It seems like these days, every app is using the swiping-interface dating app Tinder made popular, and most of the time, it feels like an unnatural me-too attempt — except maybe in the case of Weave.
Weave is a networking-meets-social-discovery mobile app, and it’s just raised $630,000 in seed funding to continue to grow.
Professionals log into the app through their LinkedIn profiles, and the app then presents them with a stream of nearby professionals who are presumably open to face-to-face meetings and whom they can swipe “yes” or “no” to meet. It’s truly a Tinder for professionals, and it’s currently yielding about 100 in-person meetings per day, the company says.
Weave is coming in at an interesting time in professional networking. More than a decade ago, LinkedIn gave us the professional profile and the ability to link up online and communicate internally with our network, and now a handful of companies want to add search and discovery to it, each in their own way.
The two others that come to mind immediately are Treatings and CoffeeMe, and all three are actually pretty different.
Treatings, which is currently only on the Web but plans to release a mobile app in the near future, lets people join and filter through for people of particular criteria. For example, if a fresh college graduate is exploring a career option, he or she can look for someone in the network who would be open to an informational interview about that industry. Treatings also recently partnered with New York University’s alumni network to help its members sift through and find fellow alumni in their area to connect with.
CoffeeMe is also only on the Web, and it’s a bit different from Treatings. CoffeeMe is taking the “curated, exclusive community” approach, meaning that members have to apply, and CoffeeMe carefully vets its community. CoffeeMe is currently only available in San Francisco and Seattle, Wash.
In a fun twist of events, CoffeeMe and Weave actually share a common beggining. CoffeeMe founder Hsu Ken Ooi and Ma not only co-founded their previous company, Decide.com; they and a few friends also put together the original CoffeeMe during Ma’s weekend-long bachelor party (yes, that’s quite nerdy, Ma admits). After Ooi handled most of CoffeeMe during the first few months (Ma was busy with his wedding, honeymoon, and Decide.com), Ma expressed desire to refocus on it. However, the two couldn’t agree on the vision and split off to work on their separate ideas. CoffeeMe went on in its current form, and Ma and co-founder (and bachelor weekend participant) Elpizo Choi built the mobile-based idea Ma wanted the early prototype to become.
It’s all about mobile
Weave’s main differentiator is that it’s on mobile, Ma said. Along with the similar interface to Tinder, Weave also leverage location.
“There still hasn’t been a way to replicate … coffee meetings online,” Ma said. “Location is a key factor in people meeting in-person.”
The idea is that people are close enough that setting up a coffee meeting, even spontaneously, it should dramatically increase the chances that they’ll chat and then meet.
“Today, if you want to meet someone, there are a couple of paths,” Weave co-founder and chief executive Brian Ma told me in an interview. You can either contact your network and ask for recommendations and introductions, or you can start attending networking events in the hopes of meeting people.
What Weave wants to do is add a strong layer of discovery within a relevant context. Geographical proximity and willingness to network bring in the relevance, while Weave’s recommendation engine creates the discovery.
And Weave’s recommendation engine is pretty sophisticated from what Ma describes. For example, the more a user engages with other, the more he or she surfaces in other people’s streams. Currently, users swipe “yes” once every ten profiles, a good start but there’s obviously more work for Weave to do.
Ma has observed three main ways in which people have been using Weave: Hiring, fundraising, and classic networking.
On the recruiting front, it’s used passively, with hiring managers connecting with mostly employed folks not necessarily looking for jobs but who are sometimes open to exploring other options.
He’s also observed that some investors have been using Weave to source entrepreneurs to potentially invest in.
But the networking is what Ma and his team and really spending time developing, as they’ve recently started experimenting with events partnerships. While event-specific apps for networking are already out there, these are disposable as people chuck them once the event is over. Ma wants Weave to be a permanent networking tool that can act as an event buddy each time a user attend an event. I’m certainly the first to admit I’ve used to Twitter to connect with others at events, so Ma is obviously onto something.
I’ve argued before that “people don’t want to make new friends,” and that social discovery of people only works for romantic purposes, but professional networking also makes a strong case because, just as with dating and unlike friendship, there is a clearer purpose and end goal.
Up next, the team will be using the money to continue working on the product and grow its user base. Ma also shared that Japanese users have been asking for Facebook login as it’s what people there use for professional networking, so don’t be surprise if that becomes an option eventually.
Vulcan Capital, which invested in Ma’s previous company Decide.com, led this round, with additional participation from Social Starts, Darling Ventures, WTI, and TEEC.
Weave was founded in November 2013 by Brian Ma and Elpizo Choi, and is based in San Francisco. The first iOS version launched in January 2014, with Android following in February.
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