SaaStr Annual Q&A: David Siegel, CEO of Meetup

March 2, 2020

In anticipation of SaaStr Annual this month, we’re publishing Q&A posts with selected SaaStr Annual speakers. Recently, SaaStr’s Jason Lemkin announced that the March conference has been rescheduled, due to the growing escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to Jason, “SaaStr Annual must now be rescheduled and merged with our existing fall event into a new, less formal ‘SaaStr Bi-Annual’ to take place in September 2020.”

We’ll see you in September — and, we’re looking forward to the presentation from David Siegel (details below).

Tell us about yourself?

My name is David Siegel and I’m the CEO of Meetup. I’ve served as CEO for the past year and a half. Meetup is an incredibly special company.

It speaks to my core values around driving connectedness between people. I’m also an adjunct professor at Columbia University where I teach strategic planning and entrepreneurship.

You’ve been touring to meet with Meetup organizers. How’s that going?

There’s nothing more important than meeting with the individuals who represent the lifeblood of our company. We have over 200,000 organizers, representing over 330,000 groups, in 193 countries, who host over 15,000 events every single day.

Those organizers take time out of their day to share their passion with dozens—sometimes hundreds—of other individuals. Their hard work is the backbone of Meetup. Without organizers, there is no Meetup. Meeting with our organizers was motivational. I met people who changed their own lives and the lives of so many others because they became Meetup organizers. We’re going on a tour all around the world: Dublin, Montreal, Austin, California, and New York.

I’m looking forward to meeting organizers in every city.

Note: I met David recently at an organizer event in San Mateo, California:

Tell us what you’ll be speaking about at SaaStr Annual?

Lean Startup book cover

As a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, the bible for my class is a book called The Lean Startup.

The Lean Startup is all about taking a user-driven approach to building a product that can be iterated quickly in order to learn about what’s working and what’s not and replicating it in the future.

Note: David’s SaaStr Annual presentation is titled “10 Key Pillars for Lean Startups with Meetup.”

At Meetup, we have a strong discipline around the Lean Startup methodology. In fact, our Chief Product Officer, Giff Constable, started a 5,000 person Lean Startup Meetup group himself.

Once I found that out, I knew we had to hire him.

I’m going to be talking about how Meetup leverages the lean startup methodology in a variety of different ways. From how we recruit talent, run our business, and focus on influencer marketing.

That and a variety of different ways that other companies and organizations can learn from and adapt a lean startup methodology in their organization as well.

David is one (of many) SaaStr Annual speakers on Twitter. Check out the full list in my related post: SaaStr Annual Speakers: Who’s Most Active on Twitter?

What’s the key to scaling a SaaS business?

A SaaS business is all about making sure you’re a product-market fit. If you have the right product-market fit and you’re providing an incredible service to your clients, then you’re not going to have a high churn.

If you’re able to have recurring revenue and low churn, that is by far the most important component of a successful and growing SaaS business. Too many SaaS businesses focus on acquisition and then they have a leaky bucket and they lose all the people they’re acquiring incredibly quickly.

It’s all about making sure that one’s retention rate is high and that one’s churn is as low as possible. That’s how you can scale a business. If you don’t have that, don’t bother scaling.

What are the metrics you use to assess the health of a SaaS business?

The number one metric is retention rate and having as low churn as possible.

There are some important leading metrics, however, to understand churn. So, what we’ve found at Meetup is that the higher the level of engagement by our organizers, the more our organizers are creating events, and the lower the likelihood of churn.

So at every organization, it’s important to understand what one’s leading metrics are that most impact churn and to focus on those leading metrics. In our case, it’s the number of events that organizers create.

More specifically, it’s how quickly an organizer creates their first event. If an organizer creates an event within a month of becoming an organizer, there’s a 2-3x greater likelihood that they’re going to stay on as a Meetup organizer in the next 2-3 years.

As CEO, what do you look for in an engineering leader (e.g., VP of Engineering)?

Great engineering leaders are hard to find. Thank God we have one here at Meetup. The greatest attribute for an engineering leader is the perfect blend of people skills and technical know-how.

Those aren’t necessarily easy combinations to have. It’s someone who knows how to lead teams and drive a following, but also someone who has respect from a technical standpoint. If you’re only a people manager you’re not going to have the same kind of respect and you’re not going to be able to make the right architecture decisions that are so critical for a VP of Engineering (VPE).

How will SaaS businesses be different in the year 2025?

I think we’re going to see more and more SaaS businesses have a number of different revenue streams in their business.

Traditional SaaS businesses are a recurring subscription business. I think we’re going to see recurring subscription businesses also have potentially ad-supported businesses or ecommerce businesses. There’ll be multiple revenue streams attached to your traditional subscription-only-type Saas business.

Thanks, David. Best wishes with your SaaStr Annual presentation!