Ever wished that who you could discover the most relevant people at a coworking space? 🔍
Done with leaving meeting people to random chance? 🎲
One of the main reasons coworking exists is to facilitate useful connection between people – each person sat in a coworking space is surrounded by dozens or more of potentially useful connections (and generally some pretty cool people).
But how many potential opportunities are lost due to people not being aware of the background, skills and experience of others around them? The perfect cofounder or the person holding the answer to that problem you've been stuck on might be just a few desks away... but it's effectively luck whether you actually meet and whether your overlapping interests are exposed to each other.
It's kind of fascinating to think of all the opportunities that could've been, had those 2 people who were sat just 3 metres apart actually discussed what they have in common.
In reality, professional connection comes in just two main formats:
🔍 Online to offline: Unlimited 'search' space – in effect you can reach out to anyone on the internet. Now, whilst you can attempt to open a dialogue with anyone, in reality it filters down by:
- Who is open to having a conversation with you
- The trials of meeting for a real life coffee or conversation (which is typically the best format for an introduction). Take the example of LinkedIn: how often does a new LinkedIn connection result in a useful or meaningful connection? From what I can tell, it's beyond rare.
🎲 Offline, left to random chance: Very limited 'search' space – it effectively comes down to random chance; either crossing paths with someone, or having a contact that knows someone. That said, it is obviously much easier to meet up with someone who is geographically co-located than someone that is far away. So the filters at play for offline are:
- Geographic – who happens to cross your path in a professional context
- Informational – somehow finding out information about the person
- Relevance to your project/work
- The person's interest in engaging with you
Where am I going with this?
Well, my main hypothesis is that it would be useful to expose people's backgrounds and skills to each other based on close proximity (e.g. being close enough to grab a coffee/within a few minutes walk).
Is the problem real?
I conducted a bunch of couch interviews with people from my coworking space, Dojo Bali to understand how others currently meet people to collaborate, gain knowledge and work with. 💬
What I learnt was:
People trying to meet in a coworking space would ask the community manager or a friend to connect them up with a relevant contact... they seek a referral of some kind. Otherwise they can use the community noticeboard or Facebook group, but these tend to have limited impressions and an item be easily missed/buried under other content.
Content is a big part of how people collect signal on if someone would be useful – "you can tell if someone really knows their stuff when they're giving a talk." Much in the same way that people use Twitter to find relevant people via the work/content they are putting out there.
Whilst I'm keen to make the network function without so much emphasis on people's appearance (versus Bumble Biz, which is bizarrely centred on appearance), it seems that appearance does still form some element of signal about whether someone would be worth/safe to meet with.
Activity is important – how active is someone with their business/in the network? It's not worth reaching out to someone who's moved on to new projects or won't respond.
Another important aspect was around how real is someone's work (versus LinkedIn's posturing). I.e. have they done the things they've said? Do they actually know what they are talking about?
What's out there right now?
Shapr & Bumble Biz – These use a Tinder-style swipe UI to show connections which are within a distance radius. This has a strangely high emphasis on aesthetics, with weak profile info (skills are vague and background unclear). Distance can still be large (100km) so doesn't really reduce proximity enough to reduce barrier between 'discovering someone' digitally and meeting them physically.
Nexedus – this is the software that lots of coworking spaces use to manage their spaces. The social aspect is a job for the coworking space to implement, and is buried deep inside a billing web interface, inside the coworking space's site. This means that the social section is rarely accessed by coworking space members (if they know about it at all). Further, users' details are vague and high level... so not that useful anyway.
LinkedIn – exists to facilitate connection but in reality is high-spam, information is self-declared (mixed accuracy), and the 'distance' from online to offline is substantial (very few things make the leap from a digital connection request to an actual chat).
A possible solution
✅ Hyper-local discovery for meeting nomad coworkers around you 🤝
Find people in the same space who have worked on similar things or have a background that relates to what you're working on at that given moment.
First test – a landing page to gage initial understanding and interest.
...Assuming it does, then I'll go on to build it more fully.
In progress... ⏳
In progress... ⏳
In progress... ⏳