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When was the last time you used LinkedIn to genuinely find and connect with someone?
How often did you feel like the platform was less about becoming more “productive and successful,” as its mission claims, and more about just looking the part?
It’s a problem that RMIT University student Dhruv Verma and Swinburne University graduate Joe Gibbs are on a mission to fix with their app Grouptag.
About five months ago, in the midst of lockdown, 20-year-old Verma – who had the idea for a new, Gen Z-friendly networking platform brewing in his mind – tracked Gibbs down to explain his idea over coffee.
At the time, Gibbs was the 22-year-old tech genius behind Treiner, a platform that helps football players find and book training sessions with coaches.
The two gelled, and it took just three months to launch the Grouptag app.
The app essentially aims to be a Gen Z-friendly version of LinkedIn and wants to be better than the networking giant at facilitating conversations and connections between young people, which the pair says are excluded from the platform.
Grouptag research found that just 17 per cent of LinkedIn’s user base were between the ages of 18 and 24. On top of this, most people (84 per cent) in this age bracket don’t even use it because they found it intimidating and made for suit-and-tie types.
“If you actually go [on LinkedIn], a lot of it is just people telling stories to make themselves sound better,” Gibbs told Yahoo Finance.
“So we want something that’s a little bit more real.”
Gen Z currently makes up a third of the workforce and Grouptag is hoping to catch a slice of that.
How Grouptag works
Like a cross between Tinder and LinkedIn, the app works via geolocation; your ‘Discover’ feed shows you people near you that match your interests.
If you find them interesting, you send them a ‘wave’, which is Grouptag lingo for a friend request. If the other person thinks you’re interesting too, they can ‘wave’ back, and you go from there. Since the app shows you people ‘near’ you, connecting in real life – if you want to – is the natural next step.
“You form that new connection. You're able to showcase your skills, your interests, your goals and your experience and tell others why you’re here, what you want to achieve, what it is you want to do in your career, in life, and what you want to do right now,” Verma told Yahoo Finance.
“And people can easily view that with just a tap.”
Gibbs calls it a “casual professional network”. There’s no hiding your reasons for using the app, since it asks you upon joining whether you’re using it socially or professionally, which makes it easier for everyone to understand each others’ motivations, something which can feel vague and elusive on other platforms.
Grouptag wants to remove the superficial and performative aspect that you might see on platforms like LinkedIn, and leave you with – hopefully – a cool new friend or professional connection.
“It’s more about the ‘who’ of themselves rather than how they look, or how big their network is,” said Verma.
The app also doesn’t reveal how many ‘connections’ you have, the way LinkedIn does.
“What matters is what value you have: what's your purpose, what can you offer to someone else, or [what they can] offer to you.”
The co-founder said he’s received feedback from one user who said he was surprised by how many like-minded people, strangers, were out there.
“In terms of being able to find new people, he found that really incredible. He said, comparing and contrasting that to LinkedIn, you can’t easily discover people like that around you quickly, [especially] in the same age group.”
Verma said they want the design to be human-centred.
“What I mean by that is that we wanted every single person who signs up to Grouptag to be able to showcase everything about themselves comfortably and very clearly and succinctly, so .... they can express who they are more.”
The pair have raised more than $12,000 in its first pre-seed funding round. The app currently has around 180 users in Australia, but has whipped up more than 50,000 engagements, which includes interactions with the app, messages sent, profiles viewed, and people searching and tapping.
Grouptag was built with Covid-19 in mind, but the pair intends for it to last longer than social distancing restrictions.
“It's easier than ever right now to share and consume content and stay in touch with people, but it's kind of harder than ever to form genuine connections nowadays,” said Verma.
“So we wanted to make that safe and easy.”
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