Unlike social media companies that get people to interact online, 8-year-old Meetup Inc. helps people connect face-to-face. Crain's caught Meetup's co-founder and chief financial officer, Brendan McGovern, 37, at a recent venture capital conference.
What's the New York tech scene like right now?
It's a fantastically exciting time to be a tech company here. For a long time, the scene was West Coast-based, and the only tech companies in New York were media- or advertising-related. But in the past few years, there's been an explosion of successful New York companies—like Foursquare, Gilt Groupe and Etsy.
What does that mean for Meetup?
Most of the talented engineers used to be drawn to the West Coast, which made it hard to recruit and hire people in New York. Now, there's a second center of gravity in the tech world. But it also means that there's real competition for talent here. We fight with Foursquare and Google for software engineers.
How does Meetup compete with the slew of hot startups?
You can't continue to compare yourself to what the current hot thing is—that will drive you insane. You need to keep your head down and focus on your business. We're constantly changing, taking cues and leads from our members about how they're using the service, and what direction we should take to attract more people and to keep existing users engaged.
How many people use Meetup?
More than 9 million have signed up for Meetups. There are 80,000 active Meetup groups and 200,000 events a month worldwide.
Are you profitable?
We had our fifth straight period of profitability in the third quarter of 2010 [the last data available]. We're on a subscription model: About 85% of our revenues come from dues, which are the monthly fees [about $15] that organizers pay to maintain a group page on the site. A year and a half ago, we started a sponsorship program, where companies can sponsor a group based on its interest, and revenue from that is growing. But we don't sell our users' data or use it to attract advertising.
What do you think about Goldman Sachs' Facebook investment?
It shines a light on the rise of the secondary market. In the first tech wave, the entrepreneur's dream stamp of approval was to go public. The IPO window has been shut for a long time. This demonstrates that another path to liquidity exists beyond being acquired or going public, and that's a new phenomenon.