One good feature though was to book space directly through meetup which was quite handy since as a programming language local group organizer every month I've to look for some free space provider. Hopefully meetup.com can bring that side to this service!
p.s., It's kind of a mystery to me how anyone thought Meetup would be the next big thing. It's hard to monetize.
Wikipedia is hard to monetize, but it's still a "big thing." Luckily, it's organised in a way that doesn't require S&P 500 revenue targets.
The economics of startups->dragons is such that it's near impossible for certain mass-market services exist even thought they are useful and economically viable.
The internet makes it possible to serve tens of millions on a modest budget. In theory, this enables a business to exist on a modest budget. In practice, serving tens of millions represents more-than-modest potential and that chance, even if quite small, is worth more than the business.
Say a service like meetup makes $20m revenue, expenses of $16m and is growing @ 10% pa. In theory, a nice business. Should be worth $50m-100m.
In reality though, a business like this is not just a business. It's a chance, however small, to be the next FB. At the least, it's a chance to be a FB acquisition. Even a minor threat to FB could easily be worth $1bn.
Chances of success don't have to be very high for the "risk the house" strategy to dominate. A 10% chance @ $10bn is worth $1bn. Systemically, that means a meetup is destined to be continuously bought or funded by investors taking that chance. It can never settle into a steady, viable state where it just does its job.
A big factor here is that "going viral" is no longer a thing that happens organically. Anything that "goes viral" today simply had a good social / native marketing campaign. There is a lot less risk involved in the business model because the network effects have largely settled -- which means there is less upside for new businesses. The "hockey stick" effect doesn't really happen anymore.
There is plenty of room out there for $0.5-2B companies in the B2B space though. That's mostly where VC is focusing because those businesses leverage the business contacts of the VCs, so it works well with their "cash + connections" model.
For the purposes of this argument "next Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn/etc" work too. WeWork bought meetup for $150m. They sold it for less. Facebook is worth thousands of times more.
My point is that considering the price of meetup, the odds of turning it into something worth 10x or 100X bigger create a risk/reward reality that is decisive. That's all.
Your bet on "$0.5-2B companies in the B2B space," works fine in this context.
I agree with your argument that numerically, playing the odds make sense, but I don't see how this necessarily rules out the possibility of settling into a steady business if that's what the company's owner(s) want.
Especially with the backlash/burnout from VC demands, it seems to me like there would be plenty of business owners who would prefer the stabler "lifestyle business" over the moonshot because for emotional reasons, they prefer to leave potential money on the table in exchange for stability.
It just makes it rarer in the population, so to speak. Sure, people can make whatever choices they want and wants vary. However, people make the economic choices on average. If these are individual people making choices, then we get a distribution of choices.
Mostly these are companies though, collections of people making a common choice. Shareholders are not going to divide up their $1.5m dividend and chill when there's a $150m offer on the table. We barely even have the financial institutions to do that.
"Lifestyle Businesses" are also not always peaches and cream.
Say meetup is resold cheap because no-one can meet up irl anymore. You buy it and you are now the "Lifestyle CEO" of meetup. You have the inglorious & immediate task of downsizing all the VC/WeWork fat the company is carrying. Or, you could raise money and "grow into" your expenses. So, either you are raising money again and not a lifestyle company anymore or you are making deep cuts.
Walking back to a "lifestyle Businesses" from this position is not a choice that gets made often, unless there's no choice.
Finally, startups exist within startup business culture... meetup certainly. Giving up an growth is equivalent to failure. Successful companies grow fast, everyone gets promoted. Options convert. That's the culture.
Is there an opportunity for a new VC or hedge fund to come through and suck up already profitable businesses and ween technology companies off this "hockey stick growth" mentality?
That's the impression I got too, with so many good things bought by huge companies (e.g. Google) and then shut down.
I believe it might be possible to address this problem. E.g. suppose it is possible to:
1. host the service in a decentralized way such that it is spread between multiple independent hosting providers so that no single hosting company has influence over it.
2. users can pay directly for hosting. it might cost as little as $1 per year, and perhaps only for 'premium' features, but users do not want to pay then somebody else will be in control.
3. the development can be crowdfunded, e.g. say users will pay $2 per year, $1 goes to hosting, $1 goes to fund development.
My company have been working on the tech side of it, specifically we made a decentralized replicated relational database, which can also host business logic and queries; and we are now working on a infrastructure which manages hosting in a decentralized way, e.g. when users send funds to application's account, the system will automatically find a providers and pay them. So it all can function without an "owner".
I'm not sure about organizational side, though -- most quality services were made by passionate founders, it's not clear if that's going to work for a service owned by users.
More thoughts about it here: https://blog.chromia.com/towards-publicly-hosted-application...
Silicon Valley-style startups act like cancer, and venture capital is the carcinogen.
That said, I think we need to watch for this kind of demonisation... especially as we don't really have mature ideas on the alternative/solution to the current crop of monopolists.
If you're in the US, drop me a note.
Their attempt to own your meetup is really frustrating. The fact I can't even format the emails they send to my subscribers is awful.
Hopefully this will improve with a more focused owner.
Do you have rough percentages on how many attendees are recurring, and how many are new?
I've run a few Meetup.com groups in my time, and I currently run the LA Ember.js meetup. I still choose to use Meetup because it's ridiculously easy to get people to join and show up. When I've done Facebook or Eventbrite, I had to put in effort, but all I have to do on Meetup is pay the monthly fee and people will come.
If what you say is true, then there would be a new verb to replace it. Can you name one? I can't really.
As someone who looks at a "growing" startup up as 30-100 people the "bloat" of the company had me beside myself. Its a site where you search/join/pay to have groups meetup. Why do you need 10 different engineering teams with managers, directors, and VP's?
Conversation points like "I only lead the api for payments" and "how did you launch 5 features in 3 months!!!! Makes me wonder how much bloat, inefficiency, and dead weight exist in such companies.
Disclaimer 1: I get companies in certain spaces requires slower and more careful development practices and policies such has fintech and medtech, i do not consider meetup fitting those criteria.
Disclaimer 2: The startup I consulted for, asside from the founders, executives, and senior management had a great work/life balance so it wasnt like the engineers were doing double time effort, they just focused on being lean and efficient.
> Conversation points like "I only lead the api for payments" and "how did you launch 5 features in 3 months!!!! Makes me wonder how much bloat, inefficiency, and dead weight exist in such companies.
I did a contract for $LARGE_MULTINATIONAL_RETAILER a few years ago. We needed to build a new customer registration process for online customers.
To be clear, we're talking two web pages and some data (name, other necessary personal information, contact details) inserted into a handful of databases. This data would then be used by all other online services.
It took 8 months. I estimated it involved 60 people from at least half a dozen teams. One of my colleagues estimated over 100 people.
I... couldn't really cope. I wanted to fire everyone, or at least almost everyone, and do the whole job with a small team (one to two pizzas) with some careful systems analysis in a few weeks.
At the end of the project, when all key stakeholders were on a call, and we finally ran a test that inserted all the data in the right places and allowed a customer to actually buy something, I nearly came from sheer relief. It is not healthy for a human being to get that excited over such a small victory after such a long period of time and effort expended.
Every single project was like that.
 Actually I wanted to let at least 70% - 80% of the people go in the entire directorate, along with a large swathe of middle and senior management. These weren't bad people, or stupid people, or even inept people - many were very smart, and very competent: just useless within the context of the company's needs.
I'm a big fan of consciously capping a startup to 20-100 people max. Just hire slowly and automate everything. If you don't hard cap numbers you'll inevitably end up with multiple layers of managerial hierarchy in both vertical and horizontal silos.
You can start a subscription online however.
Another sign of a failed company, trying to hold onto those who want to leave.
Seems like its chargeback time.
The question was "Why doesn't everyone get this, if CA has it?"
EDIT: I guess it's not CCPA, but a separate law https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtm...
The New York Times is the same. Rather than bothering I simply cancelled it on the PayPal side.
Good idea, got VC money, couldn't live up to VC expectations. So it's a failure.
Sold back to founder for $1.
So they run lean and does just fine...
I worry there are a lot of 'VCed' ideas that given a lean system and time to grow / adjust could be productive but otherwise are shutdown for not being Facebook.
It would be interesting if there was sort of a VC Failed Exit Market where folks could pickup the crumbs and see what they could do... granted there's a lot of variables in that (first comes to mind is the lost knowledge base of the original team / staff).
Whatever you call it, I doff my hat.
Take for example a company that's at a critical point. Board needs to decide to a)cut costs by laying off some staff b)seek a buyer c)tough it out as some big clients are close to signing next quarter and will pull it through to profitability.
If the board conversation around this topic was public the big clients will probably pull out as they will doubt the supplier's long-term viability, key staff may leave rather than wait to see if they get cut and any buyer will be looking for a firesale.
So basically all the options (in this example) turn bad if the conversation is public.
From the article:
> I am following up our conversation a few months ago. KP would like to sell our ownership back to Gumroad for $1. Can we discuss this week?
> Mike had left KPCB to start a new company, and KPCB didn’t want the operational headache of appointing a new board member. Plus, it helped their taxes.
> One investor joined them. We’ve bought back a couple more, since then. I keep the rest of the investors up-to-date with a brief email every few months.
In the case of the Gumroad guy, this is exactly what he did/ He basically let VCs choose when they took their losses once they realized Gumroad wasn't going to be the next Facebook. They used the losses to offset some huge wins they got on other investments. The VC walks away happy because he exchanged otherwise useless stock to increase his returns on something else he sold that he did really good on. The owner of Gumroad walks away happy because he gets his company back. Win-win for everyone.
That stake was likely worth hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, but to KPCB it wasn't worth the hassle to find someone willing to pay that. They know they make a loss on most of their investments.
The purchaser collects a service fee and a lottery ticket for the random "XYZ Inc sold patent to IBM for $10 million during company liquidation."
The buyer isn't buying for tax offsets. They're buying at deep discounts because they're often the only bidder and the hope that they occasionally find themselves taking on some asset for which the sellers have vastly underestimated the value (such as some obscure patent).
Delicious was bought back from Yahoo, in fact that happened a few times with companies that Yahoo bought and spun off again.
Now THAT is irony.
For Firefox: https://github.com/iamadamdev/bypass-paywalls-firefox
For Chrome: https://github.com/iamadamdev/bypass-paywalls-chrome
- Medium pops up a "please log in" if you've visited multiple articles in a month, but that's not a paywall, that's just an annoyance. You can dismiss it.
- For a few specific publications, the authors can choose to paywall their content after a few views. OneZero, which is published by Medium themselves, does it. This is from Marker, which also appears to be published by Medium themselves.
Yes, it's confusing for a blog platform to also run publications that accept contributions from outside writers and host those publications on their own blog platform, and have that be different from outside writers just setting up a blog. (I suppose the difference is their own publications have an editor, hopefully they pay contributors, etc.)
I've seen similar comments about companies like Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, and even Facebook and I'm really in awe of how completely out of touch with the reality of what it takes to run a global business with millions of users and customers people have to be to suggest these things.
Do people imagine you can just take the UI, have a few people wire it up to scale in "the cloud" and basically call it a day?
Now granted that's more than five people, but that was a planet sized service. Say you're a company that's worth 10 million or 50 million with a proportionate amount of complexity, you ought to be able to built that with a team of 10 people if you chose your software stack wisely.
Paul Graham has an older piece about Lisp and beating large companies by having a technological edge. Picking your software and understanding architecture can be very important. I have seen Clojure teams of smart engineers in particular in distributed / concurrent systems (the sort of thing that can produce a lot of value) who do as much work in a team of 5 as a big corporate Java behemoth does with a 100 people.
I wonder what the deciding factor is. I used to be part of a Haskell team and it was actually net negative vs. just using something really batteries included.
The technology choices follow on from this. If you have a smart team, then you can pick technologies that solve the problem most efficiently, rather than the lowest common denominator that everyone will be able to use, or what's most fashionable (you see this in every field: the "good" people are often following trends or best practices (and doing it well), but the very best tend to have a much more nuanced judgement. They know about the latest thing, they'll use it sometimes, but they keep their own council, and they're not afraid to go off and do something unorthodox if it makes sense for the situation they're in.
Side point: Incidentally, React is actually on my list of go-to productive boring technologies. It's definitely overused (despite building React apps in my day job, my personal website is built with Hugo, and a lot of sites would be better off with server-rendered Django/Rails/Laravel), but where you need that complex client-side interactivity I think it's the generally best tool for the job.
^ This. As the project gets larger you can't find enough "star programmers" in a timely manner and have to fall back to mediocracy. Read "The Mythical Man-Month" and the associated Brooks' Law for context.
Could you elaborate on that? What were problematic?
BUT - i'm at a VC funded startup and can see how bloated these companies become whilst achieving not much. Our company got VC cash, then the VCs installed a CFO. First thing the CFO did was demote most of the engineering staff down to entry-ish level titles.
Then came product managers, program managers, directors of product management, senior directors of program management, VPs of product, and C-suite.
The Product:SWE ratio is 1:2 to 1:5 depending on the team. That is right, since we're falling behind on coding and quality, the obvious solution to hire senior people to go talk at conferences.
Meanwhile engineering headcount and QA headcount barely moved. When product timelines and quality suffered, instead of considering why SWEs were demotivated, they hired more Directors and more Product Managers to micromanage and oversee the efforts. Except the Product Managers are remote and we barely ever hear from them. We think they are product managing their own careers mostly, we see more activity on their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts than we see on Slack.
So what have people done? SWEs jet out of the office at 5, many are running startups on the side, some are consulting on the side.
Next thing you have a several-hundred-person-startup producing about what you produced with 50 people
I've worked in a startup which processed 10,000s of different transactions from various countries around the world, we dedicated a whole 0.01 person to handling it. I think they were up to around 7 o 8 countries when I left. Had one full time dev and me a few days a week.
As in it was checked now and then, and we had the occasional query once a month.
YAGNI for a business like meetup. I don't think you realize just how much off the shelf, fire and almost forget stuff there is out there now.
6 person crew generating $40M a year with no VC funding. It was all operated off the money that came in the door. It can be done.
And I once ran a python script on my local computer and had no scaling issues. I dont know what all these people are talking about nginx, load-blanancers, blah! heck, I just used python -m simpleserver and Viola! it worked! See -- everyone can run a global business right from their macbook with 0 FTEs! I did it! (Please dont mind I picked the easiest script and conveniently based my business in places where Stripe works!)
People who don't need 15 FTEs, or even one FTE to take pretty large volumes of payments from many countries in the world.
Another reply is talking about $40 million turnover without a FTE.
The latest revenue figures I can find for meetup is $15 million.
So it begs the question, are you the incompetent and inexperienced one for needing to overengineer, or are we, for doing it cheaply?
I can support a trillion of US/Canadian/European transactions with mostly the same effort.
I think a lot of technologists confuse deploying code with actually handling transactions, charge-backs, local tax rates, etc. Also, just because you are small enough to ignore local tax laws does not mean everyone is.
Move fast and break things is all fun and games until you get charged for tax avoidance.
Five years ago, it was difficult to comply with tax laws in every US state, county, and jurisdiction (now there are services) -- can you imagine doing this globally?
I think you've never actually done this, have you?
Because things dont scale linearly? I mean I can support JSON messages in 5min. Another five minutes and I can support XML. So I should be able to support all the historical mainframe message formats in 5 minutes each right? No...
You can throw bodies at the front end by having support staff, bodies at the middle end by writing extensive help articles/documentation, or bodies at the back end to ensure you have robust data and reporting for pre-empting issues.
In any case, you need to think about it, and it'll take bodies.
I think you're over-estimating that by a factor of at least 15. If you're happy to say "let's just use Stripe, we'll support the countries they do, their payment forms are good enough" then that's like...1 FTE for a couple months to build your payments system, and then basically well under 1 FTE there-after to maintain it.
You can absolutely find work for 15 FTEs working on payments (and more!), and you'll probably end up with a better solution too, but there's plenty of startups accepting payments globally with, effectively, 0 FTEs working on payments.
This is an honest question, because I'm starting to seriously question my beliefs (I honestly though it was difficult.)
What's a bit newer is that it's a solved problem for people in other countries too; 10 years ago or so I really wanted to process payments, but none of the easy payment processors supported my country (mostly Braintree and Stripe back then), so I had to go with eWay (awful) and a merchant account from my bank (double awful). The company I'm with now (same country) uses Stripe, and it's a massively better experience. (Not being a Stripe fanboy; they have some very strong competitors, I just happen to be familiar with Stripe.)
Keep in mind: It matters where you (the merchant) are. Accepting payments from someone in Africa when you're in the US is trivial; accepting payment from someone in the US when you're in Africa is much harder. You can see where Stripe is supported here: https://stripe.com/global (and most of their competitors are in the same or fewer markets).
Also, there's still a lot of pretty bad legacy payment processors around, and they're often a fair bit cheaper. So if your company has been accepting payments online for twenty years, it may still be a pain for you, I wouldn't know. :)
But yes, the mom-and-pop website in Topeka should be using Shopify or have paid a web shop to throw together something equivalent using off-the-shelf packages, and it should be using Stripe (or Braintree, Square, Adyen, whatever), and then yes, they can accept payments globally, and the experience will be really nice. It's not even any extra work; it just comes out of the box for "free".
If people in those places don't have credit cards, I'd wait for Stripe to add whatever payment method they do use. (They've already added systems like Alipay and Klarna that are mainly used outside the US.) In the meantime, they can email me and we'll work out if they can mail me a check or use Western Union, or maybe I'll just give them an extended free trial or something. There are probably not so many people in the world who (a) don't have credit cards and (b) are interested in my software-as-a-service that I wouldn't be able to manually help them on a case-by-case basis.
(Disclaimer: I have worked on a mom-and-pop e-commerce website, but it shipped physical products and didn't operate internationally.)
The small company focussed on their core service. The VC corp has to reach out to new markets, increase sign ups, please advertisers and produce shiny growth figured for investors.
For users of the Meetup site it should be slim and I want to spend as little time there as possible (i.e. get invitation mail, ideally respond by mail, done) Meetup however wants me to "engage" trying to convince me to go to more meetups, rate them, comment, ... do as many clicks as possible while not driving users away ... all these deceptions take time to do, to try out, to A/B test. A committed founder who uses the site themselves notices where users got trouble and works on that. Maybe not in a team of five but also not hundreds.
I'm not the GP poster but that sounds like a good deal. So collect a paycheck, nod during the corporate circle-jerk of design meetings for weeks while working on your own startup and side consulting?
I'm not saying 5 people can run Meetup, but I wouldn't expect it to require the 270 employees that Google lists.
Most money goes to sales, business, strategy. Growing your company into meetup would take hundreds of employees endless sales calls, conferences, golfing dates, money raising, competitor spying, timing/luck and most importantly closers. Then you need people to manage, organize them, spy of them, babysit them and clean up after them. Nevermind the interns.. if they are paided.
It, like so many other companies in the networking space, were in the right place at the right time. And seem to many of us to have grown in proportion to the money thrown at them, rather than the actual operational need.
There are examples of companies that needed to do that, Groupon, etc., but that's because they had to actually do sales.
You could run Meetup with 5 people in a basement if you had simple subscription revenue, but effectively maximizing an advertising opportunity requires at least ~1000 people.
I’ve advertised on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google - there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into the “money making” bit of these companies.
Remove ad-revenue and all these companies would collapse. They have no other model.
I'm surprised how expensive it's become. I was paying $60/year in 2018 (when I abandoned the group), that's now doubled.
That doesn't even take into account the number of fake groups that aren't really meetups so much as "here's a webinar in which I pitch stuff to you 1-on-1 or 1-on-2, if I can find a second sucker".
These problems can be mitigated early on by charging meetup organizers. If a $20 a month is too much, then it probably doesn't belong on a meetup site. It's enough that anyone willing to abuse the system will take the path of least resistance and use Eventbrite to host webinars.
Any other meetup communication should be made unappealing enough that moderation rarely becomes an issue. It should be possible for people on meetup to communicate, but it should be a second class citizen to however the organizers communicate with group members. Any forums that are part of meetups should suck just enough that nobody wants to use them unless they are serious about communicating something.
There are creative ways to handle moderation that don't require obscene amounts of money or employees.
why can my mobile phone provider outsource its support to $random company in $random country but meetup cannot ?
If you go the "minimize the official headcount" approach... now you need to make your software systems and business processs operable by $random users potentially with different first languages, with little context or history with the company. That's gonna require some significant tooling investments compared to the typical 5-person-in-a-basement operation.
You're not going to put up with that for Meetup.
Meetup as a website and app is a pretty small engineering footprint. The fact that you think is absurd shows how much we have been accustomed to this "Grow at all cost" mentality.
If I had to take a guess and break down the 200+ employees at Meetup, more than two thirds must be in BizDev, community relations, and artificial management layers.
Out of the 70+ Engineering, a core of 20+ are probably really needed to keep the core app up to date and up and running. The other engineers are working on bets and new products that the company needs in order to justify its valuation and future returns.
Essentially I would say you get 90% of the product with 15% of the engineers. Everything else is small bets to justify the valuation.
And then you look at places like gumtree or craigslist and for these network effect businesses you realize the UX ain't worth the expense.
I bet if twitter hadn't gone through their SPA/etc. iterations they'd probably still be as big today.
Users are more likely to leave due to monetization efforts than a dated UI.
Of course, that's the pinnacle of an extremely small and simple feature set, and avoiding anything labour-intensive like moderation, or support, or sales. Indeed, they were iOS-only until 6 days before the acquisition was announced.
I agree you could not take Meetup in its current form and operate it with so few employees.
Maybe they have Hard Tech problems like dealing with griefers, but the basic group system looks pretty straightforward to scale with something like Google App Engine.
That said, I'm sure most of Meetup's employees are not engineering.
This is HN so commenters are focusing on the technical aspects where Meetup is clearly bloated for what the site delivers. However there's plenty of work to occupy several FT positions, just in customer support alone, when you're selling something to consumers online. Sales, HR, finance, legal and general admin are all necessary to operate at their scale.
I don't think any of those teams will be huge, but I expect it adds up. Just those listed ones are probably 20+ people, so add some management layer as well.
If you want to run your own server farm or offer lots of live customer service then the equation changes.
How much work you have to do scales with the number of people you employ. That is, if you keep hiring, people will continue to find more work to do and do it less efficiently.
Five people in a basement could absolutely remake the core functionality of Meetup and scale it to millions of users.
The hundreds or thousands of extra people are chasing long tail revenue, niche features, change for the sake of change, and supporting each other.
Give me a million dollars and a year and I'll have a ready competitor for Meetup.
Give me $10k and I'll have a working crappy clone.
Give me a weekend and an espresso machine and I'll have an mvp.
... of a product
> Give me a weekend and an espresso machine and I'll have an mvp.
... minimum viable PRODUCT.
That's not a company. That's a product. A company has to handle abuse, support, sales, marketing, expanding into new markets, partnerships, etc.
The difference you will see on the examples being cited here are those companies existing on ad revenue (or in growth-cash burn mode making no $) -- if you can ignore realities of business then yes you can run lean.
Show me an Instagram or WhatsApp that had global payments, regulations, taxes, etc and managed to do it with 5 or 10 or 13 people -- it does not exisit.
If history is any indication, we will learn this lesson, practice if for a little while, forget it, and be retaught it again in 6-12 years.
And in the very low-capital-requirement world of pure tech, VC funding is actually kind of as strange choice. A lot of startups would be much better off as coops.
Pagerduty is a prime example I have followed for a long time. It used to be so simple and just let you set up recurring rotations and used twilio to alert the current on-call person. You might even be able to set the original product up today with zapier for just a few cents per alert. I don't remember their early pricing, but my memory is it used to be very cheap. Now they're a public company with a huge enterprise sales team and their lowest tier is $29 per user, and there are all kinds of extra features they want to up-sell you on from there that most people don't need. Sure that's not so expensive in the scheme of things, but if there are 20 different little utilities like this you want to use it adds up.
(While I'm at it, that reminds me of another of the terrible patterns I see from all of these kinds of companies now, the per-seat pricing model even when the resource you're using doesn't scale that way. Want to set up CI builds in CircleCI? Surely they'll charge us for machine capacity. Well guess what, they also charge $15 per month per seat. You want folks on other teams who use different tools to ever be able to check in on the status of a build? Too bad, buy every one of them their own seat. If someone new ever even accidentally tries to sign in with github and you haven't provisioned a seat for them, CircleCI will actually stop running your builds until an admin goes in to upgrade your plan).
Anyway, it feels that there's a massive opportunity for a self-funded team of 5 or 10 people or in some cases maybe even 1 person to build a great lifestyle business that takes on the original focused use case of some of these ubiquitous SAAS platforms, but undercuts the big bloated business they are today on price by a huge amount.
What I do think however is that we might start to see a shift of talent towards more "mundane, boring" jobs. Less over-engineering apps for fancy startups on VC-lifesupport, more CRUD-apps for SME, big corps, government and whoever else seemingly less attractive than some cash-burning unicorn.
And for society, it might be for the better. Too many startups these days seem to be focused on value extraction instead of creation (meetup might be one of the few exceptions).
Meanwhile, the actual growth is being driven by investors burning cash to offer the product/service at an unsustainable price plus spending money like water on advertising.
Which continues until the company is unloaded onto the public markets.
Because I see this attitude a lot, but as someone who has worked primarily at these enterprises (good and bad) I don't think you can think that way without being completely divorced from reality. Not all of us are working with Saudi money from Softbank.
Startups that can't stay cash flow positive might as well be enriched uranium right now. Could be worth a lot of money to the right people, but you're not keeping it around the house.
I have worked for a number of VC startups, my very first full-time programming contract was with a startup. I have seen the above Growth Theatre pattern many times. It's one of the things I have tried to avoid when interviewing employers in my career.
In my anecdotal experience, the above pattern definitely exists, although having the kind of money to do that at the scale of a WeWork is extremely rare.
Is it the majority of startups? No.
Is it a significant proportion of startups? Probably not, although those who were around during the first dot com boom will remember the "burger patties," companies everyone knows were "built to be flipped."
My claim is that there are a few companies in the Growth Theatre business all the time. That claim is not equivalent to claiming that this is the only business model for companies that take VC money.
Growth of metrics that don’t translate to $$$ in the bank means only your costs are growing.
Filled with things like a fully stocked beer fridge, and I saw many Aeron chairs.
Their office on Broadway in NYC is probably around $64 a square foot, so if it's leased, they're probably paying over $100k a month.
Broadway rent for an office with 0 need to be near New Yorkers is the main problem.
I mostly agree, but it says a lot about a company's command of their expenses.
eBay is filled with these. I bought one (not an Aeron, but a Teknion Contessa which I like better) for $300 from eBay and the proprietor brought it to my apartment at 9am the next day. If I ever start a company with an office, I will just get a mishmash of those. Essential to the creation of software, and costs less than a couple hours of engineering time.
(Aerons are great chairs and are about the same price on eBay. Plus these people with listings on eBay usually have a stash in a warehouse somewhere and will let you go look at them and buy them in bulk. Yes, I do sometimes wonder where they all come from, but in New York, you don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to ;)
...they went for really crap chairs. I don't really understand the logic. They're uncomfortable, and they're falling apart after a couple of years. The amount of time the engineering team has spent talking about them, complaining about them, and stealing still-working ones from other desks when theirs breaks has probably cost them 5 times what actual good chairs would have in lost productivity.
It happens the fortieth time they do it - but the logic is the same as the first time they do it.
Then all of a sudden it's a $$$$ chair at a $$$$ desk with a $$$$ computer and a $$$$ screen and a $$$$ company phone and $$$ in snacks and $$$ in soft drinks and $$$ in beer and $$$$ in lunches and $$$$ in dinners and $$$$ in training and $$$$ in conferences and $$$ in free laundry and $$$$ in parking and $$$$ in the annual corporate ski retreat and $$$$$ in premium office space, and of course we extend the same benefits to the janitors and receptionists, they're employees too, and of course we drink beer and play foosball on company time that's team-building....
Premium office space OTOH can really hurt. I am still wondering why so many companies suffer SF office space prices only for their workers to commute into SF because they can't afford SF living costs either. Maybe stop hurting each other and just relocate within 20-30 miles where it's less insane (though still quite insane by non-SV standards...)?
Are you not familiar with the addage: "The success of your company is inversely proportional to the number of Aeron Chairs you have"
We designed and built out (first dot com bubble) an office in SF for Quokka Sports.
They got a crap ton of VC$ and they built out this really nice brick and timber office, fish-bowl conf rooms etc...
They crashed and burned BEFORE they were even able to move into this amazing office, near the Ferry Building in SF....
I had to go there and take a bunch of pics of the newly built office, but which was never moved into.
They had a FUCKING BOATLOAD of Aeron chairs... all stacked up to the ceilings in all the conference rooms.
Those chairs at the time were ~$2,000 a piece - and they had like ~500 of them or so....
So, that used to be an actual measurement of fiscal responsibility in startups 20 years ago; How many Aeron Chairs did you buy with VC Money.
Or especially: https://jasonlefkowitz.net/2013/05/introducing-lefkowitzs-la...
Nice chairs and free snacks are a trivial expense, and are very helpful for generating a specific type of company culture (eg, if important people have nice chairs, and everyone has nice chairs, then we're all, on some level, important. Trivial, but these things matter).
Cutting them either means:
1. The company is going bust as we speak. They've either already made meaningful cuts (ie, firing people) or they're about to start, and they're now now doing the metaphorical equivalent of stealing pennies from fountains to try and make rent. You should leave for somewhere not imploding.
2. The company culture is changing, and it has been deemed important to remind engineering that they aren't that important. Making sure important people have nicer chairs than uninmportant people is an easy way to demonstrate this. Again, you should leave before the company finishes turning into a Dilbert-esque hell.
Either way, cutting snacks will not, under any circumstances, fix whatever is wrong (again, they're too cheap) and it's usually a leading indicator of bigger problems.
So when you say:
> It says a lot about a company's command of their expenses.
I sort of agree - it tells you they have no command of their expenses. :)
To me it says they either a) value their employees, or b) want to look like a.
Either one makes for a better workplace than 'justify every time you used the copier in the last 2 weeks, and have the spreadsheet updated with that info by COB'.
Servers, rent, and salaries are the real culprits.
I guess that amount of money is small compared to some engineers' salaries but I was surprised by how expensive it was for coffee & snacks.
What at meetup requires hundreds or thousands of servers?
Why on earth would I ever want to work at a company that doesn't value my posture, reduced risk of RSI or the possible ideas/innovation that can come from me chatting/bonding with my coworkers over a beer.
It's a drop in the bucket compared to executive ubers, flights and hotels.
Build full clones of sites like meetup.com which appear to be overstaffed, but which are more-or-less functionally complete. Also handle customer service, billing, fraud/spam detection, etc.
You then lease the clone sites to the actual companies. CaaS: Clones as a Service.
The company can then cut costs by laying off like 80% of its workforce.
Clone a popular site, gain some traction in a locale outside the US, then sell it to the original company.
You're basically doing the opposite strategy of VC investing. Instead of killing competition by picking a winner and giving that winner more cash than everyone else, you try to build a range of very resilient viable products that can survive until the VC backed startup runs out of funding.
It's quite interesting that one of my personal projects is basically doing just that (except it's non commercial). It is meant to be a replacement for a product whose startup has run out of funding.
Craigslist was privately held and this seems to have produced a far more efficient allocation of capital than the VC recipes.
Craigslist has failed. They are not a good example of anything except the staying power of network effects... and how even that fades with time if you let your community turn into a cesspool.
I don't even bother with craigslist anymore.
The guy I bought it from is clearly making significant income selling them.
It was the first listing I tried. No BS. They’re still great, at least around here.
A Google Search ad is a glorified <p> tag, but they make a lot of money from it!
To stay small you have to fight bureaucracy. Your management has to have the confidence that the small team you have is 'enough' and you don't need a bunch of overhead people to answer some concern.
Take the sales team for instance. A bunch of people you hired to sell things. Some of them are very, very good at selling people things they don't need. You might end up being one of those people.
Yes, but the notion of a 'meme' as originally stated relates to attributes of the idea itself, not the person spreading it. What you're talking about is the original notion of "charisma", that the same speech will get a better or worse response from the audience based on the personal qualities of the orator.
What do you do when the KKK wants a meetup? Ok, that seems easy but what about the League of the South? The Sons of the Confederacy? The Nation of Islam? Or what do you do when the Tidewater Democrats declare the Coastal Republicans to be a hate group and want them banned? Or the local Libertarians wanting Citizens for Gun Control kicked off the site? Or how do you handle stalkers who think meetups are their personal hunting grounds? What about trolls who leave inappropriate comments everywhere? There are so many situations that require the owners to step in that are difficult to impossible to automate. Even if you're making good and consistent decisions, that's still lots of manual work and dealing with constant PR issues. Meetup no doubt has a team that takes care of these issues but those salaries add up quickly and there's not much room for efficiency of scale.
You could try being hands off but you'd get slaughtered in the press for allowing anything outside of the current narrow definition of socially acceptable humans. Any service open to the public ultimately has to have a group who polices the service, not only to the wishes of the owners, but also to those of the loudest voices in the greater social context.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that these kinds of sites require a lot of staff. Most startups are powered by short term decisions and short term thinking. We don’t design things to last more than a few years at best.
Meetup may, therefore, have more strategic value than cash-flow value to a lot of companies.
I can definitely see how a 'big cash-flush WeWork' would want to glob onto Meetup.
But a cash-strapped meetup?
And now, if there's no 'big hit upside' and no big win future, they probably don't have a lot of momentum, and not a lot of hot devs who really care a lot.
It becomes in a way a lifestyle company for someone else's lifestyle vision. Which requires the right kind of team and mindset, comfortable with that situation.