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.