News broke on Monday that WeWork acquired MeetUp. The biggest office space developer with a drive to build communities just added to their portfolio the niched, but established platform of bringing people together around their passions.
First, let’s create a little context. WeWork is a community company that operates a global network of spaces to help people connect, collaborate and do what they love. They currently boast 150,000 members across 171 locations in 18 countries. This summer, they’ve raised another $4.4 billion from SoftBank and continue their growth.
They’ve been working hard to prove their $20 billion worth and become more than a glorified office spaces network. They’ve invested in The Wing, a coworking network for women, started a coding bootcamp and even an entrepreneurship-focused elementary school near their New York headquarters. Their driving mission is to create spaces where people work to make a life, not just a living, and up to this point, they’ve been crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s.
Meanwhile, MeetUp has embraced their status as a niche company, offering a platform through which their 32.3 million members from 182 countries can meet and organise around their passions offline. Or, to be fair, it had embraced it. Now they’ve taken the jump and become part of WeWork. To put it in their own words:
“To better realise our mission of bringing people together IRL, Meetup will become part of WeWork. […] When we started Meetup, we didn’t know how many members and organisers would take this journey with us (something that has humbled and inspired us every day along the way). We certainly didn’t imagine joining forces with one of the fastest growing companies in the world. And we had no way of predicting how badly the world would need Meetup in 2017. It’s our time.”
Take a moment to appreciate that. In a world where every app and every platform strives for most of our attention and the most time spent using their app, two established businesses come together to get people off their couches, out of their social bubbles and together in real life, in friendly spaces. Look at the way the world is polarised today, look at the research that says that people talking face-to-face are more likely to recognise each other’s humanity than when they are messaging at each other online, and you can see the importance of bringing people together in real life.
Moreso, we already know there is more to bringing people together. Diversity is the key towards innovation and progress. Regina Dugan, VP of engineering at Facebook, calls cognitive diversity the ultimate goal and underlines how it is correlated with identity diversity. “You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are”, she says.
Spaces bringing people together have always been incubators for startups. WeWork is scaling the concept and getting on-board MeetUp, therefore creating the recipe for a large and diverse community. Should we hope to see more non-technical entrepreneurs flourishing from their spaces? We already know people become more innovative when they are exposed to diverse business fields and are inspired to connect dots across disciplines.
Cynics say WeWork is bound to become a closed ecosystem, an adult daycare where all your needs are catered to; where the more time you spend in their spaces, the more you create value for their company. And here, too, is a grain of truth. But at the end of the day, the potential is there for both outcomes. What matters is how people make the place, and it is in human nature to build connections and to advance. All the more reason for everyone to add their voice to the conversation.
There has never been a better time to start turning your ideas into reality. There has never been a time where it was easier to test ideas and validate them. Despite the daily grind, we should all appreciate this. And what better way is there to make the most of the opportunities in front of us than to get out there? To have the confidence to share your insights, and start building something meaningful. You may set out to build an app business where you focus on providing value to your users, but you might just as well catch the eyes of a giant with a larger vision.
Doesn’t every entrepreneur dream of that, in the quiet moments of their journey? They are doing everything they can to give themselves the chance to become a part of something bigger than themselves. You should too.