A few years ago my best friend and I came up with what we believed to be a pretty great idea. As entrepreneurs, we’re constantly combing our everyday reality with our “is there anything that could improve on this experience” filter to see if there’s a new idea or product lurking. At the time, we had just shut down a previous fitness app idea were determined to come up with a new software concept to pursue as a side project, that had one overarching theme.. helping people. We spent a year in our basement think tank researching, planning, thinking, conceptualizing, and rethinking the concept that we would ultimately create. As it turned out, the concept ended up being in the social networking / dating app realm. And despite all the urging from many not to attempt to enter a market where giants lived, we did so anyways. We noticed a gaping hole in the current offerings, and our entrepreneurial nature told us we needed to plug it, no matter how large the barrier to entry. Little did we know that after 2 years of development efforts it would spawn into something that was going to be a hit with online daters. The problem we aimed to solve was seemingly obvious and relatively simple. The solution, was less so. The problem was in how people made NEW connections in social networking. We felt it was a bit broken with regard to making connections with people you don’t know you need to make a connection with. Let us explain.
The current landscape
All sites that we researched made connections based on 2 primary drivers:
- People you already know.
- People you may know because of people you already know.
* These 2 assumptions are the backbone of all social networking sites from Facebook to LinkedIn and outside real life connecting are the primary engines for making connections with people you don’t already know.
All social networking sites start out with the connections you already know. Let’s say for example you just joined Facebook for the first time. FB, will make recommendations based on your contact lists on your phone, email, other social network sites you’re already in, etc… as to whom you are already in contact with off-site who are also in FB. The majority of these connections are going to be people you interact with already. These connections are most likely already in your immediate social circle. Once you get through that list, FB will start showing you people who you interacted with before, but maybe haven’t talked to in quite a while. Sounds like a good formula to get you connected up right? Yes, this is #1 above and serves its purpose adequately.
The second driver, “people you may know”, is really the networking part of social networking, and the essence of every social based site. It is likely that you do not know a single person presented in this list of friend recommendations but since they are curated based on people your friends know we have a natural tendency to believe maybe we should know them. We may know them from a one time meeting while out with friends (and somehow FB knows that), or know “of” them through talking with our friends. Or maybe we have no idea who they are and ignore them immediately when maybe we shouldn’t. Either way, this second driver is the one that’s flawed and/or doesn’t go far enough to benefit you as the user.
The problem we identified though, is that there is no list on any social network dedicated to “people we SHOULD know” and might never know if we do not blindly connect via these “people we may know” connections portals. Where’s the degree of separation beyond first line? Are people inclined to blindly friend everyone on the “people you may know” list and then inquire with them about why they should be friends? NO! That’s weird! And as a result, there are countless instances of missed connections because people do not know who to connect with or why they should connect with them.
Why hasn’t this been addressed?
How could this be solved in a way that improves people’s lives?
Why would solving this make for a better social networking experience?
How could something that solves this improve an industry and help people meet others that they would be better off to know?
As entrepreneurs we are programmed to look for a problem and then solve it. That, however, isn’t always the full answer. You may be able to solve a “problem” but is your solution worth anything to anyone? As important as solving the problem is figuring out a way to apply the solution so it brings value to someone. We also looked at this as well and determined a specific application for our solution. More on this later.
The “Warm Handshake”
We need a digital form of the “warm handshake”. What is that? Think about what you would do if you needed a service provider such as a plumber or electrician. You’d likely ask your friends, family and/or neighbors for recommendations based on people they know and or have hired in the past. Common scenario right? It makes sense to do this because a past positive experience from someone you trust to tell you the truth is what you want to hear about before you potentially hire someone to come into your home, and fix your pipes. It’s a comfort, trust and security thing. Scenarios where we are formally introduced to someone we don’t know from someone we do know and trust are called “warm handshake” introductions. This “warm handshake” gives all parties direct insights into the reasoning for being connected. You know the plumber isn’t going to screw you over, and the plumber knows you’re not going to screw him. “Warm handshake” introductions have meaning and purpose and more often than not lead to a successful connection that is beneficial to both parties. Whether it is to a potential hiring manager, handyman, or new friend; introductions prefaced by one mutually known party that vouches for all involved sets the table for a quality connection. These connections work best because they are pre-vetted. This is also much of the thought process behind ratings and reviews of sellers on ebay, to reviews of carpenters on homeadvisor or Angie’s list. So we believed that it would also stand to reason that it would work for social networking and people meeting people they “should” know or at the very least be compatible with.
Real quick backtrack to social networking sites. In our opinion the “people you may know” functionality should be considered a cold lead. Meaning, you most likely do not have any context of a potential friend request other than that they may know someone in your social circle. This path to connectivity requires a serious and often lengthy commitment to getting to know someone who is a complete stranger turned potential digital acquaintance. These newfound acquaintances usually lay buried in a list with thousands of others never truly discovering their full potential. We highly doubt anyone is doing this work.
Applying the “warm handshake” to an industry plagued with problems
This is really the genesis for our conceptual idea that spawned our app hey there… We obsessed over the difference between online & offline behaviors when making connections. We dissected warm versus cold introductions in all facets of online and offline relationship building. We interviewed people on social networks. We interviewed people on other relationship building services. And we ultimately came to the conclusion that the best way to curate and explore new connections was with a more intimate system of discovery than existed already. And that new system of discovery was most immediately needed in the online dating realm. Perhaps nowhere is the need for friend insights more relevant than with dating. Especially inside modern applications that all use stagnated notations of common friendships/acquaintances to try and crack this nut. Where in online dating are our friends? Over our shoulders. Shoulder surfing our single friends while they’re on Tinder, Match, Eharmony, POF, or the like is something we saw time and time again in our research. Why hadn’t anyone made the connection that friends like to help friends find matches? Why are all online daters in a solitary, lonely experience on these apps? Going it completely alone in a sea of strangers that may or may not be on the site for the same reasons as you. Why had no one noticed that online daters are constantly taking screenshots of these apps and sending them to their friends for their advice on what to do? Were we alone in observing this behavior?
Over the course of 2+ years, we built the hey there… system of direct friend insights to provide context, practical information, and where possible the potential for a warm handshake and applied it firstly to online dating. To better understand how this all works let’s take take a deeper dive.
The wildly popular swipe app Tinder was one of the first sites to capitalize on using commonalities of interest and FB friendships when attempting to make new romantic connections. The theory is that if you have friends and interests in common then you stand a better chance of hitting it off. Sounds reasonable at first glance but what if the “common friends” are more common acquaintances? We all know that people on social networks actually “collect” friends now. So is there really any strength in this “common friends” approach? Do these commonalities have any real meaning? Does this help you to make a better and more informed decision as to if that person is a potential match?
We argue that in these instances all context is rendered useless and you are pretty much flying blind still. Furthermore, even if we do know the people notated as common friends do we really gain any extra insight into this candidate just because they’re connected on a social network? We argue no unless we reach out to those specific common friends to find out more details. Only at this point would we truly stand to gain any relevant information that can affect our decision making process. And we haven’t heard of anyone actually taking that extra step, so where’s the value?
Now what about the people on online dating who we do not share common friends with. This is perhaps one of the most interesting dilemmas to explore. Quick recap: we have candidates with common friends and/or interests, and now candidates with no commonalities. Are these candidates less of a potential match? In these instances should our friends be removed from the equation? Do friend and family perspectives no longer matter? Does the expansion of our social circle cease to matter? We argue that this is where friend context is most critical and needs to be applied! Friends can help by providing insights and perspective after careful review of the person you both don’t know. Your friends and family know YOU. They’ve watched you go through heart break, and know what ticks you off to no end. They know you’re quirks, and what you can’t deal with maybe even better than you do. If friends & family (our direct social circle influencers) know us best then it stands to reason that they can make certain inferences based on minimal information of a candidate when compared to what they intimately know about us. For decades family and friends have been the most successful matchmakers in history. More marriages and friendships have been made as a result of being personally matched by someone known and trusted within an existing social circle than any other method. There are countries and religions that still rely on the knowledge of family to make appropriate marriage pairings. You may think that strange, but there was certainly plenty of reasons for that to be the case in these cultures. Techies have been trying to crack the matching nut using robotic algorithms for years but to date there is no technology that can compete with a pre-vetted friend made match.
This is where our app hey there… comes in. We built it around the intrinsic human truth that our friends and family can provide very valuable insights into who we SHOULD know and meet. Our application is built to emulate the way real life successful matches are made. Traditional Social Networking and Online Dating sites are based on quantity and the concept of throwing enough spaghetti against the wall until something sticks. Hey there… is built on quality within the quantity. We want people to experience technology that hits on the most intrinsic essence of human nature which feels the most natural. We look at our app as the new gateway to meeting people with an old fashioned twist. Consider hey there… app the “warm handshake” in networking as applied to online dating. The only application that wants to make real quality connections that are based on the input, insights, and perspectives from those closest to us.
We’re not just a dating app
We have gone all in with our bet that people are still better matchmakers than algorithms and are enjoying watching the positive results come in. We are not just a dating app – we are truly a social circle expansion app. We believe that friends know us best, and if given the chance (and digital means) will help us reach our end goal of finding love. With hey there… common friends is not just a footnote on a profile; they are active members helping their best of friends meet new people. Sharing, advising, and with you every step of the journey. Single people that join our app to find love, can also invite their best friends into the app to help them achieve that goal. Not to mention the fun of having your friends in the app with you making you matches, writing you endorsements, helping you with your profile, and more. Come see why our our wingman/friend role is poised to be a monumental shift in brokering new romantic and platonic relationships while bridging gaps in social circles.
We are available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. For more details visit our site www.heythere.us