Thursday, June 9, 2011

Social dinner with strangers, the guests will choose the network

The technology menu is a mix of Facebook, LinkedIn, MeetUp and Groupon. That's true, however, can vary between a sushi, a chicken curry, un'impepata of mussels or a double-decker hamburger. Everything starts from the net and then left, to the point that one of the few rules of the game is "off the smartphone, logout all." This is how the 'social dining', lunches or dinners organized at the computer with the aim of expanding their social networks.

In the U.S. the trend is already driving, pulled by two startup embodying the different reasons why people sitting at a table with strangers. The first example is Grubwithus service, born from the imagination of two American Gourmet, Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano. Shortly after college, they decided to move to Chicago to open a bakery.

Here are faced with the inherent difficulties of living in a new city: a few friends, no one to go out at night, sad and lonely dinners. So comes the idea: to create a social network to facilitate real encounters in front of the real thing there is: the food. The project was supported by Y Combinator incubator for startups and other venture capitalists, putting aside a nest egg of $ 1.6 million.

So, in August last year, Grubwithus makes its debut in the heart of Illinois. Since then the service has done nothing but grow, gaining the attention of specialized sites like Mashable and TechCrunch, until you reach the pages of The New York Times. Operation is extremely simple: just go to the site, select the cities of interest (currently available are Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles, but the founders have expansionist) and browse the various dinners in the program.

Each event involved five to twenty-four people, depending on the restaurant and the 'tone' of the dinner. The cost is around $ 25, with a discount of 30 percent on the various menus. The site rewards faster, and the brave, those who are not afraid of finding themselves alone at the table: the first place, in fact, is the cheapest of all, while others (car) asked to pay 50 cents more per booking.

Each can choose whether to provide a brief presentation of self, to give others the chance to get an idea of their guests. A dinner worth a few simple rules: get tips, get rid of cell phones and smartphones in particular ("otherwise you're coming to do," hound co-founders), talking about everything, but always respecting the religious differences, political , ethical, and so on.

Drinks are paid to the Roman, while the rest has already been paid at time of booking. The label also prohibits paying a drink at a diner in particular: the gestures of generosity are allowed only if directed to the entire table, even though in this case there is a risk of making the figure of the bully.

The session was closed after about two hours: the waiters were instructed to serve the various courses at a steady pace, so that we do not find at home or too early or too late. "Today's users are Grubwithus about 10,000," said Eddy Lu during a presentation in New York. "In broad terms can be divided into three groups: professionals and consultants looking for company during a business trip, people who have just moved into town and people who want to make new friends and - why not - give Cupid a hand" .

In any case - said the co-founder - "these are people who turn to us for a social purpose, not because of business." The dig, here is another startup, LetsLunch. com, that from January to now has brought together hundreds of people at the table in Silicon Valley. The principle is the same Grubwithus, but the conditions are completely different.

First of all we know at lunch for a period of approximately 45 minutes. This already foreshadows the nature of participants: women and men in their career (or aspiring) who do not have much time to spare and want to be alone with the right people at the right time. Again the idea is part of a duo of young entrepreneurs, Alain Raynaud and Syed Shuttari, both based in San Francisco.

Since the encounters are not random, you must complete a profile using your account information LinkedIn, Twitter or Hacker News (Facebook is excluded because it was considered too 'pop'). All these data together form the 'karma' virtual person, that his reputation level on a scale from 0 to 10.

To determine who will have lunch with those algorithms: generally, we meet with people of similar reputation, and continue to climb a peak or set according to the opinions of its guests. Yeah, because - unlike the more relaxed Grubwithus - LetsLunch requires its adherents to vote for the person with whom you have just shared the bread.

Are these judgments, then, to determine the movement of a user in the lunch-parade site: only those with a high score can be expected to sit at the table with one of the VIP LetsLunch (industry veterans, investors, business angels ). Halfway between the two services there are options still developing, such as LunchTree, founded in late 2010 by Jesse Spaulding with the triple objective of "talk about innovation, getting contacts, enjoy a meal." For now, the big winner is the food, once celebrated as language that, in the long run, to join.

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