Meetup Fee

Newsweek just posted an interview with Meetup founder and CEO Scott Heiferman titled See You Offline.

When we interviewed Scott exactly 11 months ago tomorrow, he had just started charging a fee to use Meetup. At the end of the interview I told Scott I'd be attending the Podcaster Meetup the next day. Scott said "maybe I'll pop in" and he did. Podcasters like to talk so much that Scott never got to identify who he was. Scott sat there listening intently as a couple people complained about the Meetup fees without knowing the Meetup CEO was in the room. Talk about direct customer feedback.

Despite any past gripes, the Podcaster Meetup is still going strong and the last meeting was one of the largest yet. Newsweek asked Scott about his revenue transition:

LEVY: A year ago you changed from free service to one that charged your Meetup groups a fee. What was the impact?
HEIFERMAN: We almost instantly lost half our activity when we started the fee. That was pretty damn painful. Most of last year we sort of crawled up, but this year we've just exploded. Now there are more people than ever RSVP'ing for meetups. Also, after each meeting we religiously poll members and ask them to rate it on a scale from 1 to 5. Before there was a fee, the average rating was 3.8. After the fee, the average rating is a 4.2.

The difficulty of creating fee based services seems to be a common issue with many of the entrepreneurs we interview. We'll be sure to find out more when Scott speaks at the Venture Voice Startup Workshop.

Not-So-Well-Balanced Entrepreneur

One of the common themes we notice in the people we interview is that they don't lead very well-balanced lives. We recently received an e-mail from a past guest saying "I am working 100+ hours a week again." Unfortunately this symptom isn't alien to us either. So we were excited to read Inc Magazine's proposed solution: hiring a life coach.

Think spending $400 to $1,200 per month on a coach (the amount Inc cites from the International Coach Federation) would decrease or increase your stress?

It's an interesting topic. We're going to try to find a well-balanced entrepreneur (if such a thing exists) to interview, and hear how it's done.

How to Build a Business on Amazon’s Back

I never thought of Amazon as a friend of entrepreneurs. Several years ago I remember a friend of mine who self-published an entrepreneurial handbook for teens telling me that authors had to give up too many rights to list a book themselves on Amazon. They do have the Associates program that lets website operators make money by linking to Amazon products (which I use, more for tracking than for income), but that's old news and doesn't generate serious money for many anymore. Amazon enables entrepreneurs to sell over Amazon, but eBay clearly dominates that enterprise. Slashdot even posted an entry titled Google's Love For Small Businesses that points to a Cringely article, but both don't even mention Amazon.

If you look closely at Amazon's portfolio of services, you'll see they now produce some extremely disruptive tools that they've opened up to any entrepreneur with the vision to use them. Here's your Amazon arsenal:

VV Show #33 – Announcing the Venture Voice Startup Workshop

Download the MP3.

Venture Voice has been illuminating entrepreneurship through the podcast for just short of a year. Now, at the Venture Voice Startup Workshop on June 26 in New York, you can interact with top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to find out how to start and grow innovative businesses. Venture Voice, a podcast known for asking the hard questions about entrepreneurship, brings together highly successful speakers who’ve gotten their hands dirty growing businesses. This full-day event will be intense. Participants will leave with tactical knowledge about growing a business and with the inspiration to do so.

Tune in to this podcast to hear audio clips from some of the people who will be speaking at the workshop.

Asking the Hard Questions

I really enjoy hearing from listeners. The best comments are the ones that challenge us and make us think about how we run the show. Andrew Cheung recently sent one in using our nifty contact form and selected the "You may quote me on this" option, so I'm going to share his comment and respond to it here.


For some reason we just can't help covering the blog search wars. Our first run in with the fledgeling industry was our interview with Scott Rafer, the then-CEO of the then-rocking Feedster. A couple months after that he left the company along with one of its co-founders, Scott Johnson. We interviewed Scott J. about his new company Ookles, but also got to hear his analysis of what happened in his battle for blog search domination: “Dave’s wicked smart.” Referring to Dave Sifry, the CEO of Technorati, who we just interviewed. Keep in mind Dave's also faced competition already from Google Blog Search and Mark Cuban's IceRocket.

VV Show #32 – David Sifry of Technorati

Download the MP3.

Dave Sifry

Starting a service aimed at the blogging community is like jumping into a pressure cooker – all of the users are critics and have bullhorns. Good thing David Sifry, the founder of Technorati, has a thick skin he’s built after founding four businesses. He’s not one to go on the defensive. Dave, a first time CEO after serving as CTO at his prior ventures, simply wants to “be of service.” Technorati is now of service to many people. It tracks 2.3 billion links and is, in its own words, “the authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs.”

Show notes: