These artificial intelligence-enabled platforms are essentially matchmakers that use AI to set up one-on-one meetings based on stated interests, objectives and preferred time slots.
The AI algorithm then connects the two users on email through a concept called “warm intros” and sends them a calendar invite which is often accompanied by a link for video calling. Unlike dating apps like Tinder or professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, these platforms are gated communities where a user can join only through invites from existing users or by applying to get registered. In the past six months, users on these apps have grown 100% month-on-month and they have gained popularity among tech professionals and senior-to-mid-level executive across sectors.
Besides startup founders, product managers, senior professionals from venture capital firms like Nexus Venture Partners and Blume Ventures, employees of tech companies like Amazon and booking.com, these platforms also have onboard psychologists, filmmakers and bakers.
Launched in March, CoffeeMug has over 1,500 active members comprising founders, investors and CXOs and gets 80-100 new members each day. “We are well on our way to achieve the target to bring on board 5,000-7,000 handpicked members by the end of this year,” said its Delhi-based cofounder Dipti Tandon.
Grab Chai, founded by Indian tech workers Suhas Motwani and Aditya Mohanty, also launched in mid-March. While still in beta stage with plans to officially launch in early October, it has over 2,000 members from the tech community and outside who have cumulative done 5,000-6,000 virtual meetings through the platform so far. The lockdown was the major motivation for Motwani and Mohanty to roll out Grab Chai for professional networking. For CoffeeMug, it became a call for a quick shift in narrative and strategy.
“When we began conceptualising CoffeeMug in pre-Covid-19 times, we thought people would meet in person in a coffee shop,” said Tandon.
Within two weeks of launching though, the criteria changed. In retrospect, Tandon feels it was only for the better. “It allowed us as a platform to connect people across locations and countries. We started introducing the right kind of folks without location bias, and our members saw great value in it,” she added. One-tenth of CoffeeMug’s current user base is from overseas markets like Singapore, the US, and the UK.
Lunchclub, a US-based platform founded in 2017, shifted from facilitating online matchmaking for offline meetings to facilitating virtual meetings full-time in March.