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Podcast: Matt Meeker, Founder of & BarkBox-How Barkbox raised $80m from August, RRE Ventures, & Resolute Ventures

In this episode, Matt Meeker @mmeeker) and Mayra Ceja (@MayraCeja007), Host of Venture Unplugged discuss:
  • Why he launched
  • What were the most popular groups on Meetup?
  • Why he launched Barkbox?
  • Where the future of retail is going?
  • What advice he has for founders fundraising?

Matt Meeker is the founder of BarkBox. With Barkbox, he turned a personal passion for dogs into a multi-million dollar business with 450 employees. He has raised over $70 million from VCs like August Capital, RRE Ventures, and Resolute Ventures.

Prior to launching Barkbox, Matt meeker was the-cofounder of

Podcast Digest

What inspired Meetup?

One of the big inspirations at the time was the aftermath of 9/11. Matt and his co-founder, Scott lived in New York, and after 9/11, the city was very different and people had a genuine concern for each other even though they didn’t know each other. There was a lot of looking people in the eye and asking, how are you? It’s New York City, the world capital of brusqueness. New Yorkers don’t even say that to each other now, but back then they would say it and they actually wanted to hear the answer. For Matt, that was a really good feeling. So Matt and Scott thought, how do you make that feeling happen at scale and how do you connect strangers to their neighbors? It’s one thing to be connected by following someone on Twitter and it’s another thing to actually go and sit down and have a conversation with them. That was a spark and it was one idea that they just couldn’t shake. So they kept developing it. About nine months later, Meetup was launched. 

Funniest meetups you had?

Scott used to get in trouble early on for saying this out loud, but he can’t get in trouble anymore. In the early days, Meetup was built on the interests of freaks and geeks. Their original guesses were so off, they thought that the most popular interests would be Yankee baseball, the Beatles, and popular music. They loaded up the platform with that, and the things that took off were witches and Wiccans and vampires and pagans. And he learned what furries were. He also went to a slash dot Meetup, which is a really, really nerdy online tech community.

Biggest challenges of fundraising?m

Matt’s biggest lesson in fundraising is that it’s one thing to get an investor to nod up and down and say, yeah, I’ll invest. And another thing to get them to commit. And another thing to get the check. You can have a day of great meetings, where everybody loved it and then nothing happens. And it’s like, wait a minute. Where’s the money?

When did it turn into a business? 

The tipping point for when it turned into a business was when it took off in a popular way. There was a lot of engagement early on, but mainstream media that would try to beat it down and tell people that the internet is a scary place and it’s dangerous to meet people that you connect to online and you’re going to be killed or your kids are going to be kidnapped. Matt and Scott fought that for the first year or two. The thing that turned it and got the platform a lot of popular exposure was politics.

How did 9 presidential candidates help grow Meetup?

Matt and Scott made an arrangement with a small democratic presidential candidate from Vermont who nobody knew, named Howard Dean. He and his campaign manager, Joe Trippy said, “we want to build the grassroots of this campaign on this platform. And so if you give us the platform to leverage for our campaign, we don’t have any money, we can’t pay you. But what we can do is after every speech we will say, join your local Howard Dean Meetup. And he did. As he did and he became a front runner, that in particular amplified in a major way.” So their campaign and Meetup grew up together, and every other presidential campaign quickly followed because of his success. So it really helped when nine presidential candidates were out there talking about using your platform. It gave Meetup legitimacy and made all those other concerns go away.

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