This is my last official week at Meetup. The company has been acquired and as these things often go there has been a “restructuring.” However, before you start feeling sorry for me, you must know that I’m fortunate. I’m looking forward to taking a break and decompressing from the whirlwind of the past four and a half years.
And whirlwind is putting it lightly. Come, join me for a trip down memory lane!
Before joining Meetup I was living in Amsterdam. Due to some changes in my work situation, I started looking for something new and Meetup fit the bill. Therefore, I left the land of stroopwaffles and bikes to head back to my home base.
I had high expectations for this new role. I would be working in a larger company. Had more direct reports and a strong senior management team. Ultimately, I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I could. I created a 30-60-90 day plan and then got to work. Yet, the vibes felt off. I couldn’t figure it out.
Nevertheless, I focused on getting to know my new team. They were brilliant, humble, down-to-earth people. I felt honored to work with them in making Meetup a strong, mobile-forward company.
Within one month of joining, everything started to change. The senior management team that I was hoping to learn from was all gone. For one reason or another, our CTO, VP of Product Engineering, and Director of Mobile were all out. I felt lost. These were the people that I joined the company to work with. Did I make a HUGE mistake?
But it didn’t stop there. At this time, Meetup was owned by WeWork. In August of 2019, WeWork began filing to go public. It did not go well. The New York Times described the failed effort to go public as “an implosion unlike any other in the history of start-ups.” Ouch!
Needless to say panic and disbelief were in the air at Meetup. And what happens when people in leadership make a mistake? Layoffs. Many of my new colleagues were laid off before I even got to know them.
Even darker days
Then in marches the year 2020. Things got exponentially worse. COVID-19 came on the scene and changed everyone’s lives forever. At Meetup, this meant a quick pivot to introducing and promoting online events. The entire company was in on the effort. Meetup’s future was at stake.
Amid this intense undertaking, one of the most tragic things I’ve had to experience as a manager happened. One of my direct reports died unexpectedly, Alex McCarrier.
He was on vacation and passed away in his sleep the day before he was to return to work. I remember sending him a message on Slack. I didn’t hear back. That wasn’t like Alex. And then the news. The entire team was in disbelief and tears. Yet, we showed up and supported each other. ❤️
COVID-19 began to claim lives at an unprecedented rate. Meetup saw activity on the platform virtually plummet. Still, we kept focus on the mission of helping people make real human connections.
Unfortunately, the WeWork drama didn’t stop and Meetup was almost a goner. Then at the last second, we were sold to AlleyCorp and a group of investors in March of 2020.
Starting to look up
Being divested from WeWork was a relief. As an organization, we were smaller and more aligned. We had three main goals:
- Increase revenue
- Reduce organizer churn
- Get acquired within five years
Easy, right? Of course not! We spent the next two years reducing tech debt and adding features that made the app more user-friendly. On native apps, I called it Project Renaissance. Why? Because I have a flair for the dramatic.
Working on these new features/user experiences was a highlight of my time at Meetup. I enjoyed pair programming with my team. Developing future engineering leaders was also a pleasure. But it wasn’t all business. Playing skribbl.io and Codenames online was one of our favorite things to do. We even managed to see each other in person a few times. And, yes, we did an Escape Room.
In October of 2022, my colleague, Mike Bass, and I were tasked with testing out the feasibility of a member subscription product. This was something new for both of us. We were assigned a mentor, Greg Giusti, our SVP of Growth.
We started by creating a painted door test. Our goal? See if members on Meetup would be willing to pay for a subscription that did not involve organizing a group. Spoiler alert, it went exceptionally well. So much so, that our CEO, David Siegel, tasked us with building an MVP in just 8 weeks.
I spent a day or two skeptical of if I could pull this off. I had never launched something like this before. Was it even feasible under such a tight deadline? In order to find out, I created a mind map. If you subscribe to my newsletter then you know I’m a fan. I put down everything I could think of that would need to be done. For a week, Mike and I met with at least half of the company. I would add to my mind map after each meeting.
The end result, yes, it was feasible! Tough, but feasible. Again we all pulled together and launched the MVP on time. And this was no hackathon project. Here’s what we launched.
- Apple and Google billing support
- Webhooks to process subscription events
- New GraphQL APIs
- Marketing materials
- Braze lifecycle campaigns
- Looker integrations
Members began to subscribe but not at a rate that would make any meaningful money. This was expected. We knew we didn’t have product-market fit yet. However, by shipping when we did we opened up a longer runway to learn and iterate on the product.
Over the subsequent months, we did user research and settled on friendship as the key focus for the product. It was clear that members were seeking friends and struggled to do so, for various reasons. We were confident that we could offer a simple solution.
Meetup+ would succeed by helping members to:
- Find people who are interesting to them
- Connect with those people (mutual acceptance required)
- Attend future Meetup events together
We launched many friendship features and saw the number of trialists double and then triple. Meetup+ is now on track to make over $1.1MM ARR in its first year focused on friendship! It is singlehandedly the most impactful work I’ve ever done.
Never one to be idle, I’ve started a consultancy, Davis Technical Consulting. I enjoyed my time at Meetup working on various monetization endeavors. And so, that’s what I plan to focus on next, helping small businesses make money with their native apps. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your time. I have one more favor to ask, know anyone who could use my help?