Here are five free apps and online resources for connecting with strangers over shared professional and personal interests.

Share story

 

Smartphones have changed the dating world, with apps like Tinder, where a swipe indicates interest (yes or no) in other users. So it’s only natural that several services have popped up that act like dating apps for your career.

Here are five free apps and online resources for connecting with strangers over shared professional and personal interests. Build a bigger network, start a new side business or crack the Seattle Freeze, just a bit.

Coffee
There’s nothing a Seattleite loves more than coffee. This iOS app tries to match up its 10,000 worldwide users for that latté.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

A deck of users is presented; click the red “x” to say no thanks, or the green bean to indicate yes, please. A LinkedIn or Facebook login is required.

Coffee allows users to complete an “about” page that also includes some unusual interests, which broadens the user base. Individuals can say they’re looking to connect over anything from accounting to baseball to yoga.

“We built Coffee to help people find jobs,” says Nathan Bernard, the app’s founder.
Around 70 percent of jobs are acquired through networking, Bernard says, and Coffee is “hoping to help lower the barriers for people to do so.”

LetsLunch
Hungry for connections? LetsLunch is a web-based tool — and, as of this month, a mobile app — that syncs users’ calendars, saves favorite lunch neighborhoods and then allows users to meet up.

It’s popular with tech, business developers, freelancers and small business owners, according to Syed Shuttari, LetsLunch’s founder.

“In Seattle, most of the users are from big corporate companies like Microsoft, Amazon, T-Mobile and so on,” Shuttari says.

Many of those users want to “start a side project, make it big and then quit the job to run it full time,” he adds.

Shuttari says LetsLunch has more than 2,000 users in the Seattle area. One of those is Monica Houston, who has lunched with an investor, a researcher and a UX designer through the app.

“I saw it in a Hacker News post, but it wasn’t until I was job hunting in 2013 that I was actually brave enough to use it,” Houston says. “It’s a lot like dating. It takes courage to reach out to somebody and ask them to lunch.”

Networkr
“I believe that new connections will only be interesting if they are mutually beneficial,” says Tim Groot, the CEO of Networkr, an app available for iPhone and Android.

It can be difficult to find those mutually beneficial relationships, as an e-mail or LinkedIn “connect” request may not yield an interested second party, he says.

Swipe your phone from right to left to connect in Networkr, which focuses more on common interests. Left to right? Maybe later.

This app requires signing in with LinkedIn, but many matches aren’t necessarily based on location; half of the app’s users are based in Europe.

Both Networkr users need to swipe “connect in network” to engage a match, and communication.

“We believe that dialogues are the beginning of the constructive sharing of your passion,” Groot says — and to that end, there’s a “Connect on LinkedIn” button that shows up after a successful match.

Weave
“Weave is for professionals, Tinder is for dating,” says Brian Ma, the founder of the Weave app for iPhone and Android. “Weave helps you create new connections, while LinkedIn helps you stay in touch with old connections.”

Powered by a proprietary recommendation algorithm, Weave focuses on who’s nearby. Connect via LinkedIn, tidy up your “blurb” or one-sentence elevator pitch, and you’ll be presented with a “stack” of user cards. Swipe right over someone’s photo and blurb to meet; swipe left to see the next card. Apply filters to refine matches, such as by job title or the broader industry. As with Networkr, for a match to happen, the person also must want to meet you.

Ma says Weave facilitates about 100 real-life meetings per day and has more than 4 million swipes.

Meetup
The veteran of the bunch, Meetup is a web-based tool to coordinate gatherings among strangers. Now, there are thousands of meetings per week within 25 miles of Seattle, including more than 100 in the “Career and Business” category.

The Meetup app for smartphones manages your calendar of upcoming meetings. Unlike many of the others, it doesn’t automatically sync to LinkedIn, so it’s also possible to attend events somewhat incognito.