(2017-11-28) This Is Why Wework Is Buying Meetup

This Is Why WeWork is Buying Meetup. As a company, Meetup has long embraced its position as a small, mission-driven operation

CEO and cofounder Scott Heiferman was never in a hurry. The last time he raised funds—in 2008—he selected patient investors like Pierre Omidyar and Esther Dyson, who believed businesses should also contribute meaningfully to society.

Ask Neumann what he’s building however, and he’ll describe a community-manufacturing machine—a startup that, according to its mission, is a place where people “work to make a life, not just a living.”

WeWork’s cofounder and CEO Adam Neumann is rushing to build out a company that endeavors to control the future of physical space.

Real-life community, it turns out, is irreplaceable

“It’s the oldest thing in the world,” says Heiferman, describing a Jersey City single moms Meetup he’d attended recently. “It’s what it means for people to show up for each other.”

the office-space sector is crowded with competition, from the practical-but-boring old-guard companies, like Regus, to a new crop of startups, like Knotel and Grind, trying to elbow into the market. So WeWork has aimed to distinguish itself by offering an energetic work environment that appeals to millennials

WeWork recently acquired the New York-based coding program The Flatiron School, and led a round of funding in a coworking space and social club for women called The Wing. Both are businesses that prioritize culture.

But it’s not lost on Neumann that, despite these efforts, most of WeWork’s members clear out after hours. Those post-clock-out hours are important: We office workers usually fill them with the things that matter most to us.

Why should that happen at, say, a Starbucks, when Neumann could harness that goodwill within the confines of a WeWork? Meetups would fill the space on nights and weekends and offer WeWork an opportunity to sell a new group of potential customers—Meetup’s 300,000 organizers—on its services by giving them memberships that include access to the space as well as a set of services that might help them lead their groups.

He believes that a lot of organizers are entrepreneurs looking to build out small businesses around their passions. WeWork’s current benefits, such as healthcare and office services, could help that group.

But Heiferman is no longer intrigued by the notion of remaining small. It’s clear to him that there’s an urgency to the problem that Meetup has long tried to solve. It’s also clear to everyone else, which means there’s now competition. Earlier this year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would sink more resources into its efforts to build communities.

Even before Facebook’s announcement, Heiferman had been searching for new ways to add urgency to the company.

Last year, Meetup launched a redesign aimed at helping it appeal to millennials and embrace new machine learning techniques to better connect its members for more casual meetups.

Heiferman knew he couldn’t grow the company on enthusiasm alone. This past summer, he began speaking to investors to raise money.


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