Meeting new people is an essential part of our life, owing to the present day constraints, meeting and networking has gradually gone down for a toss over the past few years. We are limited to people who are immediately around us, be it in a work environment, family or the small social circle we usually belong to. But shouldn’t we meeting new people frequently and expand our social circle or perhaps, find a soul mate? Anything is possible, right?
Startup 500 Brunches by Julie Krafchick connects like-minded people who share similar interests. Upon signing up, you’ll tell them about yourself and 500 Brunches matches you with small groups to meet over brunch.
Julie has a sound background in marketing, relationship management and teaching. Making new friends and building her network, has always been easy for her. She wanted to help others do the same, so she landed on the idea of connecting people in real life. She has also been working in online media and tech since graduating from college in roles spanning over design, digital marketing and advertising monetization. Her other teammates include Amit Jardosh and Vanessa Irving, where Amit is helping on product and Vanessa on content marketing/social media.
In a way, technology has made us more anti-social. We’re all glued to our phones/tablets/computers with an addiction to staying informed of every status update and tweet while we unintentionally become immune to the physical world around us. 500 Brunches wants to bring back meeting in real life again as opposed to online social networking. Initially, 500 Brunches started as a dating idea. One of the key insights from user research was having a way to meet in real life as soon as possible. The other insights from the research were that people had met really interesting people that they would like to have as friends or professional contacts, but couldn’t make that leap due to meeting them on a dating site. “Many of my non-single friends made comments about how much they would like to use services to meet new people but couldn’t due to existing ones being geared towards dating”, she adds.
Julie soon realized there wasn’t really a place to just meet new people in general. She was discussing this with her colleague Amit. He had a similar idea and had already bought the domain 500brunches. They met regularly to expand on the idea and built the MVP to start getting people brunching.
“Focusing on the right priorities is important at the moment. There are tons of things you can be doing at all times, but it’s really narrowing it down to a few key areas of focus, that are going to really move the needle. For us, initially it was building a strong community, getting the experience down, and generally making customers happy”, She explains.
Their Future Plans
At this stage, 500 Brunches is gearing up towards growth, scale, and automation while trying to be consistent. It tries to ease the difficulty in meeting new quality people. “Making new friends have always come naturally to me but I must confess that despite being an incredibly friendly person, I cannot strike up conversations with random strangers. I know it’s not just me. Everyone on the bus is fumbling with their iPhone to avoid the possibility of interaction with a stranger”, she says.
Especially, if you have just moved to a new city, your current network is in a different life stage, or you are embarking on a new career path. Even if you have a great network already, there are always benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone to meet new people as you’ll often be exposed to new ideas and conversations.
How is 500 Brunches different?
Meeting new people might be a little awkward at times and Julie feels that they have a simple solution. 500 Brunches is made up of small groups of 6-8 which makes it really easy and comfortable to talk and really get to know everyone in the group. You know everyone wants to meet new people or they wouldn’t be there. Brunch is a perfect setting as it isn’t as formal as dinner yet you get the benefits of being at a table with people for over an hour. It’s also a great time limit too as it doesn’t drag on for hours either. Their matching algorithm whets the people for similar interests and lifestyles. By doing this, their brunchers feel way more natural. “We make it really easy. We do the work for you by making the reservation, select the group, and give you the time/place. All you have to do is reserve your space if you are free and want to join”, she says.
Meetup.com is probably their largest competitor but where they differ is that 500 Brunches promotes smaller groups rather than a huge gathering and a different approach to forming groups. Also, Tea with Strangers comes close but their approach to group isn’t based on interests and rather based on the idea that any human can connect.
Julie feels that Meetup.com has about 20 million members, so there is definitely a market for people to connect offline.
Why does 500 Brunches work?
Dining out is a pastime shared by many, especially those in metropolitan cities. Many of us have social interactions over food already, so it is something that is already integrated into our lifestyles. Meeting new people appeals to the basic human need to belong. It doesn’t matter if you are single, married, male, or female. There is an ongoing need to exchange conversation and form new bonds.
Right now we are just in San Francisco, but the plan is to expand to other cities. Their audiences include a good mix of professionals, startup techies, creatives, active health enthusiasts, and cultured foodies.
“We have people just looking for new friends and others looking to connect with people in their professional industry a bit more. It’s been good though because even for professional networking, it’s a more relaxed environment where people can get to know each other on a more personal level then just trying to connect to pass their resume around” she says.
Their Monetization model
They charge a $5 fee to attend the brunches for their matching services. It shows that people will pay for the product and makes people not just sign up and not attend (which is a big problem with meetups). They have also been testing more premium services and business/organization sponsored brunches which could potentially go on a more subscription basis like meetup. “Right now though we are completely focused on getting the user experience down, but there is potential for the future”, she says.
You can start brunching here: http://500brunches.com