The Ryan Meetup group has nearly 2,000 members whose common bond is simple: their first name! David sits down with founders Ryan Rose, Ryan Cousins, and Ryan Le to hear the amazing origin story of these three partners spreading the Ryan gospel. The Ryans reveal how they were able to take a Meetup of just three members—themselves—and turn their first big event into a viral blowout with hundreds of attendees including journalists from the New York Times, NPR, and The New Yorker. Plus, the Ryans discuss how they’ve actually helped people legally change their name to Ryan, and their future plans to break the world record for the largest gathering of people with the same first name.
In this episode, we are talking to Ryan Rose, Ryan Le and Ryan Cousins. Yes, there is something similar about all three of them. They’re all Ryan’s. They are the Founders of The Ryan Meetup group, where one commonality of the first name can drive connections for thousands of people. Happy reading.
We are talking to the Ryan Movement with nearly 2,000 Ryans in their group. Hello, Ryan Rose, Ryan Le, and Ryan Cousins. This is not a joke, readers. This is a community whose origin is going to shock you. We’re so excited to have the three Ryans here. At your first event, Ryan Rose started it. You only had two people show up. At your next meetup event, you had over 100 Ryans. You’ve built the Ryan Movement. It’s a great story. Let’s get started. Tell us the story.
It wasn’t supposed to be anything super big, but it did grow very fast. I wanted to make friends in the city. I moved here years ago. I’ve started a few other groups and nothing blew off, but I decided to try something new. I went into Photoshop and printed out ten flyers or so and hung it up in my neighborhood. I guess these two guys saw and came out to the first one.
That was it. Ryan Cousins, you saw the flyer. What happened?
I was walking out of my apartment one day and saw this group huddled around this telephone post. They asked me and they were like, “Is your name Ryan?” I didn’t even know these people, but I was like, “Yes, can I help you?” They’re like, “You should look at this.” I know I walked up to the telephone post, which is 5 feet from my front door, and it says in bold type, “Is your name Ryan?” with a huge QR code on it. It says, “No Bryan’s allowed.” I’m instantly a little bit scared maybe that someone is following me but also extremely intrigued.
I scanned it. I was the twentieth Ryan to join the group but the first one to RSVP to the event. I had to meet the person who had created this idea. I was all in from the start. I messaged Ryan Rose the second I saw it, and I was like, “Let’s get this thing moving.” It was only the two of us for a while until the day of, and I’ll let Ryan take it from there.
Ryan Le, take it away.
Somebody tweeted out a picture of the poster that day. A friend of mine sent me the tweet. It was a tweet that sent a picture of the poster that said, “I wish I could go.” I was like, “That’s hilarious. What is this?” This is the day of the event.
Was your friend a Ryan who said, “I wish I could go?”
She was not. She had sent this to me. I scanned a QR code that day. I was like, “This is hilarious. What is this?” I assumed right from the start since it was a big tweet with a lot of interactions and stuff, this is already a big established thing. I scanned the QR code, joined the group, RSVP’d to the event, and then saw that there were probably six people RSVP to the event. That didn’t deter me at all. I was like, “This is 40 minutes from my apartment. It’s today. I don’t have any plans tonight. I’m going.” I met these two.
It was only the three of you that showed up at that first event. Is that right? Now let’s backtrack a little. Ryan Rose, what were you thinking? How did you come up with this idea of doing a giant QR code and putting it around the neighborhood? You’re a very creative person. How did you come up with this?
For the flyer, it’s very uncreative.
It’s very old school.
It’s ominous. That’s what got a lot of people’s attention. I tried to make the word Ryan super big and all the other words small. People look from afar. They see the word Ryan and they could walk closer. I feel like QR codes are in these days, so I added that on.
Were you in the shower and suddenly you had a vision of a QR code with the big word Ryan? How’d you come up with this idea?
I had this bigger idea years ago. There’s this Ryan Reddit group. I posted there and tried to see if they were interested. I didn’t act on it for a whole year, and I’m like, “Maybe I’ll start small in New York.” I wanted ideally this huge gathering of the Ryans where all the Ryans come together in a convention style. I wanted to start small so I figured I could meet some local ones in the city.
You had met Ryans previously. How many Ryans before this group did you know?
I went to school with a few. I meet them here and there, but honestly, not that many. I don’t have that many close Ryans in my life.
Ryan Cousins, Ryan Le, do either of you have a best friend who’s a Ryan?
No. One of the first things I did when I saw the flyer was go through my contacts. I typed Ryan into my phone. I was like, “Who can I tell about this?” It’s such an exclusive club with such straightforward requirements. I searched for Ryan on my phone. Five popped up, and I messaged one of them. I tried to get them to come up from Philly, but that’s it. My Ryan network is pretty small. We had humble beginnings in that sense.
How about you, Ryan Le?
In high school, I had these two friends that were named Ryan. We used to always joke around in high school about how calling ourselves the circle of Ryan. That was back in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We’re a bit ways away from me being able to invite them out to New York.
You did have a connection. You had a little group of Ryans in South Dakota. That’s amazing.
A little bit.
There is something special about this name, clearly. The three of you showed up. Let’s continue the story. Ryan Rose, do you want to continue? What happened after your first event and how did it grow?
The first event, we were this small little dive bar. I was sitting in the back corner by myself. I remember Ryan Le was the first one there, and he’s like, “Ryan?” I was like, “Yes.” Honestly, we talked about our names. Ryan Cousins came, and he is like, “Ryan?” We’re like, “Yes.” We sat around this table and discussed our names. We tried to decide on a name to call this little group. I’m like, “Only you guys showed up. Let’s all be the growers of this thing and see where it goes.”
Where did it go? Fast forward, what happened next?
We’ve split up our duties of hanging up flyers and posting. Ryan Le has taken over Manhattan and Cousins has been helping with Brooklyn. I went on this little road trip and put some flyers up around the country. I drove down to Texas. I stopped at all these different spots and tried to spread the word across the South and the Northeast.
Spreading the Ryan Gospel.
There are Ryans everywhere. During South too, I’m like, “People come from all over, so this is the perfect place to spread the word.” What grew it is Ryan Le posted a flyer in Manhattan. Someone posted it. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of that. I think I saw your comment.
I did, yes.
He posted on there. He posted somewhere in Manhattan and someone posted on there and it grew from there, another viral Reddit post. We got a lot of Ryans coming in from there. It grew to 1,000 after that.
It was the number one trending term, I think, on Reddit for a short period of time. It was super trending on Reddit, I had seen. On Twitter, it also got a ton of hits. What happened, Ryan Cousins? Were you shocked when you started seeing what was happening?
It felt like I had some stake in Dogecoin. It felt like that and it was taking off. We had been texting. It felt that we were all in our group texts since the day we had met. Watching it blow up was exactly how you’d imagine it. We were through the roof and texting every minute, “We got another one.” It was very exciting and not expected.
Ryan Le, how about you? What was your reaction?
I remember I was at a trivia night in the East Village that night, and I have notifications on Instagram. I remember my phone was blowing up all night like, “Ryan followed you,” on the @RyanMeetup on Instagram. We went from 200 followers at the start of the day to 800.
Was it all because of what? What was driving the virality?
It was that Reddit post. I had put up posters a couple of days before and went viral on Reddit. All of a sudden, people found the Instagram, Meetup group, and flooded it.
It’s a great example. You guys have paid nothing except for the cost of printing some paper, which cost nothing pretty much. You created this incredible community, which is so cool. Tell us about the first big event that you had. What happened at that event? How many people showed up? What’d you all do? After the first event, which was the three of you, tell us about the next event, Ryan Rose.
It was very different from the first event. At the first meetup, we’re deciding where we should have the second one. We found two places that had Ryan in the name. There was Ryan’s Daughter on the Upper East Side and Ryan Maguire’s. We went with Ryan Maguire’s because it was a little bit bigger. Ryan Maguire seemed to fit the bill. We contact them and they were super excited about it. Ryan Maguire himself showed up. It was named after their son. That was exciting. We had all these press come out, which we didn’t anticipate. The New York Times came. They even contact us or anything, so we were shaken by that. Some guy from NPR came and someone from The New Yorker. It was a big one.
New York Times, NPR, and The New Yorker, you can’t get bigger than those three, not in the New York area. Was it a Ryan journalist that came from any of the three?
It was perfect. The guy from NPR was named Ryan, and The New Yorker guy had a friend named Ryan.
Tell us about the first event. How many people showed up? What happened?
About 120 people RSVP’d. We got around that many people are coming in and out and not everyone signed in. The space ended up being a little bit small for how many people there were. It was perfect because everyone was congested in this back area. It was easier to talk to everybody and speak to everybody. We had a sign in the background, which was perfect for all the photo ops because you could see the sign in the back.
Finally, what was your reaction to the first event was 120 people?
It was crazy. One thing that we didn’t mention was that when we originally started planning this whole thing to have it at Ryan Maguire’s, we didn’t even contact the bar. We were like, “Let’s have it here. Maybe twenty people will show up.” It kept exploding. “We should call them so that they know.” When we told them about it, they were like, “We’ll get some extra staff for you guys that night. Don’t worry.” They had a guy that called in named Ryan. They called him in for the event. I was shocked. Ryan Cousins and I were at the front helping ID check all the Ryans to make sure we didn’t have any Bryans breach the event. It was crazy. It was a great time. I was happy with how it went.
I know there’s a very strong feeling. No Bryans allowed.
That’s very explicit on anything you see from us. Also, the Kyles have started to become somewhat of a threat to us because they’ve been trying to organize a record-breaking meetup.
For people who don’t know this, let me share this with people because I read about this. There’s something called the Gathering of the Kyles. Apparently, in Kyle, Texas, they’re going to be looking to break the record for the larger single-name gathering. They’re going to be gathering in Lake Kyle Park and they’re going to look to break the current record. The current record was set in 2017 when over 2,300 Ivans gathered in Bosnia, of all places. That might as well hit head on this now. Ryan Cousins, could you ever attempt to break the Ivan/soon-to-be Kyle record?
That is our ultimate goal. The three of us have decided that’s where we want this to end up. That’s why we’re heading West to host a Ryan meetup in LA. We have a lot of interested Ryans on the West Coast. We’re trying to mobilize all of these Ryans to get them ready for the ultimate meetup, which will break the record. We’re confident of that.
Are there more Kyles or Ryans in the world? Do you know? I’d be interested to see that.
There are more Ryans. I looked it up actually.
You have more potential there. Ryan Rose, talk to us. What have you got?
In the US alone, there are over 600,000 Ryans. For Kyles, there are only 190,000.
Just in the US alone, there are over 600,000 Ryans.
You’re over 3X of the volume.
I’d also like to add that we have a Ryan who used to work for the Guinness Book of World Records who’s giving us some inside tips on accomplishing the mission.
You’ve got your little Ryan that has some inside intel. Let’s get back to Ryan Cousins.
I was going to say this brings us back to the event. We have Young Ryans, too, and I think the name Kyle is falling off a little bit. We had a one-year-old Ryan show up at the Ryan Meetup.
Was he by himself?
That would’ve been preferred.
You allow non-Ryans at the event if it was taking care of five-year-olds or less.
They had to make it clear that they weren’t a Ryan. That was a highlight to see the little Ryan. They’re carrying him on their chest or whatever. It’s great to see that the young Ryans are getting involved too.
Ryan Le is holding up a picture now of little Ryan in a baby pouch that looks very Ryany. That’s all I would say.
There was a Ryan chant at one point that got too loud.
We have to hear the Ryan chant. What does the Ryan chant look like? You can’t do it all at the same time, so who wants to do it? Ryan Le? Who’s going to do the Ryan chant?
It’s very simple.
Ryan Cousins, do it.
Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. It is very creative, just like the flyer.
You all got together. Everyone had an awesome time. You’ve had another event since that event. Is that right?
Yes. We had an event not so long ago.
Let’s hear about it. How did that go?
We’ve been trying to switch it up. We held the event at this theater bar area. We called it Ryan Rendezvous. We had Ryan Gosling movies playing in the background. We set up a red carpet and a Ryan backdrop. We had a few other features like a name-changing station. We made a trophy for Ryan who traveled the furthest to the Ryan Meetup award.
Who traveled the furthest? I’m sure it was Ryan, but how far?
It was Texas Ryan. He was from Austin. There was another Texas Ryan again. The Texas Ryans show up. He traveled over 1,700 miles.
Just to be around his kin folk. Let’s ask. A broad picture here, as people who read this who are interested in marketing, virality, driving people to show up, and trying to build community, let’s each of you share one learning that you would take in terms of building community. Ryan Le, take it away.
If there’s anything I’ve learned so far with the Ryan Meetup from Ryan Rose, it’s plain and simple. Keep it simple. All we did was put up posters that said Ryan on them and we got 100 people to show up to our events. Keep it as simple is all you got to do.
Keeping it simple is all you have to do.
Ryan Cousins, what have you got? One learning.
Keeping it simple is important, but bringing fresh ideas to the table to keep it interesting. At the first meetup, we were ambushed by this huge pack of Ryans that we didn’t have anything planned other than let’s hang out and talk about Ryan topics. This time, we had the actual paperwork for people to legally change their name to Ryan. This one Ryan brought his girlfriend and she filled out all the paperwork.
Someone actually changed their name to Ryan at a Ryan meetup?
It’s 600,001 now people that could show up. This is insane. Was the person hesitant to do so? How did this happen?
We had advertised ahead of time that we were going to have this stand manned by Ryan attorneys, which was a Ryan in a suit. I don’t think he’s actually passed the bar or anything, but we did have all the legal paperwork set out. The second she got there, she was there for that. She had made a beeline.
What was her original name?
She was not a Dina person. She always saw herself as a Ryan. Now she could live her Ryan dreams.
Exactly. We have to meet her at the courthouse and finalize it, but she signed the papers, so she’s well on her way to officially joining the Ryan Meetup.
Were you so happy you got someone to do it?
We were through the roof. I did not personally expect anyone to actually change their name. That’s how you win. That’s how you can grow and compete with the Johns and the Mikes of the world.
I wanted to add as well there was a second Ryan. We also got a lot of questions like, “What if your middle name is Ryan? What if your last name is Ryan?” We basically told them you have to go by Ryan and please provide references that you go by Ryan. There was a Ryan that showed up. He said something about the middle name. I checked his ID and saw Christopher Ryan, whatever his last name was. I made a joke about the whole reference thing. The man pulled out two references on the spot. I was jokingly saying that after that conversation. He pulled them out and then he was at the name change station later that day also signing the paperwork as well.
Ryan Rose, what’s one big learning that you had or any reaction as a person who changed their name as well?
It’s like what Ryan Le said, keeping it simple. Also, I feel like I’m very old school with my ways of advertising. I love flyers. I love the idea of someone being outside and seeing something out and about. I wanted this to be an in-person event, but also, to grow online too. It is the idea of starting it somewhere outside, not online, and then maybe bringing it to a media format.
I heard another thing happened, which you haven’t even mentioned yet, which is that Ryan Seacrest mentioned it on his show as well. Talk about that.
I was sleeping. My mom called me and was like, “Wake up,” and then she put the phone to the TV. She’s like, “Ryan Seacrest is talking about it.” Someone on his team sent him the flyer. I think he was scared by it. It was on Ryan and Kelly. Kelly’s like, “This is how people get abducted,” and Ryan’s like, “I don’t know about that.”
This is what Ryan Cousins first thought when he got scared when he saw his name Ryan on there.
Honestly, I get it. The poster does look like a wanted sign or something, so it makes sense. He looked up the group and he is like, “I guess it is real. I wish them luck,” but it would be better if he actually came out.
He’s not in the show anymore.
He is not.
He’s got some free time. Get him.
He has no excuse not to come.
Come on, be a good Ryan. Who’s your favorite Ryan, Ryan Cousins?
It’s got to be Ryan Reynolds. I know that’s an easy answer, but this is a perfect match for him too creatively. This is the kind of thing that he would get behind. I’m in advertising and creative, so I’ve always admired the work that his agency does. If you’re reading, Ryan Reynolds, we’d love to have you.
Ryan Le, how about you?
I’ve got to go with Ryan Reynolds myself as well. Everything that Cousins outlined is right up his alley, I feel like. We’d love to get in contact with him.
All the Ryans are equal in my book. I love them all.
It’s like if someone says, “Who’s your favorite child,” when you’re a parent. You can’t pick your favorite child. It’s asking Ryan to pick the favorite Ryan. Very nice answer. I have a question to ask you. David’s a very popular name. There are probably more than 600,000 Davids. There are probably over 1 million Davids in the country. I don’t think I should start a David Meetup group. The reason for it is because it’s such a common name. It’s not as much of a form of identity as Ryan, which feels like a much more special name. I’m thinking that perhaps I start a David Siegel meetup group because on LinkedIn, believe it or not, there are six David Siegels. When I graduated from college, there are four David Siegels in my graduating class.
There are a lot of famous David Siegels out there. The person who owns the largest house in the United States, the Versailles House, his name is David Siegel. The previous CEO of United Airlines is David Siegel. There’s a lot of David Siegels out there. I may start the David Siegel Meetup group. Of all those reading who have a unique name, who has ever thought about wanting to meet more people with your name, you could also start a meetup group out of your name as well and potentially get thousands of people. Ryan Cousins, what are your thoughts?
It’s funny you say that. We had two Ryans with the same first, middle, and last names show up to the meetup, which is pretty crazy. Ryan Patrick O’Connor.
I’m guessing they have some Irish heritage with that Ryan Patrick O’Connor name.
They could create a Ryan Patrick O’Connor group, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t be quite as big as some of the others. What have we not talked about? Are any other crazy things that have happened through this process that would be interesting to share?
After the New York Times thing, I got an email from someone named Ryan. He said back in 2013, he and a group of Ryans in San Francisco started the same exact Ryan movement. No Bryans allowed and all.
They actually said no Bryans allowed also?
Yes. They would have these Ryan gatherings as well. They kept in contact over the years. I saw they have this huge long email chain, so I kept it to see everything they talked about since 2013, but one of them messaged each other and was like, “Was this you?” They’re all like, “Is this you?” They were like, “There’s a new movement of Ryans coming out.” We got into a group chat with them, and they want to be invested in trying to break the world record one day. They said that was their ultimate dream.
This is going to happen. You’re bicoastal here. You got Texas in the middle of the country. This is going to happen. Much like there’s a Kyle, Texas, and a Lake Kyle Park, is there a Ryan place somewhere?
That’s the only Ryan City right now?
No, there are a couple within the states. There’s a whole list that somebody had sent us, but I know Ryan, Oklahoma is the one that comes to my head first.
There are multiple Ryans that you potentially could choose. You don’t have to gather there. It might be harder than gathering in a big city New York or LA.
There is also Ryan Field. It’s Northwestern University’s football field. That could be a potential gathering place.
You could fill up every one of the 60,000 seats with Ryans. Nolan Ryan can come out and pitch. He’s not known as a Ryan, but you have Ryan Sandberg. He’s a famous baseball player from the Chicago Cubs. He could play. Also, Ryan Howard.
Maybe even Ryan from The Office, the fictional Ryan. As long as he comes in character, that should count. If Ryanair could fly all of us Ryans to the field, that would be ideal as well.
This is the dream. The dream is to break the record, but why is it breaking the record? Why is this whole thing? Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s not about meeting other people named Ryan. What’s it ultimately about?
Everyone’s adding to this collaborative effort to grow the Ryan community. Many Ryans have great ideas. I got The Office Ryan idea from someone. Another one said they wanted to make business cards because that’s what they do for a living. It’s more about seeing what we can accomplish as this massive group that is only connected by our first names.
The beautiful thing is that when you’re connected by your first name. You find that you’re also connected by so many other potential ways as well. The beautiful thing about community is that the best communities are where people are very different from each other and it’s not all the same type of person because who needs that? That’s not the way that life should be. At the same time, you have some commonalities and you clearly have something common here. Each of the three of you, any last parting words? Ryan Le, why don’t you go first?
Any Ryan that’s reading out there, I invite them to join the Ryan Meetup.
Thank you for having us on. It’s a little awkward that your first name isn’t Ryan, but for business, it’s probably good for us anyway.
It’s not too late for me to change it, so that’s good news.
That’s true. We do have that option now. To any soon-to-be parents, hopefully, you consider Ryan as a name for your son or daughter. I’ll leave you with that.
Thank you. Ryan Rose.
Ryan Seacrest, Ryan Gosling, and Ryan Reynolds, if you’re reading, join our movement. Ryanair, fly us to places. Anybody else who’s not named Ryan, except Ryan, you should start your own little name group. It’s very special.
It’s absolutely amazing what these three individuals have done. You’re causing so much happiness and connection for hundreds and soon-to-be thousands and thousands of people that all share a common bond. I want to give you all the kudos and credit in the world. I cannot wait to see where Ryanair and the Ryans take you in the future. Have an awesome rest of the day.
Thank you so much. It was fun.
Thanks for reading this episode with the Ryan Meetup group founders. It’s such a beautiful story that can teach all of us that virality, growth, and energy come from authenticity. You try to fake, it doesn’t work. If you do the Ryan way, great things happen and, hopefully, they will end up breaking the record and Meetup will be a big part of that. If you enjoyed this episode, then please subscribe, leave a review, and remember, let’s keep connected because life’s better together.
I have something important to share. Check out my new book, Decide & Conquer, to get to know my story at Meetup. The hardest thing about community leadership is making tough decisions when the stakes are high. I’ll tell you, they were never higher than when Meetup was owned and sold by WeWork. In my new book, Decide & Conquer, I’ll walk you through a counterintuitive framework for decision-making and the epic journey of Meetup’s surprising survival. Good leaders deliberate, and great leaders decide. Order my book by visiting DecideAndConquerbook.com or anywhere books are sold. I think you’ll like it.
Last modified on June 21, 2023