Event Management

What Growing Bidder Interest in WeWork’s Meetup Means for the Event Industry

Skift Take

Sources tell EventMB that bidding is happening for Meetup.com. What does that mean for the event industry?


The recent departure of WeWork’s CEO and subsequent management reshuffle has made public the company’s intention to sell Meetup. News is that bidding is underway.

Sources tell EventMB that WeWork is fielding several bids for Meetup, the community that gathers wannabe event planners and attendees willing to get together. Bidding seems to be quite competitive, and an announcement is expected by the end of this week.

The offer to prospective buyers is a company experiencing fairly good growth but losing money. WeWork is compensating for some of those losses with the recent job cuts, but it seems that a restructuring of some sort will continue to be necessary once the company gets acquired.


Who Will Buy Meetup?

Potentially the most interesting question of the moment. We understand that there is a mix of event technology companies, event tech entrepreneurs and equity funds interested in the deal.

It is also safe to assume that the founder of the company, Scott Heiferman, will also be involved. Heiferman has been very involved with its running and recently announced the sale process.

The current clash of two different approaches to technology is very significant for the event industry.


Who Buys Meetups Matters

The purchase of Meetup by another event technology would reinforce the current macro trend that started two years ago of acquisitions and consolidation. Meetup offers an incredible opportunity for an event ticketing company to delve into its large user base. Meetup is the perfect candidate to become a freemium ticketing platform itself, which would shed light on the plan behind the cranky announcement they made a few weeks ago to charge for RSVP.

Companies like Eventbrite are very well positioned to make such an acquisition, even though the timing may not be perfect for the San Francisco-based company as it is still working on the integration with Ticketfly.

If an event technology entrepreneur buys Meetup, we can anticipate the beginning of a very interesting cycle for the evolution of eventtech companies. With so many acquisitions in our industry, skilled event tech mavericks are back on the market and may be interested in getting back into the game. That is great news for our sector, where serial entrepreneurs are finally beginning to appear.

There is also a very tangible possibility that an equity firm may purchase Meetup. While that may be a bummer for users as equity firms don’t always deliver on value, it may also be a great signal for the industry. More money coming to events is always good news for a small tech ecosystem that is starting to grow in its teenage years. The current state of innovation in event tech is flat. Pitch competitions have very poor submissions with some companies applying two or three years in a row. We are in desperate need of more entrepreneurs thinking about events, a traditionally tough nut to crack.


What about Meetup users?

We took some time to speak to some Meetup power users to get a feeling of the current state of the community. Because Meetup is essential that: a community of people getting together around the world with some planning some hosting and sometimes vice versa.

The organizer of a New York City based Meetup mixing painting with wine tasting shared some frustrations with the current state of payments:

“I think Meetup is a fine networking marketing tool for small business owners. The only thing that I don’t like is not having the option to use my own merchant service provider. I have to use Meetup’s merchant service.”

Organizer of a New York City based Meetup


This is where fees start to get hefty and where an event ticketing company may see the biggest profit. The risk of annihilating the user base is very real.


In Conclusion

Meetup bidding is underway and the future looks uncertain. The opportunity is substantial for an event ticketing company to own the community of amateur event planners. Meetup’s model is perfect for a freemium ticketing company. The risk there is in messing with an audience already tired of fees all over the place and unable to use the merchant services they prefer.

The transaction can also be part of a venture capital fund initiative, or some event tech entrepreneur may see an opportunity and seize it.

The future of Meetup may be clearer by the end of this week when the bidding process ends.