14-year-old Meetup, a service that connects people around real-world events, is overhauling its image and apps today because, in the words of CEO Scott Heiferman, “everything has to be blown up once and a while.”
The social network hasn’t raised money for nearly a decade. It has 27.68 million users and hosts 257,075 groups. Each group pays about $12 a month, there are no ads, and the company is profitable, Heiferman says.
“When you’re fucking old — we had our beloved logo, we had our whole thing — we just said let’s throw it all in the heap. Let’s just be fresh.”
The reimagined Meetup has been in the works for about 18 months, and it’s not quite finished. Meetup is launching redesigned and rebuilt Android and iOS apps today, with a new logo by wacky (and widely-admired) design firm Sagmeister & Walsh.
A full web “overhaul” is in the works, but some cosmetic changes are coming to Meetup’s site today.
“Are we trying to stay relevant? Hell yeah,” said Heiferman. “But it goes far beyond the surface level.” Heiferman:
How do you take something that’s adding millions of people a year and look at it like: “How have we fucked up by only having 25 million members?” If we really serve a universal human need … why don’t we have a billion people using meetup?
Above: Meetup for Android
Meetup’s big shift is about deemphasizing a core feature: the calendar. In place of it, the company is investing in tech that serves better recommendations to users. The company’s refined goal is to answer a lofty question: “What do people want to do more of in life?”
Meetup’s engineering team has grown by 50 people in the last year to make this happen, Heiferman tells us. Seven of its engineers are focused on machine learning.
Above: Meetup for iOS
By Silicon Valley standards, New York-based Meetup is a strange company. It’s never been a unicorn — nor does it feel pressure become one. It’s too old to be a startup, and doesn’t claim to be one. It’s not trying to scale ceaselessly, or chase ad revenue. And its biggest competitor could be Facebook (and its groups feature), but Meetup’s most sincere challenge today appears to be convincing people to go outside and actually connect.
“It’s not a coincidence that we have this weird-ass election at the same time that we have a society glued to its screens,” says Heiferman. “Meetup’s not in the business of replacing your good friends and family.
What Meetup is about is saying, “what do you want to be doing more of?”