Wellbeing Meetup Style: Community as Culture

This post was originally published on Disrupters, Virgin’s blog. Reblogged with permission from the author.

For years, we’ve been trying to nail down what’s so special about life behind the scenes at Meetup. In part, it’s our special rituals: celebrating our team with tokens for work anniversaries – engraved red Swingline stapler at the two year mark, photo slideshows of Meetuppers who have recently crossed the six year mark and a three month paid sabbatical at the seven year mark.

We host an annual cook-it-ourselves company picnic complete with spouses, significant others, children, friends, neighbors and the occasional park worker. New hires venture out on a Meetup crawl to visit as many Meetups as they can get to in one night with our CEO and co-founder, Scott Heiferman.


Each of these rituals show our culture, and there’s a line that connects them. The thing that makes Meetup so extraordinary is that we’re practicing what we preach: community. Meetup’s Headquarters is a prime example of community as culture.We’re a for-profit, mission-focused company.

The world has become so used to companies raking in profit and placing its importance above all else: user experience, employee experience, the footprint left behind, that Meetup’s mission dedication can feel like an anomaly. But it’s the glue that binds us together and motivates us in our work.

Many companies are trying to nail culture because it’s one of the most impactful ways to recruit – and Meetup is no different. We’re building the company we want to work for: a company that leaves the world a bit stronger and treats its team with respect and humanity. In practice, that means we’re deliberate and intentional in everything from hiring decisions to office design, transparent communications to the benefits we offer our team.

“We’re a living, breathing community that exists outside of the walls of HQ”

In one concrete example that I’m proud to share, we revisited and modified our parental leave policy in 2015. The changes weren’t scrutinized for their cost. The decision was about doing the right thing. Launched this summer, new parents are offered a mix of paid leave and transitional leave when returning to work at 100 per cent salary for up to six months. A family should have time to adjust to such a big change, and that time makes for a stronger community. Simply put: the policy change aligned with what we’re all about.

Meetup hires people with a little sparkle, if you will. Meetuppers often have something they’re fiercely passionate about. Maybe it’s something they’d be slow to share among new acquaintances, but once they’re into their “New Job” at Meetup, suddenly those hesitations melt away.


People feel comfortable being themselves, and that creates an opportunity for real relationships to form. Among other Meetuppers, we’ve found our people. And together, working as a true team, we’re making a significant impact on people’s lives.

Just like the communities our platform enables, the Meetup HQ community has changed and shifted over time. Still, ties among current and former employees are strong. At a recent rooftop BBQ with 250 guests, at least 10 per cent were former Meetuppers who came to gather, catch up and celebrate the 13 years of community (and counting!) that is Meetup. When you celebrate the engineer who’s left the team because his side project got funded, and you support the Product Director who was O.V.E.R. New York by keeping him on board in Colorado, you create stronger ties than those at most companies. Meetup has nailed that. We’re a living, breathing community that exists outside of the walls of HQ and we couldn’t be prouder.

PS: Want to get in on the Meetup magic? We’re hiring for all kinds of roles, including Head of Recruitment – check us out!

Members Only Meetup


We celebrated the passing of another wonderful year with a members only party on the rooftop of HQ, featuring four spectacular performance based Meetup groups.


We kicked it off with the Brooklyn Accordion Club Meetup, who played their beautiful and intricate instruments (affectionately referred to as ‘squeezeboxes’) together as a quartet called Bachtopus. As the sun went down, two fantastic solo artists surprised us by performing their original works. Pictured above is Mary Spencer Knapp of Toot Sweet.


They were followed by the enormously talented singer songwriters of the NYC Guitar Meetup Group with Charlie Allenson (co-Organizer) and members John Traynor (pictured above), Jay Verkuilen, Steve Baker and Annie Haden.


Then came the delightful and infectious grooves of the Westchester County Bluegrass Jam Meetup, led by Organizer and Chief Picker, Tara Linhardt.


And last, but certainly not least, the Gotham Rock Choir Meetup brought down the house (or rather, raised the roof) by belting out, “Uptown Funk,” “Living On A Prayer” and, as a giant roof-top sing along, “Joy To The World” (by Three Dog Night, of course).

The choir was founded in 2009 “to provide an alternative to traditional choirs and to give choral singing a much-needed sense of cool”. It was such a great show, they acquired several new members before they even left the rooftop.

It was truly a night to remember with the gorgeous New York City skyline as a backdrop. Thanks to all of those who came to celebrate and jam with us.

Cheers to another year of epic Meetups!



All of your Friends at Meetup HQ


Each quarter we host an all staff meeting and family style lunch at Meetup HQ with select local organizers. It’s a fireside chat moderated by Meetup’s CEO and co-founder, Scott Heiferman.

This past week we heard about the fantastic Meetup journeys of three organizers: Ria from Blood Ink: A Horror Writer’s Collective, Josh from Texpats NYC, and Bridget from the Irish/British Genealogy Meetup group.

This was a quiet moment right before things got started.

Thanks to all three organizers for stepping up, telling their wonderful stories, inspiring their members, and being an inspiration to us too.



Celebrating opportunity at the first-ever Tech Meetup at the White House

Adapted from Scott Heiferman’s introduction at the Tech Meetup at the White House on Friday, April 17, 2015 #WHMeetup

We are invited to the White House today because the people in this room are forging the future in a non-obvious way.  People here are opening doors for people who are opening doors for each other.  (I stole that line from Seth Godin, and I love it.)

And speaking of doors, Megan, thank you for opening the doors to the White House to us today, and for seeing the potential in people. You, your team, and the President are making a difference by hosting us today.

We are here to talk about opportunity. To see and imagine how Tech Meetups will create more opportunities for more people.

There are 30,000 Tech Meetup organizers in this country and we’ve gathered 50 of the best here today.  These Meetups help people get training, get jobs, get funding, launch businesses, and help companies take off. They inspire and change lives.

I became a Tech Meetup organizer a couple years after we started Meetup, the platform. (Meetup was used by people like Illinois State Senator Barack Obama in his run for the U.S. Senate. Whatever happened to that guy?)  Meetups were booming, but there weren’t many Tech Meetups.

I was inspired to start the NY Tech Meetup having heard that Steve Wozniak (Steve Jobs’ co-founder) said that if there were no Homebrew Computer Club, there’d be no Apple.  Homebrew was a community where you could demo technology. It gave them opportunity. Maybe Silicon Valley wouldn’t be what it is today without that community back then.

So I started the NY Tech Meetup, and at our first Meetup, only one person showed up. I asked her to be my co-organizer.  Her name was Dawn Barber, and she helped it grow in its early days to where it is today, with over 40,000 members.

Dawn is here today. Dawn, you created opportunity for people.

Now there are Tech Meetups everywhere, and I’m so excited to see you all here, from Alabama to Alaska—poised to grow your local tech economies. I’m excited to see all of you.

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Meetup gets serious about design

We’re declaring it: 2015 is the year of design at Meetup. This year, we’re rearchitecting Meetup for a lightweight, personal, mobile experience, and design is at the heart of that effort. It’s an exciting time to be a designer at Meetup HQ.


The design team takes Halloween seriously

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President Obama joins Meetup in the fight for net neutrality

Yesterday marked a big win in the battle for the internet—President Obama issued a statement publicly supporting net neutrality. Not only did the President come out in support of net neutrality, he came out in support of the strongest possible version, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. The President urged the FCC to reclassify consumer broadband services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act. This reclassification would arm the FCC with the strongest possible tools to protect an open and free internet, allowing them to prevent the blocking and throttling of internet traffic, as well as fast lanes and paid prioritization.

Over the past several months hundreds of technology companies and investors have been advocating for strong protections for a open and free internet, and we’ve been proud to count ourselves among them. We met with the FCC, submitted comments in support of net neutrality, and participated in the Internet Slowdown to make our voices heard. The Meetup community rallied with us, contacting their lawmakers and submitting comments of their own. Now the White House has joined our ranks.

This is a big step towards defending net neutrality, and we’re grateful for the President’s leadership on this critical issue. But the fight’s not over yet. As an independent agency, the FCC will ultimately have the final word, issuing a ruling of their own. Having the President’s support is huge, but we need the FCC to listen. Now more than ever it’s important to take a stand, and speak out for what we believe. Share and celebrate the President’s statement, join the conversation on social media, and stand up for what we know is right. Help us keep the internet open and free—we’re getting close.


Thanks a million, New York

There are over 19 million Meetup members worldwide, and as of today, New York City is home to a million of them. New York is the first city to cross the million member threshold, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Meetup was born in NYC, and New York is our home. Over the past twelve years, we’ve watched New Yorkers come together to build a stronger, smarter, healthier city. Today we’re more connected than ever, and now we can’t imagine it any other way.

To honor the occasion, we asked NYC Organizers what inspired them to find the others. Check out the video above to hear what they had to say.

Cheers to you, New York.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #MeetupNYC1M.


What makes a Meetup?
A look at our Community Guidelines

Meetup is pursuing a big goal: a Meetup Everywhere, about Most Everything. “Everything” is, admittedly, a broad pursuit, so we’d like to take a moment to share what exactly “Most Everything” means to our Meetup community.

The variety of Meetups on the platform surprises and delights us day in and day out. Meetup members, it seems, are passionate about everything under the sun. At Meetup HQ, we approach those passions agnostically. Whatever you’re into socially, politically, religiously, whatever you want to Meetup about—chances are we’re cool with it. The few exceptions to the rule, and the precedents we expect all Meetups to adhere to, are outlined in our Community Guidelines. Our Community Guidelines are a set of principles that outline the kind of Meetups allowed on the platform. They help us make sure that every group is aligned with Meetup’s mission to build local community, and ensure that the Meetup community stays as friendly, welcoming, and respectful as we want it to be. The guidelines are pretty straightforward, but here are the headlines below.

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Meetup visits DC to fight for net neutrality.

Meetup fights for net neutrality

Two weeks ago our General Counsel, David Pashman, headed down to Washington, DC to meet with members of the Federal Communications Commissions and weigh in on the current debate around the issue of net neutrality – the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Pashman was accompanied by representatives from other NYC-based tech companies, Kickstarter and Tumblr, as well as the Executive Director of the NY Tech Meetup. Once he returned to Meetup HQ, Pashman sat down with this blog-happy-policy-novice to bring me up to speed. Here’s what I learned:

The present net neutrality debate stems from the FCC’s anticipated May 15th release of a new policy around the issue. Although the rules have yet to be officially released, the leaked proposal has piqued widespread concern in the tech community. The proposed rules would allow larger companies to pay a premium for faster internet service, leaving companies who can’t afford to pay in the “slow lane,” crippling their page-load times, and leaving frustrated consumers clicking ‘refresh.’

This policy puts startups at a decided disadvantage. Unable to pony up, startups will be impeded by slower internet speeds than their more established competitors. “We believe a free and open internet is imperative to foster tech entrepreneurship here in NY and in cities across the country,” Pashman said. “Net neutrality levels the playing field. In practice, the current proposal would stifle the development of exciting new technology.”

Meetup started as a startup. If rules like these had stood in our way in our early days, we may never have grown to be 15 million members strong. We believe that a company’s size, age, and financial clout should be irrelevant when it comes to the distribution of information.  That’s why Meetup, alongside 150 other companies, stands for net neutrality.

If you’re passionate about this issue and want to make your voice heard, tell the FCC to stop the slow lane.

Pictured in photo left to right: Ali Kazemi (Associate General Counsel, Tumblr), Liba Rubenstein (Director of Outreach, Tumblr), Jessica Lawrence (Executive Director at NY Tech Meetup), Michal Rosenn (Deputy General Counsel at Kickstarter), David Pashman (General Counsel, Meetup), Julie Wood (Communications, Kickstarter).

Di-Ann Eisnor joins Meetup’s Board


We’re thrilled to welcome Di-Ann Eisnor to Meetup’s Board of Directors. Di-Ann is currently VP Platform & Partnerships for crowd-sourced navigation and real-time traffic start-up, Waze. Di-Ann has a longstanding history with Meetup. She was friends with Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman in 2001, when the idea for Meetup was born. Di-Ann has been attending and organizing Meetups herself since 2004, and thinks Meetup is more important now than ever. “Meetup touches a very basic human need and desire, that’s global, that’s human. People are busier, more distant from one another now, even in the quietest corners of the world. The bringing together of humans around interests is important,” she tells us. “It’s never been a more important time for people to get together with people of like minds.”

Di-Ann believes in the mission of Meetup, and shares our excitement about Meetup’s future. “I think Meetup is poised to have the fastest growth it’s ever had,” she says. “Meetup has not even scratched the surface in terms of it’s potential growth, particularly in a mobile world, in a world where community is standard and expected and people are open to it.”

Prior to Waze, Di-Ann was Co-Founder and CEO of Platial, a widely adopted mobile and online social mapping service funded by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Ram Shriram and others. Di-Ann holds a BS in Studio Art and Business Administration from New York University.