Seasoned community managers will be aware that when a social media firm decides to make an acquisition, it’s starting to lay with innovation. And that appears to be behind the decision by Meetup, the New York based-online platform that helps convert virtual social communities into real world get-togethers, to bag its New York neighbor, Dispatch, which offers an e‑mail collaboration tool to ease project management tasks. The move is Meetup’s first acquisition since its launch in 2002.
A specialist in collaborative communication
Since its launch in 2011, Dispatch has switched its original focus from creating an online workspace to helping teams collaborate through the cloud on work projects by linking Evernote, Box, Google Docs and Dropbox. Despite the clever idea, the model wasn’t gaining enough traction, so the firm switched emphasis this summer to enhancing email collaboration instead (co-founder Jesse Lamb had discovered that people were reverting to email after falling off the original Dispatch platform).
So why, the inquiring community manager will be asking, has Meetup decided to bring Dispatch into the fold? It’s already got 14.4 million members and is on course to add another 5 million by the end of the year, it’s arranging up to 20,000 real world meetups per day, and it’s been profitable for three years (its $15-a-month subscription business translates into a $20 million yearly run rate). Things appear to be going swimmingly, and most jobbing community managers would be delighted with success like this.
A serendipitous meeting
But canny businesses can’t afford to stand still in a dynamically evolving environment. Meetup’s CEO, Scott Heiferman, says that he was aware that the firm’s communication technology was in need of a refresh. As he puts it, “The technology is stuck in 1997 – basic mailing lists, basic message boards and basic commenting.”
And just as he was thinking about tackling the problem, he bumped into Dispatch co-founder Alex Godin (who was just 17 when the startup was launched) in an elevator, of all places. Both were attending the Personal Democracy Forum event. When Godin told him about what Dispatch had built, Heiferman realized it could seriously help improve Meetup’s communications.
The integrations with Dispatch’s technology will be live by Q1 2014, and will make it easier for Meetup’s groups to communicate by mobile and online.