IVY, founded in 2013, has grown rapidly over the past four years. Having joined myself in the summer of 2015, I became increasingly curious about their growth model.

Here you have a for-profit model that brings members together across all categories of life - food, music, politics, business, art, fitness, travel, entertainment, and more. When looking at their business model, you see a social network but, as the millennials say, "in real life (IRL)".

How does IVY manage to bring together people on a monthly subscription fee to be a small part of a community when leading online social networks are free of charge? I needed to dig to the root to learn more. I had a Q&A with one of the founding partners, Beri Meric.

They call themselves a 'social university' and here is why.

Beri Meric and his long time friend, Philipp Triebel, were initially inspired to start IVY from a desire to continue the community feeling at a university into adulthood. Beri says,

"We wanted to bring people together using the best aspects of American universities. We want to breakdown artificial walls between fields and so we look at IVY as a community rather than a business."

IVY provides its members with more than just an online directory of connections, as most social networks do. IVY focuses in on depth and connection. Once you pay a lifetime initiation fee, you have the option of being a prime member for $80 a month or a virtual member with IVY App access for no monthly cost. Beri explains,

"We are wired to crave depth. Society is advancing but often depth is lost."

Beri discloses that IVY's revenues have doubled every year over the past four years. They started with one event a month in New York, today they hold more than 50 events a month across the country. IVY is present in 7 cities including, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C, Boston and Miami. They plan to expand to over 50 cities worldwide. Today IVY has over 100 people on their team, exceeds a run rate of $10 million in revenue, and has over 20,000 members across the 7 cities.

The 'club' model has been done before. You sell people on joining a club, get them to sign up and then track your numbers and sales data. You watch for drop off in membership and then focus on membership sales when you need to. Often the club model prides itself on being elite and only offers memberships to a certain social class or creates a demand by initiating a waitlist.

In this case, this workflow is not enough. Beri and his co-founder are dedicated to providing value that their members need and, perhaps, don't know they need. A subconscious craving for depth, after a stroll through the Facebook and Instagram feed, leaves people feeling empty. After speaking to Beri, it seems like IVY wants to fill that gap and be the community that people crave. Rather than focus in on being elite and putting up walls to create a group, IVY focuses on taking walls and barriers down to create community.

I asked Beri, what are the key metrics that create this sort of community and how do you track them? I imagine it's rather difficult to monitor depth as a key performance metric.

1. Degree of Engagement

Focus in on member's engagement. How many experiences are they engaging with per month? IVY looks for patterns to see what is fulfilling and what is, perhaps, disappointing. With each point of engagement, they communicate with their members to see if they would have invited a friend to the event or experience they attended, what aspects of the experience was enjoyable and what aspects were not enjoyable.

They strive to create a platform where engagement is beyond attendance, but rather an opportunity to connect. Does one experience lead to another? Does an experience lead to an online connection on their digital platform? Does an experience lead a member to think of and contribute their own experience to share with the community? IVY demands multiple points of contact to continuously dig deeper and deeper. They track the various degrees of engagement and hold their team accountable to it.

2. Ownership

Beri takes ownership seriously. He sees members as owners and leaders of community. Community managers are responsible for the members they bring on board. They are responsible for meeting them in person, getting to know their needs - personally and professionally. So much of programming is dictated by the members. He explains that when you look at everyone as an owner, you take walls down. IVY is about taking walls down - between professions, industries, platforms and stereotypes. When you take walls down, what is left is community.

IVY tracks this level of ownership by monitoring every team member's activities and performance. They hold their team accountable to engagement and ownership. These two key metrics transform each team member from existing in their functional role to being a liaison for members and other team members within IVY.

It feels like IVY is bringing humanness back to social networking. For the sake of our connection culture, I hope IVY succeeds. We all need more depth in human connection.

Published on: May 31, 2017