Whether it’s because you’re young and inexperienced, busy and unstructured, or just socially awkward – business networking is hard. How do you get in contact with slick managers, industry experts and like-minded professionals? How do you target the right contacts during an event, and how do you initiate conversations with them in a way that feels (fairly) natural? It’s a struggle to even remember their names! No more of that.
Putting two and two together
The mobile market has completely disrupted social networking: private and professional is merging into one, immediacy and reachability is key, and communicating your personal brand is a must for upping business attractiveness. A common saying is that if you don’t exist online, you don’t exist at all.
Simultaneously, mobile app dating has almost become the standard for flirting, and in defense of Tinder, superficial introductions is seeing huge success – maybe because of the younger generations’ crave for speed and simplicity.
Putting two and two together, the new social code is found in business dating apps.
The big dog
Only 26% of the total usage is in mobile, but LinkedIn is still number one in enterprise networking apps, with a vision of “creating economic opportunity for every one of the 3.3 billion people in the global workforce”.
“We know mobile is critical.”
LinkedIn reached its 300M user base in 2014, and as Deep Nishar wrote in a blog post last year: “Already, our members in dozens of locations including Costa Rica, Malaysia, Singapore, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, use LinkedIn more on their mobile devices than on their desktop computers. Every day we see an average of 15 million profile views, 1.45 million job views and 44,000 job applications in over 200 countries through mobile.”
niched business dating apps often use LinkedIn for 1) profile setup and information integration (like creating an Instagram account through FB), and 2) next-step networking, (like moving from Tinder to FB for a more intimate connection).
So, what about the business dating apps?
The App Toolbox and The Dev Bin
Build it with me is a coming app for global connections between “rockstar” designers and developers that wants to create “cool & useful” apps. It’s basically about sharing your ideas and finding talents to help you realize them.
“Find. Get found.”
Instead of applying the proximity principle, Build it with me is searching worldwide, the assure that location won’t get in the way of true love.
…Or end up in the bin. TalentBin is a software engineer search engine to help employers find passive talents where they’re active online, and gather their social footprints. “The best candidates aren’t the active job seekers”, so the pitch is aggregating profiles from across 100+ websites, to find the unfindables. TalentBin generates extensive candidate profiles, including photos and personal interests, so that you get your pickup line right when asking the programmer out on a date.
“Search like a boolean pro, without being one.”
Another kind of smart hiring is provided by Gild. Gild is a platform that uses big data and predictive analytics to recruit talents without having to go through the time consuming hiring process, including procedures like sourcing, posting, scheduling, and more. With their bold statement of “fundamentally transforming your entire talent acquisition and hiring process“, Gild has managed to sign big names like Microsoft, Facebook, Fitbit, Tripadvisor, BuzzFeed and HBO.
After the algorithms have done their part, and the flirting has begun – it’s time to meet up in person.
The Lunch-For-Feedback Equation
Typically, rewarding business meetings are associated with lunches. Being the initiator, it’s considered a nice gesture to treat a prospective connection to a pleasant meal – it has been the unstated trade off for taking the time to meet up. Now, we’re looking at the rise of apps that builds on this exact intention.
Lunchback is a brand new networking app connecting people to trade feedback for lunch. The idea is to gather mentors, professionals and students within the app that encourage users to initiate meetings with people they can learn from. Use it to get feedback on a pitch, or to find/accelerate your career.
“Your next breakthrough is only a lunch away”
Jimmy Zhao, CEO of Lunchback, has fine tuned the companies storytelling, mixing Swedish innovation with Chinese business culture. Lunchback is about Guanxi, which translates to “deep meaningful connections”, Jimmy says.
“Do more with your lunch hour”
Worth mentioning is Lunchback’s “magic” feature that lets users wish for their dream lunch. I spoke with Jimmy about this at STHLM Tech Fest last Wednesday, and apparently, they’ve never failed to make a wish come true. That sounds almost as magical as their baby unicorn.
LetsLunch is another great example from the market of business lunch dating apps. Founded in the Valley back in 2010, LetsLunch is based on the 3 main features “Reconnect” for catching up with long lost friends, “Instant” for last minute invites, and “Dashboard” for collecting all meetings in one place. Then there’s groups ranging from HackerNews to Food Blogging.
LetsLunch is one of many social networking apps with an interface that’s replacing typing for swiping. And speaking of which…
The Tinders of Business
Selfiejobs is exactly what it sounds like: take a selfie, get a job. Based on a Tinder style job-search, Selfiejobs is simplifying the previously exhausting process of job hunting for young and inexperienced, but highly motivated people. The app is currently focusing on the Scandinavian scene, but the ambition is to build “Europe’s most loved job-app by 2018”. The guys at Selfiejobs had a table next to Lunchback at the STHLM Tech Fest, and I was lucky to hang out with Matt, the COO, during the after party. He spoke passionately about their app and showed me some great stuff, like the 22 second video pitching feature. “Why 22 seconds?”, I wondered. “It sounds like a good number, doesn’t it”, Matt said.
“Swipe, chat and get to work”
The U.S. counterpart is former Networkr, which is now rebranding itself with the new name Grip and a move “from a Tinder for professionals to the fast and fun alternative to LinkedIn“. But the game of swiping stays. The founders of Grip realized the opportunities that came with minimalistic user profiles, proximity social networking, and the gamification of dating.
“An attractive, card-style format with their photo and job title/employer prominently on show, and additional details available for digging into below the fold.”
The users get to join communities based on their interests, and the idea is to connect them with like-minded people to start new collaborations. Among the communities are Rocket Labs, Bricks, and TechBBQ. Grip is focusing on business conferences and events, which are often an area in great need of tools for professional networking. Instead of matches, you get handshakes.
Then there’s Weave, a third Tinder type dating app for business. Available on both Android and iOS, the concept is pretty much the same, with an algorithm aiming to match profiles based on the user’s criteria (city, neighborhood, title, and industry), and a simple swipe to connect.
““Weave is LinkedIn meets Tinder (minus the dating)”, description in iTunes”
The Weave Villa consists of 5 different “rooms”; General Networking, Fundraising, Hiring, Looking for Co-Founder, and Services, and the app has some other great features, including in-app messaging and a feature for calling an Uber. Weave is said to facilitate more than a hundred meetings a day.
The Cautious Dater
Shapr is being referred to as a matchmaker for professional relationship, as they power serendipity through trust. This is done by feeding the users with a daily dose of new potential professional contacts based on the old, trustworthy ones. Browse for a minute, do the ubiquitous swipe, and then, when a new connection is made, your common contact makes an introduction to kick off the conversation. “Josh, this is Ally. Ally, this is Josh.”
At other times, when the introductions aren’t as smooth, Namerick might help. By using repetition and mnemonics from memory experts and scientists, Namerick serves to help you remember people’s names – which can be quite a life saver at busy conferences and such. The app builds on “the three R’s of memory”: Record, Retain, Retrieve, including quick entries, secure storage, and search features. Namerick reached the 10K downloads mark the same weekend it launched.
The Incautious Dater
Ironically, the service with the most business-like app name is doing the total opposite. Former LinkedUp, now called BeLinked, is an actual dating app with a twist of matching people based on their careers. Browse anonymously, and meet “quality, like-minded people” from “a trusted source” (LinkedIn). But beware, it can be risky to mix business with pleasure.
For more, check out App Appeals list of 48 free business networking apps.
Getting to third base
Clearly, the mobile market has picked up on the opportunities of making professional networking less awkward. But as I’ve just shown, there are already plenty of great apps competing for the best names and the biggest user base. Many business dating apps already have IM and file sharing, but in order to stay competitive, accelerating and advancing the communication features is key.
Almost 1 out of 2 Americans use their smartphones to look up info about a job, and fully 18% or more submits job applications from their mobile device, according to crisp data from Pew Research Center. After matching with an employer, the application usually turns into two-way communication. Why not continue on the same device, and better yet, on the same platform?
“A statement repeated in Silicon Valley is that people don’t want to talk anymore. I don’t know exactly where those numbers are coming from; the market for international telecom traffic grew by 15% in 2013, totaling around 750 Billion minutes. That’s the reason why WhatsApp recently added voice calls.”
It’s no news that the heavy hitters, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, has realized the benefits of adding in-app voice. Voice is our strongest tool for communication, and can have great impacts on users private and professional life. People still makes calls – the question is from which app.
“What provides value for dating apps is the control over one more communication channel before your users meet in person. In addition, the user gets a convenient and private way of communicating with potential dates.”
Just like with romantic meetings, business dating is about building a personal and intimate relationship with people in order to turn them into dates, and potentially – hopefully – life long partners.