The old adage was that if you want to see the future of technology, keep an eye on the porn industry. It was first to push technologies ranging from video to DVDs to haptics. In that spirit, today I see dating app technology as foretelling the future of business connections.
We’ve mastered attending virtual conferences, but the human connection is hard to find. We’re housebound, with screens our only portal for meeting new people. So a few new companies are taking their cues from the singles scene to come up with solutions. Meeting apps are starting to look more like Tinder, eHarmony and Match than Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Up to now, LinkedIn has dominated meeting up for professional development. It offers suggestions of people you might want to know based on who you know already. And users pay $360 or more each year to be a premium member. Dating apps make the hunt easier. Using algorithms, the apps filter through troves of potential matches, displaying only ones they deem likely to be appealing, based on your profile. How does that play out in a world that’s conference weary and relationship deprived?
Pay For Your Friends
One of the newest tools created by events producers is LinkUpConferenceShow. It uses the unlikely combination of a comedy show and speed-networking, promising to find you 100 new business contacts in fintech and telecomms and have a laugh at the same time. The charge for 100 friends? $150. Celebrities including Tim Draper, Nouriel Roubini and Dr. Roshawnna Novellus act as hosts. You buy your ticket, fill out an application, and let the software guide you to business networking nirvana, laughing all the way.
The Whole World is Dating
Amit Bambi left McKinsey and a lucrative consulting practice to create Thirtyfriends, a social space devoted to creating genuine personal connections. He likens it to a happy hour where guests, powered by background algorithms, flit from room to room finding new connections. The company has had some initial success supplying the networking portions of more formal conferences. Right now you can sign up for a beta version.
Clubhouse is an insiderish, audio-based hangout. Its users (iOS and iPad only) hop from room to room while participating in a wide range of topics. The nascent and somewhat secretive company is bankrolled by Andreessen Horowitz and especially popular with VCs and other senior denizens of Silicon Valley. Users can participate in audio chat rooms on a wide range of topics. The conversations disappear forever after they’re over. According to The Wall Street Journal, the digerati dropping in on Clubhouse conversations include Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, and Chris Rock. You’ll need an invite just to get into the club, adding to its mystique.
Yubo, a popular French social media app, just scored $47.5 million in funding, so you can bet it’s reimagining social connections beyond the kids’ world. The app relies on rooms you enter to video chat with friends and strangers. The rooms each have conversation topics and are focused on creating the type of chatter you’d find IRL (in real life). In between chats, users can swipe left or right to add friends, much as someone would on Tinder. CEO Sacha Lazimi thinks paying money to upgrade your status and in-app purchase activity is the future of social media monetization. “If you focus on ads, you’re competing with Facebook, TikTok, and Snap,” he told TechCrunch.
HouseParty, another app that’s flourished during the pandemic, stands to pivot from being a hangout for the bored to a full fledged business tool. It focuses on video chat. Users can see which of their friends are online and who they are chatting with. They are then free to join conversations. Groups can include up to eight participants. Available for iPhone and iPad only, HouseParty turned up the noise in the house by hosting special events with Fortnite and celebs like Ellen DeGeneres during the pandemic. I predict we’ll see an “OfficeParty” version shortly.
A smart friend of mine in the events business was recently mulling over how to automate relationships and networking. He told me about skadate. Yes, it’s a dating site, but it understands relationship mining and the dire situation the pandemic has created. It will create white label networking products for all your “swipe left” needs.
As some succumb to virtual conference fatigue, many want to move beyond, seeking more genuine, intimate contacts despite the pandemic. Swiping left and right may be the new business currency.