Intro is a startup with zero hype, and if it continues to do what it’s doing, it won’t have to worry about that.
The hype cycle can be a bitch. In the days leading up to SXSW, every other word published on tech blogs was “Highlight.” Since then, monthly active users of the location-aware networking app have dropped significantly, as Business Insider reported with data from AppData earlier this week.
Aside from an excess in buzz, part of the problem is that the use case for Highlight isn’t really mind-blowing. Even at the height of the hype in Austin, there were plenty of criticisms, the most common one being, “What’s the point?” I think the Highlight’s biggest opportunity is with existing connections, like being in the same restaurant as an acquaintance you rarely hear from, or picnicking in the park near an old roommate, or being stuck in the same airport terminal as a high school friend. For this to work, it requires you to be open to contact from people. I’m not going out on a limb to say that most of us, even if we’re in socializing mode, would prefer to connect with the people we already know. There’s a reason ChatRoulette is no longer a thing.
It’s been suggested that Highlight could eliminate business cards, perhaps, if your Facebook account is your business card. That might be the case in Silicon Valley, where personal and professional lives have zero separation. Elsewhere, the people we “normals” want to network with are not always the people we want to add on Facebook.
Intro has hit on a better use case for a networking app — actual, professional networking. Forgive me for this annoying cliche of a sentence, but it’s as if LinkedIn made a Highlight. LinkedIn is even weaker than Facebook on mobile, so the opportunity is ripe.
You log in with your LinkedIn profile, and the app provides location awareness of potential new professional contacts around you based on what industries you work in and the types of people you’ve said you want to meet (there is a “skills search” function for this). Unlike Highlight, Intro requires a dual expression of interest before communication can begin. Since launching last month, the app has accumulated a very small base of 3,000 users based on word of mouth. The main industries to adopt Intro have been digital, PR, marketing and non-profits.
Today the London-based boostrapped company launched a service that I think will bring it the users it needs to create a functioning network of networkers to network with. It’s called… wait for it… Networks!
Through partnerships with professional groups and events organizers, the networks function allows organizations to add a mobile dimension to their membership. Attendees of New York Tech Meetup, for example, can add themselves to that Intro Network, and be made aware of times when they’re near another NYTM attendee. While at NYTM, they can use it to find specific people in the crowd. Soho House in London has signed on board so fellow members can network with each other. Intro signed up 26 networks in a matter of weeks, many of which will integrate with Eventbrite RSVPs.
This element has been planned as the main piece of Intro since it launched a month ago. I think it would work for times, when I’m at professional events, especially if the organizers are on board with Intro, prompting others at the event to join. If I don’t remember to open the app at the event and to show I’m there, I can still network through it after the fact within the networks I belong to.
There’s a somewhat similar service that’s getting a fair amount of steam in New York called Meeteor. I’m a fan, and that’s for a different post, but Meeteor is not optimized for mobile. It’s a great email and desktop experience, but there is no location or network element. It was a conscious decision to go with the old school kind of match-making networking we’re used to and build a network first.
Intro is trying to make this idea workable for our new post-Web 2.0 era of mobile.