9/11 Baby: Meetup.com - Inspiring Letter from Founder Scott Heiferman
Opening my emails generally provides itself with a few interesting things, new friends and the opportunity to cull my email subscriptions.
When I opened my email this morning, this was all the same and there was an email from Meetup.com with the subject line "9/11 & Us". As the 10 year anniversary of a day that changed the world forever - and mostly in not so good ways - there are a lot of people writing about the event and some not so nice people using it to tie anything to their brand. So I take the 9/11 phrase with a grain of salt. However, in this instance, the subject line wasn't full of marketing slang, trying to trigger my senses into opening and following a call to action, but instead a blunt: 911 & Us.
So I opened the email to see what Meetup.com had to say and I'm glad I did. What was inside was an email from the founder, Scott Heiferman, explaining how his experience living near the towers and of community during 9/11 spurred him to begin Meetup.com. It's inspiring and honest and shows that good things can come from horrible experiences and people do really care about community - on or offline.
I don't write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don't know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.
Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn't matter much if we've got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn't bother me.
When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they'd normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly.
A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet -- and grow local communities?
We didn't know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea -- especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.
A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months after 9/11.
Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it's working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups... a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common -- except one thing.
Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. It's powerful stuff.
It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks to everyone who shows up.
Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren't for 9/11.
9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new community together!!!!
The towers fell, but we rise up. And we're just getting started with these Meetups.
Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ) Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup New York City September 2011