How Covid has changed how people network…the emergence of new platforms

Julien Oudart
3 min readSep 22, 2020

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We have all read articles explaining that Covid has changed forever the way we make business. It is to some extent true. One thing that is interesting is how people have continued to meet relevant business contacts during that period. We are not talking here about creating new commercial leads while trying to sell a product or service. We are talking about expanding your own 1st-level network.

The cancellation of most of the 2020 physical events has forced people to consider other alternatives. In a remote mode.

Of course most conference organizers have developed online versions and those that occurred around March / April have had good attendee numbers. But one of those guys was recently telling me figures have quickly dropped — from between 150 and 200 attendees per event in the first few weeks to less than 50 from May onwards in his particular case. I believe people got confused with all the sollicitations and tired of having to connect and watch in a very passive mode amongst many other things they had to do while at home. People will continue to attend remote conferences but have become far more peaky when choosing.

Upsides of virtual conference formats outlined in Science

Linkedin does not release any public figures but we can assume more people have been using it — and more often — since March. But while it was built as a platform to maintain the connection with our existing contacts in one single place, it was not meant to be a tool to connect with strangers in the first place. I think people do not register on Linkedin with the primary objective to make new connections.

Unlike Linkedin, a number of new platforms have come up with new concepts to meet more people relevant to you. Most of them were here before Covid happened. Some of them had to pivot because of it.

  • Apps like Bizaboo, Common Connect and others were created to meet people before, during and after attending a conference — and have adapted their product to online conferences since the Covid outbreak
  • Others such as Shapr have tried to replicate a Tinder-like swiping experience to increase engagement
  • Most recent initiatives include apps such as LunchClub who has raised $24m last month and says its number of connections has risen 10 fold since February. Its ambition is to create “smart introductions to relevant people”

LaunchClub, a startup that helps professionals meet, raises $25m

Those businesses success will solely depend on 2 things:

  • Ability to grow the network while maintaining a high level of relevancy:

I have been using LunchClub for 2 months now and have to say most of the profiles that were pushed to me were relevant. So far. At this stage of development I doubt matches are solely created by the LunchClub algorithm based on the data I share. It is possible they also use some manual picking. But who cares. Will they maintain or even increase relevancy as the network continues to grow?

  • Ability to identify the relevant business model and monetize their audience:

Shapr continues to mirror the Tinder model as the number of matches per week is limited and the app asks you to pay extra to meet more people. I would be curious to understand if people’s appetite to meet business contacts is as great as that to meet your next date. It is again all about relevancy here.

I believe Covid has played in favor of those apps, not only because online was the only way for people to connect but also because most people now find it more “acceptable” to receive online connection requests — when they did not pre-Covid.

At some stage, whether in 6 or 12months, people will be more willing to meet in person again. Most of those platforms, including LunchClub, were designed to encourage people to connect online but meet physically. Back to square one in a way. But with far bigger numbers.

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Julien Oudart

A tech guy in LA. I write every couple of weeks mostly about what i like: tech, media and sport marketing.