9. July 2013–
Picture this: you've moved to a brand new city and the only person you know there is the real estate agent who just handed you the keys to your new flat. Although it's becoming far easier and increasingly commonplace for people to move internationally – whether to follow a job, relationship, or desire – meeting people in a completely foreign place can still be a major challenge.
Enter Likemind, the just-launched Berlin startup backed by serial entrepreneur and business angel Christophe Maire. It wants to make meeting "like-minded" people easier no matter where you are. We caught up with cofounder Jens-Philipp Klein to find out how they're trying to take the awkwardness out of meeting friends online and how a career in VC helps when you're founding your own company...
Hi Jens, who are you and what are you doing?
Hi, I'm Jens, one of the cofounders of Likemind. Likemind is a very friendly, easy-to-use app that lets you meet like-minded people nearby. So you meet new people based on common interests. It’s a very open platform – you could be looking for a sports partner or someone to go to a festival with you, or even a date. While dating is part of the game, it's less important, we want to be open for all kinds of connections.
The way it works is you post a flyer that looks exactly like a normal flyer on traffic lights. You have a profile with your basic information on it – like your name and age – and then a topic for your flyer, like who wants to join me for a beer in Mauerpark tonight, etc. This is posted on a pinboard that is full of other flyers from people nearby and users can then browse through these flyers.
If they're interested in an activity or want to get in touch with the author, they take one of six tabs from the flyer (literally like the tear-off bit from real flyers) and then start a private one-on-one conversation with the owner. We've limited it to six tabs to avoid them getting too much attention – if the author of the flyer doesn't like any of the six people who replied they can repost the flyer after they've gone through the conversations.
From the beginning, we saw a broad range of user cases.
How did you come across your idea?
The idea grew because we felt there was a gap between options available for meeting people. On the one hand, you have Facebook and WhatsApp, which are your tools to keep in touch with friends. On the other side, there are dating services, hundreds of them. We felt like something in the middle was missing – something that can get you in touch with new people based on common interests. That's why we thought of Likemind
Isn't Meetup already doing this?
Likemind is different from Meetup because it isn't a tool to organise big events or bring groups of people together, it is about a one-to-one connection.
Do you have other competitors? How are you different from them?
At the moment, I don’t see a copycat and we aren’t one either. We are trying to bring innovation to this sector. There are two categories that are definitely relevant but still different – there are the dating services and then the people radar apps like Highlight that show who is around, but they still don’t give you a reason to talk to them. We are bridging this gap – some people say we are the WhatsApp for strangers.
What did you do before?
I was working at Atlantic Ventures for three years, which is Christophe Maire’s investment company, and I cofounded a company called Phonedeck. I always wanted to be on the entrepreneurial side, but to get your first experience it is useful to be on the investor side – working with many companies really helps you learn a lot.
But in the end, giving advice is completely different from actually being responsible for executing. It's much harder than people think, but it feels good to create something. Entrepreneurs are the creators – the investors are really important to help support the process, but in the end they aren’t the people who build the service. I always wanted to be fully responsible, but also have the freedom to do what I think is right.
We have a freemium model – so downloading the app is free and posting a flyer or starting a conversation is free – but you have the opportunity to enhance the experience. We have a coin or credit system, where you buy "Likemind Points" or receive them by inviting friends into the app, and spend it on additional services.
At the moment, there are two categories in which you can spend the credits – there is a filtering device, so you can find better-matched people for your needs, and we're also trying to enhance the experience once you are in a conversation with someone. We want to give users more options to get to know each other while staying within the app, for example, by picture-sharing – but there'll be much more coming on this part of the app.
Who is financing you?
We received funding from Christophe Maire, JMES investments and private investors – just a small amount.
Is there something you're missing?
We will look into funding further down the track, maybe at the end of summer. We have a really small team and are moving and iterating really fast, which is what we want.
Where will you be in a years time?
It is really hard to talk about numbers, but I imagine a very friendly, open community that you don’t have to be ashamed of being a part of. It'll be working in a couple of hubs in different cities or countries. From a company point of view, we want to have the proof that people are willing to pay a bit of money for the premium service. Right now, I can't tell if it'll be a couple of million users or not, but of course we hope for this.
Is it being used more for dating or non-dating purposes at the moment?
Currently, it's being used more for non-dating purposes. This is because we have more women than men at the moment, though it is a very small sample size. But we also got feedback that many people, especially those in a relationship, found it great because they finally had a platform where they could meet people that aren't focused on dating.
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