Today multiple sources including Wired and the New York Times reported that Meetup has been acquired by WeWork. I awoke to an email directly from Meetup saying something to the effect of “we’ve been bought out but we’re not changing.” The reality is: Meetup has to change to provide value to WeWork. In order to predict how they will change, let’s take a look at why WeWork purchased Meetup.
Why Did WeWork Purchase Meetup?
WeWork purchased Meetup so they can build out a social network of event planners to make use of their remote spaces. WeWork is a company that provides remote work spaces. They are targeting freelancers, work-at-home individuals and solopreneurs who want to get out of their home office. There are plenty of perks to using a coworking space like WeWork: professional meeting rooms for hosting clients, networking with entrepreneurial peers and office space free of distractions that can be plentiful at home.
I can speak from personal experience that at a certain point, working out of a coffee shop or home office just doesn’t cut it. As a bootstrapping business owner, you do yourself a disservice by staying in your home office or local coffee shop, forgetting about the importance of real world collaboration and networking. You will inevitably have to host a professional client meeting and you cannot do this in your living room. Coffee shops get crowded and can have poor WiFi, wasting time in a busy day. Coworking spaces can provide the much needed semi-pro office lifestyle including connections, meeting rooms and space that growing home based businesses need.
Here’s how Meetup needs to change in order to be of value to WeWork
Whenever a digital community like Meetup is purchased, the value is in the subscriber base. WeWork must make more money on the platform and users over time than they paid for the platform or it’s a bad deal. Meetup’s subscriber base of 35 million users and 300,000 event organizers is substantial in number. But WeWork must change Meetup in the following ways in order to profit from the deal.
Meetup Must Focus on Users Who Will Use WeWork Facilities
Meetup doesn’t focus on business users. This needs to change. Let’s take a look at Meetup’s homepage as of 11/28/2017.
Take a look at those bottom call to actions:
- Join a movement
- Learn to cook
- Train for a marathon
- Build a mobile app
- Hike a mountain
- Practice a language
None of those are direct sells to business users. These need to be updated to highlight meetups that appeal to business users with call to actions like:
- Meet local entrepreneurs
- Grow your business
- Improve your marketing
- Learn about taxes
- Get more clients
WeWork and Meetup Need Branding Help
Meetup has a stronger brand identity than WeWork. WeWork has a really weak brand identity.
For example, their colors are charcoal grey, light grey and white. They have no logo on their site. There is absolutely nothing memorable about WeWork’s current brand or website. There needs to be a big push to develop a stronger brand identity for WeWork. This brand then needs to unite Meetup as a subbrand of WeWork.
For a look at doing this right, look no further than Salesforce. The online customer management software company has acquired numerous platforms such as ExactTarget, Sequence and Steelbrick to name a few. Here’s what Sequence’s homepage looked like a few months before merging with Salesforce.
Here’s what Sequence’s homepage looked like after being acquired by Salesforce. Notice the use of blues that are part of the Salesforce parent brand.
The second homepage very clearly informs the visitor and unites the two brands under the Salesforce umbrella. It also helps to add “A Salesforce Company” under the logo.
Meetup Needs to Cross Sell WeWork’s Services
Meetup.com needs to be a lead generator for WeWork. After updating the branding, Meetup.com needs to channel visitors to WeWork properties. Here are a few ideas on how WeWork can do that:
- Meetup planners should be given an option to schedule their meetups in WeWork facilities directly from Meetup.com
- There should be banner ads or something on Meetup.com that clearly promotes WeWork’s services
- WeWork can further monetize their user base by allowing Meetup.com organizers to promote their events to WeWork users who host events at WeWork facilities
WeWork Must Provide Free Meeting Spaces for Meetup Users
WeWork needs to overcome the fact that most meetups happen at free locations. Whether it’s at a bar, coffee shop or restaurant, most meetups are occurring at places that don’t require payment to get in. Sure, you may have to purchase drinks or food but this is different from paying a cover to enter a facility like one would do at WeWork. For this reason, WeWork must offer free meeting spaces for Meetup users to get them into the WeWork spaces. They can monetize users through premium features like meeting addons such as whiteboards, projectors and other audiovisual equipment. But they need a free option to get people in the door.
Regardless, Meetup is a Smart Buy for WeWork
It’s exciting to see the rise of a co-working giant like WeWork. Several years ago, I was fairly confident that remote working was more than just a trend. The fact that a company like WeWork has risen this high, purchased a major platform like Meetup and is betting so heavily on remote working is both scary and intriguing. It is another strong signal that businesses will be affected by an increase in gig economy, contract and remote workers.