Commentary

Meetup Works For WeWork, As Similar Minds Meet To Make A Deal

In a blending of work and free-time, WeWork Cos. announced yesterday that it is acquiring Meetup, the 15-year-old online social networking service that facilitates gatherings worldwide for book lovers, first-time moms, the cross-gender community, pickup soccer players, urban farmers and just about any other pursuit that people undertake in common. Both organizations are based in Manhattan.

“A lot of CEOs talk about community. But Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman has a unique insight into the concept. His definition of community is simply ‘people talking,” WeWork co-founder & CEO Adam Neumann writes in a blog post announcing the acquisition. 

Heiferman will continue to lead the company, which has 4 million members RSVP for events being held in over 180 countries every month, Neumann says. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. And it’s not as if they’re total strangers.

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“Over the past couple years, WeWork organically became the fastest-growing choice for where Meetup organizers choose to host their Meetups,” according to an unsigned Meetup post published on Medium.

“In WeWork, we met our match. WeWork creates community, like us. If you think of WeWork as a desk rental company, you haven’t been to a WeWork space and felt the pulse of community there. And their vision for positive impact is big, like ours. See http://we.co. WeWork is also WeLive (co-living), Rise (fitness), WeGrow and Flatiron School (education). And now it’s Meetup, too,” the post continues.

“By acquiring Meetup, WeWork gets an avenue to reach Meetup’s millions of members (including 300,000 group organizers) while potentially taking advantage of WeWork’s existing real estate to offer those members places to meet after work hours,” observes Tom Huddleston Jr. for Fortune.

“Already, roughly 100,000 people have attended a Meetup gathering at a WeWork location, according to the companies,” Michael de la Merced reports for the New York Times.

“You need a proper community space for that,” Heiferman tells de la Merced. “You can’t have a musty church basement or whatever space people used in the old days.”

The business of helping people meet people face-to-face has itself gone viral, it seems.

“WeWork’s purchase of Meetup comes as a growing number of companies are eyeing in-person networks to drive growth. Earlier this month, Facebook Inc. relaunched a new app called ‘Facebook Local’ focused on events in local restaurants. The move came after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook’s mission statement and said it would work to help fix a ‘striking decline in the important social infrastructure of local communities,’” Austen Hufford writes for the Wall Street Journal.

“Earlier this year Snap Inc. launched a new maps feature for its flagship app, allowing opted-in users to see the location of their friends, helping them connect in real life,” Hufford continues.

“WeWork, which launched in 2010, is worth an estimated $20 billion. Its footprint spans 17 countries with 170 locations across 58 cities,” writes Ashley O'Brien for CNN Tech, reporting it has raised more than $9 billion from investors and made a bunch of acquisitions since Emily Keeton, who helped oversee mergers and acquisitions at IAC, joined the organization in May.

“While the acquisitions appear to be all over the map, Kathleen Smith — principal at Renaissance Capital — said the buying spree isn't an ‘uncommon’ strategy for a company looking to bolster revenue and quickly scale,” O’Brien continues.

“It's trying to acquire operations that will enhance their infrastructure and get more use out of it,” Smith says. “I think this is an effort to build a more substantial company [that can] get it to the point of going public.”

Deals it has made this year include “Singapore-based co-working company Spacemob, computer coding academy The Flatiron School and investing in fast-growing women’s-only social club The Wing,” Gerrit De Vynck reports for Bloomberg.  

“A lot of people say ‘Oh my gosh they’re growing too fast, they’re acquiring all these different things,”’ Scott Belsky, a venture partner at Benchmark Capital and an investor in Meetup, tells De Vynck. “Meetup makes sense, it might be one of the acquisitions that makes the most sense.” 

WeWork is also developing its own projects, such as the Services Store it opened in April that offers access to the likes of Slack, Salesforce, Upwork, Zipcar and Citi Bike. 

Meetup, meanwhile, “has at least broken even over the last few years and has not taken in outside money in years, Mr. Heiferman said. But the company believed that to grow — and especially to do so abroad — it needed to bring in investors again,” Michael de la Merced reports for the New York Times.

Sound like a match.

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