Inside the Company Culture of Meetup

September 17, 2014

10:30 am

At any given moment, something like 2,000 meetups are going on simultaneously around the world. Meetup has a whopping 18.95 million members who are part of over 170,00 groups in 176 countries.

Managing this flurry of activity are 123 employees, mostly based in Meetup’s New York City headquarters. They also have scattered team members in Philadelphia, Providence, Atlanta, and Berlin.

Is Meetup’s company culture as fun as meetups? We talked to Erin Dertouzos, head of talent and culture, to find out more. Below, she tells us about Meetup’s rituals, perks, and office, from their canine coworkers to their beer fridge and paid sabbaticals.

Tech Cocktail: What are Meetup’s cultural values?

Erin Dertouzos: In addition to the importance of face-to-face, we have a strong company ethos that we refer to internally as DIO, or Do It Ourselves. You can read more about our DIO philosophy over here, but the short version is: we believe in the power of community, and think that people, self-organized, can do just about anything. We have a big DIO sign on the wall of our office, and refer to our team’s after-hours bar hangouts as DIOs. Hanging around the office, you’ll no doubt overhear people talking about “DIOing” this or that – it’s a big part of what we’re all about.

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Tech Cocktail: What’s the orientation process for new employees?

Erin Dertouzos: When new folks start at Meetup, we pair them up with a buddy so they’ve got a friendly face looking out for them right off the bat. If they’re a new engineer, we partner them with a member of our community team, and if they’re a new community member, we pair them up with an engineer. Folks who aren’t on community or engineering get buddies from both teams so they’re fully in the loop and have resources for understanding how things work. Buddies help bring newbies up to speed, and give them a window into the work of other teams. They also take them out to a series of lunches over their first few months in the office.

Speaking of lunch, new team members also participate in our Lunch ‘n Learn program. Lunch ‘n Learn is a series of weekly lunches that new hires attend with each member of Meetup’s Lead Team, to discuss their role in the company and how things work. 

The most exciting part of orientation is probably the Meetup crawl. Once every few months, a group of new hires heads out after work accompanied by our CEO, Scott Heiferman. Together, they swing by a number of local NYC Meetups. This allows new team members to experience the Meetup phenomenon firsthand – to see how Meetup is making a difference in the lives of real people each and every day. After the crawl, the group goes out to dinner with Scott to discuss the experience. 

Tech Cocktail: What perks do you have for employees at the office?

Erin Dertouzos: We believe that our employees should be well nourished! We have a fully stocked beverage fridge that encompasses virtually everybody’s taste – from Hint water to fresh juice to any soda you desire. We also have a beer and wine fridge, which our employees enjoy after work, either in our company kitchen or on the roof deck atop our office building in SoHo. Beyond that, our kitchen is fully stocked with fresh fruit, and we have a snack cart parked by the kitchen with healthy noshing options like nuts, pita chips, and dried fruit. When only chocolate will do, our beloved candy jar can be found atop the front desk.

In addition to snacking, we’re big fans of breakfast – we have a whole cupboard devoted to cereal, that stays stocked all week long. On Tuesday mornings we have a special breakfast: bagels, fresh waffles, or assorted pastries, depending on the week. Each week, we also host an all-company lunch called Eatup. This is an informal lunch that lets people catch up with people across departments. 

We also offer a very comfortable environment – our space is filled with “living room” set-ups filled with couches and cozy chairs, where people can feel free to work away from their desks. Our employees are encouraged to bring their dogs to work so the office is filled with friendly furry faces. Finally, we’ve got fun after-work activities on hand, including a pool table, ping pong table, and video games. People have been known to stay late for heated guitar hero competitions.  

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Tech Cocktail: Where do employees eat breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner?

Erin Dertouzos: We offer snacks, and a weekly lunch, which our employees enjoy at our Meetup-red picnic tables in our kitchen. Some folks bring their own lunches, but the blocks surrounding our office are jam-packed with awesome lunch options. Lots of people opt to grab lunch outside the office, but almost everyone brings their grub back to HQ to eat together. 

Tech Cocktail: Do you offer any interesting benefits?

Erin Dertouzos: After seven years at Meetup, we offer our employees a three-month, paid sabbatical (I’ll be taking mine in just a few months!). This allows our employees to enjoy a well-deserved break, returning to the office refreshed, energized, and with a new perspective, which is a “win/win” for the employee and for Meetup

We also offer matching 401(K) contributions, monthly massages, summer Fridays, and fitness and smartphone reimbursements. 

Tech Cocktail: What unconventional things might someone see while walking through your office?

Erin Dertouzos: We have dogs – lots of them! They’re all very cute and friendly. Our conference rooms are also themed so that they represent various Meetups. Examples include a dog-themed room (of course), a motorcycle-themed room, and a hiking-themed room. Our office is also filled with mounted scrolling timelines of all of the Meetup activity happening across our platform at any given time. It’s fascinating to spend even just a few moments observing this activity timeline – people are engaging with Meetup, joining and starting groups, and RSVP-ing to events every second of every day. This is a constant reminder of why we’re all here and offers a connection to what’s going on in the community. 

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Tech Cocktail: Do you have any lunchtime or after-hours events for employees?

Erin Dertouzos: We do. As I mentioned, we sponsor a weekly Eatup, where our employees enjoy a catered lunch in the office. We also have lots of internal Meetups where we organize after-work activities. These include the Meetballers, our softball team; Casual Cheese, a Meetup for office cheese lovers; and Dancing at Meetup, where we teach ourselves the moves to our favorite music videos, among many others. Every Thursday during the summer, we also host a barbeque on our roof deck. 

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Tech Cocktail: How do you celebrate birthdays or holidays?

Erin Dertouzos: Once a month, we have a celebration where we acknowledge the birthdays of the month in addition to any Meetup anniversaries. When folks have been here for a year, they receive a coffee mug with their face on it (which people drink their coffee out of every morning). At two years, they receive a red Swingline stapler engraved with their names. And at six years, employees enjoy a humorous photo slideshow set to music, celebrating their time at Meetup. Seven years, as we mentioned, equals sabbatical. Every year there’s also a birthday present (this year’s is a Meetup water bottle) that all employees receive. Our monthly celebrations always involve champagne as well as snacks. 

As for holidays, we have three big blowouts: our Halloween party (we take dressing up seriously), our winter holiday party, and our summer cook-it-ourselves picnic (which involves a Top Chef-style competition, complete with judges and prizes). We also celebrate smaller holidays with parties in the office – who can pass up a frozen margarita machine for Cinco de Mayo, or a king cake for Mardi Gras?

Tech Cocktail: Any other interesting aspects of your culture?

Erin Dertouzos: One of the best parts of being with a company like Meetup is that we’re here for the mission and not for our egos. There’s a lot of open, healthy debate, and our Leadership Team is open and accessible. I can’t think of many companies where the CEO will regularly take folks out to lunch to get their perspective or host meetings where employees can ask them anything. Our HR team is here for the people and culture, not for policy and policing. There’s a company-wide beaming smile when we hear of a successful Meetup and well…*that’s* why we’re all in it for the long haul. 

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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