At The Pool, a startup that launched two years ago as a way of introducing you to potential new friends, is today relaunching with an iOS app that builds on its initial focus with new features and a mobile-first approach.
“We had built for the Web and today I firmly believe the Web is dead for consumer applications,” says CEO Alex Capecelatro. “We have had really strong adoption and uptake, but many members wrote in that they simply don’t check their desktops.”
The app can still introduce you to new people nearby but now there’s an emphasis on connecting you to people you already know who you may have lost touch with or simply don’t know are currently in your neighborhood.
The ‘Nearby Shouts’ section shows messages from people near to your current location. These can be anything, but given that they’re from your friends, or people somehow connected to your friends, they should be of at least some interest to you.
The idea is that you ‘shout’ when you want to do something. “Who wants to go dogwalking with me?” “I’ve got a spare ticket for a gig, want to join me?” – that kind of thing. Nearby people who are relevant to you then see the message and can take part, arranging the details in the shout’s comments section or via in-app IM.
It’s not a wholly original idea but one that no-one’s got quite right yet. At least At The Pool’s pivot is based on data that shows it might work this time. “We experimented with “introducing” members to people they were already connected to, and the results were staggering,” says Capecelatro. “People wrote in saying ‘I had no idea Kevin also lived in Chicago’, or ‘Wow, I hadn’t caught up with Sarah since college, so glad we re-connected’.
“We built the new product to reflect the idea that relationships are more than just names and numbers, and thus built an “open network” showing the people around you, with a focus on existing relationships.”
That said, it’s possible to browse nearby users, and send friend requests to people you don’t know. While that will help build users’ networks, Hopefully it doesn’t dilute the core focus of the app. The idea behind the feature is that you can search for people interested in the same things as you either at home or when traveling.
At The Pool is tapping into a rejection of, or at least a reduction of interest in, Facebook amongst millennials. The previous version of the service used Facebook Connect, but this turned out to be a mixed blessing. “What we found surprised us,” explains Capecelatro. “Members wanted to use At The Pool instead of Facebook, and many told us they deleted their Facebook accounts long ago.”
So, At The Pool wants to be a kind of ‘anti-Facebook’. The problem is that group messaging apps, plus the likes of Snapchat and Vine already offer ways for young people to keep in touch away from Facebook. While At The Pool’s app is well presented with some nice UX features (the icon for a tab that needs your attention throbs gently, for example), adoption of new networks is often more down to chance, luck and timing than it is product quality, or even marketing spend.
While testing At The Pool’s new app, it was difficult to assess its true utility as I was the only user in the UK. Following the launch today, it will be interesting to see if its brand of ‘proximity networking’ takes off better than the algorithmic approach of last year’s trendy startups like Highlight and Glancee (now subsumed by Facebook). How many people will take a dip and keep swimming?
Header image credit: Andrey Armyagov / Shutterstock
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