Last week Dave Payne put on LinkedIn a list of “25 hyperlocal startup ideas” generated from ChatGPT. The overall list was a fun thought-exercise as discovering new markets to start companies is extremely difficult. One of the ideas on the list sparked this post.
#17 on the list is: An app for organizing and participating in local book clubs or discussion groups.
We speak on this topic with fervid enthusiasm at Atlanta Ventures, often.
It’s true, several services ranging from Slack channels, old-school forums, Reddit channels, Eventbrites, etc. help achieve #17 of ChatGPT’s recommendation.
Immediately I thought of what we use today at Atlanta Ventures to organize discussion groups which is Meetup. Between Atlanta Startup Convos run by Jacey Cadet and Atlanta Healthcare Entrepreneur Meetup run by A.T. Gimbel, we have over 5100 people who have joined those “discussion groups.” Also, Atlanta Startup Village with over 15,000 members is held each month in the Atlanta Tech Village. From our nomenclature it’s clear we like startups, Atlanta, and villages. All of these Meetups have a few common components. They are local. They are time sensitive. They have a start and stop date and time. Traditionally they’ve been in person. Just a few characteristics that make them different from a free standing forum.
Since Covid, we’ve organized them remotely which has worked out well with approximately 100 folks registering and about half that number attending in real-time versus watching the recorded version afterwards.
Several aspects of Meetups are valuable. First, when you start a Meetup and if there is a sincere general interest in the topic, people will find you. We see this with all three of our Meetups. Meetup does a masterful job of helping a curious local discover a Meetup. Second, the mechanism Meetup puts in place to help you “market your group” while you sleep is largely why the company is still relevant today. This is done through a combination of SEO and in app recommendations. Lastly, Meetup automates much of the heavy lifting to manually organize in-person groups. They send emails and reminders notifying members of the next meeting. Controls are in place to make some groups private, public, or semi-private and much more.
With all of the praise and accolades around Meetup, there is still a massive, open, white space of organizing people and interests. For example, the state of Georgia just went through a tumultuous and severely passionate Senate race, however if you search for any groups or events around the candidates or parties, there is little to nothing. Even the “book club” groups and events seem to have less energy and options than one would assume for a metro population of 6 million. Meetup today is a global network of 55m people and a great way to start an interest group in a local area, connect with like minded folks, and have the mechanism in place to take the heavy-lifting out of organizing, but it’s missing a pulse. There is rarely a sense of wonder or exploration I feel when searching on the application. Today was the first time in years I joined a private Meetup which happened to be a book club. I hope to get accepted and meet new people who like literature, but I know there are hundreds if not thousands of people in Atlanta who would enjoy connecting on that topic and Meetup is not the platform filling that void today.
Where is the app that extends organically from the local organizing you’re already doing today using group text threads, email chains, and paperless posts for book clubs, dinners, wine clubs, fundraisers, and general community organizing in the public and private segments of your life? This app would help the book club organizer or grass roots campaigner, all the way up to the corporate user looking to organize their company's most ardent fans.
Meetup is a 20 year old company that has been through an adventurous journey of being acquired then divested and bought by private equity – which requires a playbook to run for a 2-5x return.
Back to Dave Payne, ChatGPT, and Neighborhood Studios, for sparking this post.
There is an ideal opportunity to create a Meetup 2.0 that leverages the learnings and mechanisms of the past into an even more hyperlocal, relevant, and culture defining platform of today!