Without sounding overly geeky, the “interest graph” is something that is drawing attention from a whole host of new startups. Leveraging all of the data that you enter in on a social network like Facebook, sites can now offer you a new and more personalized experience based on your tastes. Having said that, Facebook doesn’t fully utilize your likes to connect you with people.
The first execution of a deeper interest graph product was Sean Parker’s Airtime, which used all of the things you’ve told Facebook that you like to pair you up with other people to do video chats with.
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A site called At The Pool wants to help you meet people in your area based on the things you like, in hopes of finding you new friends or perhaps a romantic connection. It’s not a dating site though, and it’s pretty impressive. It takes the interest graph on Facebook to a whole new level.
It’s currently in private beta, and I had a chance to talk about all of the new possibilities At The Pool presents with its founder and CEO Alex Capecelatro:
TNW: Where did you come up with the idea for the site?
Alex Capecelatro: I’m a huge cyclist and runner, an entrepreneur, and a vegetarian. A few years ago I was living upstate New York working on a tech startup in what felt like the middle of nowhere. It was incredibly difficult meeting new people. It wasn’t until I was about to move that I serendipitously met someone at a diner who works in tech, likes to go cycling, and shared a number of my interests. Unfortunately, this was right before I moved to southern California and quickly was in the same situation. Later on I learned one of the Facebook founders lives in the same small town I was in. Why is it so tough meeting like-minded people nearby? I realized the Internet does a great job at connecting us with our friends and family, but a terrible job at introducing us to new people and getting us offline.
TNW: What are you trying to provide for people that other sites aren’t already?
Alex Capecelatro: It’s incredibly difficult and frustrating trying to find like-minded people nearby. Dating sites are good for dating, but not much more. Meetup is good for finding group events to go to, but it’s a tough place to connect with someone new. When you look at what people are searching for, they’re searching for people close by who share their interests. We’re providing that platform. Members join pools around their interests in order to meet someone new each day based on what they explicitly want to do.
TNW: Is Facebook’s interest graph a big part of onboarding and overall experience?
Alex Capecelatro: The Facebook connection is important for a number of reasons. First, it allows us to validate a member’s age (must be over 18 to use the site). Second, it allows us to explore and map around mutual friends, which is important when fostering new relationships. And third, it makes the profile creation process easier by pulling photos and information. That said, Facebook’s interest graph is a very weak way to connect people together (we tend to “like” things that don’t necessarily correlate to any real passion). Through interests, pools, and activities on our site, we’re able to connect people in a very strong way, around the interests that actually matter to them.
TNW: Tell us about your team, how big and what’s your background?
Alex Capecelatro: There are two of us full time (myself and Dan Wilhelm), and five students who work with us part time. I was previously in the design department at Fisker Automotive, and have a history of working with new technologies to transform and disrupt different sectors of society (I am an engineer by trade). Dan dropped out of his PhD program at Caltech to head up development efforts. Design is extremely important to our philosophy, and our design efforts are lead by Jason Hsin.
TNW: What is the number one goal of the site?
Alex Capecelatro: The goal with At The Pool is to bridge the online-offline gap and get people meeting up in the real world.
Once you sign up and fill out some things about yourself, you’ll be able to find matches manually or just wait for the email to come. It’s kind of a nice thing to get when you’re bored and want to have a quick chat with someone. The messages don’t go back and forth in real-time, as it would with something like GChat, but I’m hoping as the site evolves, it will incorporate some more quicker interaction.
If you’d like to give the site a try, simply use the code “thenextweb”.
UPDATE: At The Pool is seeing a ton of traffic right now, but sit tight, your access will be granted ASAP I’m told