Why WeWork Is Buying Meetup

WeWork in Washington, DC

WeWork has acquired app-based community gatherings and events promoter Meetup as the co-working space renter is racing to open and expand its global presence.

With the 235 offices across 54 global cities — 23 of which are in the U.S. — WeWork will look to Meetup to ensure that its locations become the center for startups and communities they hope to deepen its ties with.

The deal, details of which remain undisclosed, comes at pivotal times for both companies as they seek to consolidate and build on their respective growth. Meetup, which launched in 2002, has as its motto: “Bring people together IRL to create real community for everyone.”

While it first gained noticed among supporters of Howard Dean’s Democratic Party campaign in 2004 by aligning traditional grassroots organizing with “netroots” online associations, individuals and brands of all stripes have sought to use Meetup as a way to intersect digital and physical connections.

A WeWork office in Philadelphia

In a Medium post announcing its acquisition by WeWork, Meetup touts its 15,000-plus daily gatherings in over 100 countries : “ mostly weeknights and weekends; WeWork is 10 million square feet of space in 17 countries (and growing) — mostly occupied on weekdays.”

In a sense, the arrangement codifies an existing symbiotic relationship between the two brands. This year alone, 100,000 people have attended Meetups at beautiful WeWork spaces, Meetup says  — that’s a lot of RSVPs and related data that Meetup contains.

As WeWork concludes its seventh year, which started with a $4.4 billion investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the company needs to balance its startup identity — after all, those are who its primary clients are — with the imperative to rapidly expand into new cities, new neighborhoods.

Over the summer, WeWork tapped geo-data specialist Factual’s umbrella product, Global Places, which gathers data covering over 130 million local businesses and points of interest across 52 countries, help it select potential office locations that would meet the needs of the workers and companies it hopes to attract.

“Our real estate team surfaces myriad potential locations for our workspaces,” says Aaron Fritsch, head of product systems and operations at WeWork, told us last month. “Every space and location has potential but this also means we need to evaluate each lease and consider each location carefully.”

Some of the amenities WeWork was looking for included high-traffic places such as coffee shops and fitness centers, as well as areas with active nightlife — in other words, locations that office workers might want to take advantage of outside of work during the daytime and after business hours.

Considering that Meetup boasts an estimated 35 million global subscribers, being able to connect the right amenities and locations to those members’ groups, WeWork is likely to be using the information from those users to help plot out its next office locations as well.

In turn, awareness of those locations should spur attention from the local businesses that are also looking to attract the same workers WeWork and Meetup are aiming for as well.