glue different online profiles together (e.g. GitHub, LinkedIn, Reddit) to not just source groups, but to become a social platform that doesn’t just connect you to neat groups, but to neat people too.

As I have been saying for a while, there is also a huge missed opportunity in converting the somewhat transitory nature of a meetup (you go along and have a good time, but after the meetup finishes, nothing happens) into a broader and more consistently connected set of engagements between members. Doing this well requires community building and collaboration experience, that I would proffer, most Meetup.com organizers probably don’t have.

All of this seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, but as someone sitting on the outside of the organization, who am I to judge? Running a popular brand and service is a lot of work, and from what I understand, they have a fairly small team. There is only so much you can do.

My suspicion is that Meetup.com were shopping around a little for a sale and prospective buyers were primarily interested in their brand potential and integration (with an expected limited cap on revenues). As such, $30 million might make sense, and would strike me as a steal for WeWork.

Either way, congratulations to WeWork and Meetup.com in their future partnership.

The post WeWork to Aquire Meetup.com: Some Thoughts appeared first on Jono Bacon.

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