In early 2009, I came across a new trend on the social web that immediately resonated with me. Local communities used a new platform called Meetup (www.meetup.com) to organize offline events. Although the video Meetup used back then to showcase the service is a bit weird, in fact it reminds me of old MTV days, it brings the message across pretty well.
“Back then” people felt, the Internet became more of a separator than a unifier and the picture of us sitting in a dark room in front of computer screens while socially interacting through networks and short messages seemed to be somewhat the unpleasant but inevitable future.
But Meetup saw it the other way round, why not using the Internet as a mean of connecting with like minded people and then take this relationship into the real world. Remember, in those days buzz words like “local” or “hyper local” which are big topics and business today were not on the radar even. No Groupon, no Living Social, Facebook Deals or whatsoever. Another video made by one of my favorite creators Lee LeFever in June 2008 explains the concept in more detail.
Of course, Meetup has a very broad approach as it is a platform for anyone who wants to set up a local Meetup on basically any topic. That said, there has been a lot of learning / teaching centered activity going on using the platform from day one.
The second startup in this space and one of my personal favorites is TeachStreet (www.teachstreet.com). Founded in 2007 by Dave Schappell because he could not find a local driving school to learn how to ride his scooter, TeachStreet is an online marketplace that wants to connect local teachers, tutors and schools with students. The premise is to offer high quality results for students and hence high quality leads for teachers as the alternatives of searching for a local teacher are simply too broad and often don’t come up with the best result. As a targeted service for life long learning, TeachStreet aims to cut out the noise and focuses on delivering relevant results. In its latest addition to the service, students are now able to post a request for a class and teacher / tutors can contact those students directly. Although TeachStreet also offers the possibility to search for online lessons, the focus is clearly on getting people to visit “real life” classes. The same is of course true for similar services like School of Everything (www.schoolofeverything.com) in Europe and TeachStreet’s Australian partner doMore (www.domore.com.au).
The latest addition to this trend is a start-up called Skillshare www.skillshare.com and it comes full circle with the initial idea of Meetup. Whereas TeachStreet and the other marketplaces aim to connect students with professional teachers, classes on Skillshare are taught by “people like you and me”. In the light of discussions about the value of a college degree, DIY University and the power of grassroots movements in today’s society, this seems to be a very interesting approach to me. To end this post to where it had started, I leave you with the line I especially like in the video “No webcams, no downloads just real classes.”.
Photo by: Meetup