Reaping Success Through Stranger ‘Meetups’ –

As a tech-focused introvert who once believed virtual connections would trump face-to-face, Internet entrepreneur Scott Heiferman seemed least likely to start a company that encourages people to meet strangers. But in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mr. Heiferman realized he spoke to more neighbors in New York than he had in years. Suddenly Mr. Heiferman, who had successfully launched and sold online ad firm iTraffic during the bubble years, became obsessed with creating an easy way for people to meet up locally about their passions, concerns and anything in between. Mr. Heiferman corralled four partners in his quest, and Meetup Inc., was born in June 2002. Today, the profitable New York company boasts more than eight million members in 100 countries, where 50,000 Meetups are scheduled each week. Backed by $18 million in venture capital, Meetup has 77 employees and $12 million in annual revenue. Mr. Heiferman continues to serve as chief executive.

Edited interview excerpts with Mr. Heiferman, 38 years old, follow