Professional networking app makes original connections

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I’m sure I wasn’t the only New Yorker intrigued to learn of Shapr’s existence. The previously obscure professional networking app recently tried to create a splash with a massive subway ad campaign, putting up posters on around 600 cars.

“Meet inspiring people, shape your life! The announcements were blowing.

It turns out that Shapr is kind of a cross between LinkedIn and Tinder. Users specify whether they are looking for collaborators, a mentor, or just “ideas and inspiration”. Each day, the application offers around ten profiles of professional colleagues. Users “swipe right” to log in. If the interest is mutual, they can chat directly and meet.

For now, thanks to funding of $ 7 million from private investors, the app is free and ad-free. Targeted ads are expected to arrive next year. An upcoming paid subscription service, meanwhile, would offer features like location customization in 2018.

The company, which is based in New York and Paris and has around 60,000 users in New York and 300,000 around the world, says the most represented industries to date are advertising, technology and finance. Popular interest hashtags, on the other hand, include #startups, #entrepreneurship, and #marketing.

It’s not my audience. My friends are more likely to be interested in #dogwalkers and #drifters. My main interest is #readingonthecouch. But I was eager to broaden my horizons.

The app did not disappoint. Within a week, the algorithm – which matches users based on location, interests, and experience – suggested that I hook up with a kickboxing instructor, casting director, derivatives trader. , a teleprompter operator and a Staples saleswoman earning her masters in poetry.

My first meeting was with an investment banker who became a data scientist. Boy, could he speak! Mention a variety of topics – artificial intelligence, management, fundraising – and he handed out a polite and insightful set of facts and opinions. A useful contact indeed.

He eagerly left me with my next meeting: a coffee with a freelance photographer and a theology student. Boy, could she speak! Sadly, it soon became apparent that this kindhearted lady was struggling on just about every conceivable front. I have heard all about his problems.

A third meeting took place with a co-owner of a high-energy sports startup. Boy, could he speak! He even showed me x-rays of his artificial hip. Before our meeting was over, he had befriended me on Facebook and suggested that I start a songwriting circle.

It was fun, but I couldn’t help but extrapolate. What if I continued to use Shapr and made a new contact every week? By the end of the year, I would have about 40 new friends to follow. The idea made me want to die.

Olivier Toubia, a Columbia Business School marketing professor who studies social media, says the fact that many professionals are very busy with an existing industry and an alumni network creates problems for Shapr. The app might attract people looking for mentors, he predicts, but not so many people who can offer meaningful professional help.

On the other hand, the match model, which only matches those who indicate mutual interest, might allay the fear of rejection that discourages some users from reaching out on LinkedIn. “It has proven to be effective with meetings, it could also work with networking,” notes Mr. Toubia.

Some of the older, well-connected people on the app are the most active, Shapr says. And while some people take a break from using the app, the algorithm maintains matches by promoting recent users.

The startup scene has seen several professional networking apps fail in recent years, of course. And as Mr. Toubia notes, there are already many established networking sites like Facebook that offer hyper targeting to advertisers.

But I support Shapr. This is, after all, my direct connection to the city’s urban farmers, storytelling tennis players and meditating e-commerce specialists. If you see me on the app, swipe right.

—[email protected]

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