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From left, Scott Lacey, 43, and Brent Bauman, 39, joke as Lori Spurgeon, 36, laughs next to Ann-Marie Neufeld, 48, during a meetup meeting between over-30-singles in Cambridge, Ont. on Monday March 19, 2007. Bauman wanted to meet people for coffee or fun nights out. But where? He found the answer on

Mathew McCarthy/CP PHOTO/Waterloo region record

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz. Download our app here.

When event-planning site Meetup went from free to fee, some – wrongly, it turns out  – expected the worst

When Meetup began charging users for access to its popular online event-planning service in 2005, user activity fell 95 per cent. The service went from having 2,400 events created each week, to just 2000 new events a month.

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But Meetup's co-founder, Scott Heiferman, didn't despair. In a new video on,  he describes his startup's rough transition from a free to a paid service – a period, he says, that critics described as "a text-book, classic case of startup suicide."

The company ignored the critics, and despite doubts, has only continued to grow. Meetup now boasts 340,000 meetings each month and 11.1 million users, and generated $12-million (U.S.) in revenue last year. Not bad for a startup some wrote off.

The advertising cost of ignoring Facebook

Not all advertisers are hoping to turn Facebook users into paying customers. For some brands, it's good enough that people just know they exist.

That's the approach Nissan is taking with its latest social media advertising campaign, which places an increased focus on platforms such as Facebook, at a time when other companies are pulling out.

Erich Marx, Nissan's director of interactive and social media marketing, told Advertising Age that advertising on Facbeook isn't necesarily about getting a return on investment (ROI), it's about the cost of ignoring (COI). "It's not about tying a Facebook sale to a car sale,"   Mr. Marx told Advertising Age. "The expectation of owners and fans of being able to interact with the brand is set in stone."

The move comes at a time when businesses are less sure of the benefits of social media advertising campaigns – an especially troubling question for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs that  lack the vast financial and talent resources to take a chance on elaborate Facebook or Twitter campaigns.

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For example, General Motors Corp. made headlines in May after announcing its plans to cease Facebook advertising, noting that its advertising strategy with the social networking giant had yet to pay off. Meanwhile, a Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier this month found that four out of five Facebook users have never bought a product or service because of ads displayed on the site.

But Nissan is betting that market share isn't everything, with the hope that social media mindshare is just as key.

Writing community Wattpad attracts Atwood

If you run an online community for creative writers, few endorsements are better than one from author Margaret Atwood.

The award-winning writer announced yesterday that she is joining Wattpad, an online community for readers and storytellers. The Toronto-based startup boasts over nine million users who contribute stories and poems in myriad genres, 70 per cent of which access the site through Wattpad's Android and iOS mobile apps.

Founder and chief executive Allen Lau said the community was "thrilled" to have Atwood join the site, and expressed excitement at the chance for "a young aspiring poet to interact with Margaret Atwood." The site already hosts over five million user-created stories, and Ms. Atwood will begin sharing a new collection of serialized poems with the community soon.

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Discussing the Dragon's Den

For those in Vancouver's west end, four local entrepreneurs who recently pitched ideas on the CBC reality show Dragon's Den will discuss their experience on the program and offer advice on how others can craft successful pitches of their own. The event isn't until July 31, but those who register before July 15 can purchase tickets for an earlybird price of $10 each.

Social media mixer

At the other end of the country, social CRM provider Jugnoo will be holding a Social Mix at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto on July 26. Speakers include author and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk, and Globe Technology contributer Amber Mac. Earlybird tickets can be purchased at a discounted price of $150 off until July 1.


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Protect your business with key-person insurance

If you own and operate a small business, there are some things you just can't predict – say, for example, what would happen if you were suddenly unable to perform your responsibilities. In the event of injury or extraordinary circumstances, a key-person insurance policy would provide funds to your business to give it time to react in your absence. But is such a policy right for you?


Connecting with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors might seem simple these days, with no shortage of Tweetups, startup weekends and social media mixers for interested parties to attend. But in 2000, right around the time the dot-com bubble burst, mixing Internet entrepreneurs with bankers, lawyers, consultants in nightclubs and sponsored gatherings was a practice only just taking off.

Got a tip on news, events or other timely information related to the small-business community? E-mail us at

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues:

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Our free weekly newsletter is now available. Every Friday a team of editors selects the top picks from our blog posts, features, multimedia and columnists, and delivers them to your inbox. If you have registered for The Globe's website, you can sign up here. Click on the Small Business Briefing checkbox and hit 'save changes.' If you need to register for the site, click here.

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