I’m not on the market right now, but I can totally understand the appeal of Tinder and its double opt-in approach to online (or rather, mobile) dating. After all, the app makes it easy to connect with people you’d like to meet, while avoiding the pain of receiving dozens of unsolicited messages from random strangers.
Well, if Tinder is the solution to the spammy nature of say, Match.com, then Brian Ma’s new app Weave could be the solution to LinkedIn — helping busy professionals to connect with only the people that they actually want to connect with.
Ma was one of the founders of Decide.com, the price comparison engine that eventually got sold to eBay. Before that he had worked at Zillow and Microsoft, but most of his career has been spent wrangling and mining data to connect users with information they wanted.
With Weave, Ma hopes to solve the problem of connecting people who have similar professional interests or goals. And he hopes to use some of his data mining background behind the scenes to improve the experience.
“Networking is broken,” Ma told me in an interview. He and I had connected via Weave after I had downloaded the app based on a referral from a friend.
For those who have used Tinder before (or even those who have just read about it), the mechanism for choosing who you’d like to meet is similar. You are shown a user’s professional history from LinkedIn — where, let’s face it, most of our professional history is stored — and you swipe right if you’re interested in meeting, or swipe left if not interested.
After installing and connecting it to my own LinkedIn account, I began browsing profiles and Ma’s was one of those which popped up. So of course I swiped right to potentially meet the founder.
Ma said that even in the early days, he’s seen interesting trends based on the data from who’s connecting with whom. For instance, the highest indicator of the types of people users choose to meet with is the title of those they had met with before.
Some even go through obvious cycles — the founder who uses the app to meet investors for a few months pre-funding, then uses it to connect with engineers after raising money.
I ended up connecting other interesting people through the app — like an investor I had never met before, for instance, and another founder whose startup is still under the radar.
The app is especially focused on making introductions to people nearby, though nearby will depend on user density within the app. In a major tech center of early adopters like Silicon Valley, you’ll be shown people who are much closer to you than in less dense areas. But that’s something that will dynamically change over time as more people start using the app.
In the end, it’s really just about “lowering the bar for networking,” Ma says. If you can swipe right and be connected to someone interesting that you’ve never met before, why not? It seems like a concept that could apply to dating and business.