eBay and a group of other investors (Omidyar Network, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Esther Dyson, Allen & Company, and Senator Bill Bradley) have bought a 10 percent stake in MeetUp.com for an undisclosed sum. The company, which helps facilitate real life — as opposed to online — meetings between affinity group members, says it’ll use the dough to fuel growth.
While MeetUp.com operates on a subscription model, the site runs Google AdSense ads, and one could imagine it being an excellent venue for channeling affinity group-specific eBay products (or offers from Shopping.com merchants) to users. They’d have to be very careful about user experience, though, because some of these folks are paying. Also, anything that succeeds based solely on the quality of the community needs to be handled very carefully. Another possible angle for eBay is building more real-life community for its members. (The company says the Dallas eBay Sellers MeetUp is currently the most active eBay-related group.)
As with its Craigslist investment, eBay will likely rationalize the deal as a way to to watch and learn from MeetUp.com, and incorporate lessons about community-formation and -building into its other businesses.
As an aside, MeetUp founder and CEO Scott Heiferman was also founder and head of early online media buying company iTraffic, which was later purchased by Agency.com.