2020 Event Trends

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WeWork sells Meetup: Is it the end of an era?

By Julius Solaris

WeWork has announced the sale of several assets including Meetup.com, one of the most cherished communities for self-made event planners. Should we be ready to say goodbye to Meetup for good?

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I was enjoying Shark Tank reruns on Friday night when I noticed on my stream a tweet by the founder of Meetup.com, Scott Heiferman:

The New York Times article in the tweet describes WeWork’s misguided growth strategy and eventual announcement that they were ready to sell several assets, including Meetup.com. (By the way, NYT, “the online community event organizer” doesn’t mean anything).

Shock and disgust followed. But not surprise.

Meetup.com was bought in 2017 by WeWork in a move that stunned many of us. While we get that many Meetups happen at co-working spaces, it seemed a step a little bit outside of their core business.

This is why it’s no surprise Meetup will be the first to go.

But why does this matter for the event industry? Let’s have a look.

 

Why does Meetup matter?

If you work in events, it’s highly likely you have bumped into Meetup.

It’s been your side-gig opportunity. It gave those with a passion a way to validate their idea and find the first attendees interested in joining.

It’s been a school of event planning for many wannabe planners. Many Meetups actually graduated to full-fledged events with their own identity. It was a quick way to experiment to see whether events were good for you or not.

It’s been a powerful marketing channel. If you wanted to launch an event as an eventpreneur, Meetup was one of the few ways to gain traction. Thanks to the attendee referring system they had, you could easily start building a brand locally.

It’s been core to some movements. While the majority of you reading may think that Meetup is all about pug owners getting together (and it partly is), it’s actually more than that. Being Italian, I am aware of the role that Meetup played in getting the Movimento 5 Stelle together, a party that is currently part of the coalition governing Italy.

It’s been a good form of income for many venues and event suppliers. This is why WeWork bought it. Co-working spaces and new venues heavily relied on Meetup organizers to increase brand awareness. Yours truly used to plan networking meetups in London over 10 years ago (yes, I am old, but it’s none of your business), and venues across the board wanted to host our professional group.

 

A disaster in the making

When the first news that WeWork was in trouble broke, my first thought was for Meetup. I saw this coming, and I am sure I am not alone.

The first sign was a crazy update to their pricing. They started raving about getting attendees to pay for RSVPs. <sarcasm>That went down pretty well with their users! </sarcasm> (HT The Verge).

And they apologized after a couple of days.

After spending a few years sitting in front of a screen and following tech coverage, you know this is never a good sign.

 

So, what next?

Here we are today, with lots of uncertainty about the future of the platform. I cannot blame the new shareholders for executing such a plan. For a company that is tough to reconcile with the business of WeWork, it makes sense to let Meetup go. It’s a long shot.

There are two scenarios apparently. Either WeWork finds a buyer or they will shut down the platform. The former is what we are rooting for. Meetup has been part of our lives forever. It cannot be let go in this crazy fashion.

Many are begging Scott Heiferman to buy it back. Things were working quite well while he was in charge.

A potential demise would be pretty sad for the event industry. Meetup has been a democratic way to make that ‘I want to plan an event’ feeling a reality. This is such a relatable feeling for all those that plan events, whether they are complex corporate gigs or a gathering of pasta makers.

Events need to be respected, and Meetup is a great entry point for those willing to test themselves.

So, as we usually say...

In Conclusion, #SaveMeetup

 

about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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