Going to start with a heavy assumption that a lot of people reading this have at some point… visited meetup.com or maybe Eventbrite? You may even have ventured into the world of Facebook Events (that’s unfortunate really, isn’t it?). Your visits to these sites reveal that at some stage you’ve wanted to join in with your local community at a networking event.
Meetup alone is used by 25,0000 communities - the demand is there.
A change is afoot
A couple of months ago, Meetup decided to take a huge step and lay out plans to leave the free market - quite literally. Meetup wanted to monetise these events. Attendees would have to pay even to RSVP. Now, I don’t really tend to follow companies’ business movements but with this one it was impossible not to. Twitter exploded, Slack channels imploded and the office water cooler started to boil . Nobody could understand why Meetup would want to do this, other than to get more money and to splinter the communities built on the site.
Revolution starts in Norwich
So in comes Alex Morris, with his 1-minute 2019 Sync The City pitch that hit the hearts (and brains) of pretty much everyone in that hall. An anti-meetup. A tool to build communities and put their needs first, not the needs of the business humans up in their fancy offices with hungry wallets.
Max Elkins, Kev Sturman, Harry Muter, Ilona Utting, Oliver Vince and I joined Alex to try and get that idea built and ready for the Sync The City deadline (lots of coffee and lots of fresh air breaks got us through those days). Couldn’t mention the team and not thank Tom Haczewski for being our mentor, it was tough as a lot of teams wanted his expertise but we managed to get really useful and essential pointers from him throughout the exercise.
Firstly, I’d just like to say how incredibly lucky we were to end up with our team - every single individual was so dedicated and ready to go all in with the idea. We all got on, and it was so much fun to spend 16 or so hours with them in the big hall at Open working away. Let's not talk about the really cold air con shall we?
A new business model
fumu won’t ever charge attendees, it just doesn’t make sense to us. Why would you charge someone to click RSVP? Surely that’s not the best way to encourage attendance? We went down another route, - a non-charging of attendees route. Superior? We’d say so. We’d be charging other groups and during Sync The City we had confirmation from local businesses and local groups that they’d sign up to this with the prices that Ilona and Alex had built into our business plan. A great start!
Kev and Harry got to work on the backend dev. work, I was genuinely surprised at how much they managed to get done in the time - it blew my mind! So many amazing features have already been built, and our next focus is to define an MVP and then future roadmap so we can be efficient with our development time and make sure we’re building things that users actually want and need. We need to build the product to solve problems, not just to be feature rich. For example, fumu will provide insight into attendees attendance records, a regular headache for organisers. Fifty people have signed up to come along to an event, you’ve booked a hall on the strength of this - only five turn up. fumu will help you assess whether you can hit the bubbly or not.
After Max, Oliver & I had done some ideation, Max (our design whizz) got to work digitising it and making sure it looked as smart as possible. Oliver then worked away on the front end dev work to stitch it all together.
We want to take it forward, we know it’s necessary and, we’ve had so many people come up to us and say it’s gotta be done. A few of us have committed more hours than others which we are totally happy with because it then works for everyone. We still have support from the team. The main issue we have is time.
We’re all very busy humans, we’re all working (or studying) and the majority of us have hobbies outside of that too. For example, I work full time, train about 7/8 times a week for rowing and like to go to events arranged by groups such as UX Therapy, RollUp, Hot Source and Sync Norwich. My schedule is a bit messy, so trying to get that availability sorted is a bit of a struggle.
Looking to the future
Now that the Christmas period has left us behind and we’re in cold, windy winter, we can try and get things pinned down. Thankfully, everyone in the Norwich tech community is incredibly helpful and I’ve spoken to so many who were willing to give great advice. We’re hoping to start some formative research in the next few months and I know for a fact that many people would happily volunteer for that (thanks!). Even during Sync The City we had some really useful research done and insights were gathered from so many people (thanks: Joe Glover, Paul Grenyer, Philip Watson, Rich Saunders, Mark Williams-Cook, Alex Scotton & Tom Haczewski who all gave their thoughts and opinions readily when asked!).
We may not have won the event, but I can tell you now that we all learnt a lot, had a great time and are determined to make it happen. Formative research can then fuel our design and development - we’re ready to get this done!
This article was originally published in the nor(DEV): Magazine 2020, grab your copy below:
February 2020 Conference Edition
Featuring; Interviews with the Ladies Hacking Society of Norwich. Articles on Train Wreck, Ramblings on Micro services, Tom's Top Tips for 2020, & What is design?Download PDF