The geo-social space has become an incredibly busy, confusing, and experimental one. It’s clear that this is a segment on the precipice of what’s next, and at the same time it’s coming under plenty of fire. Within the same breath, we can wonder at its possibilities while also calling location-reading apps invasive or complaining about battery suck issues.
But there will not be any surrender on the market’s part here. Developers and entrepreneurs alike know that location is going to be a bankable feature, and that we’re only starting to understand its application. The first go, after tip-toeing efforts like Foursquare and Gowalla and other check-in services, was SoLoMo. This wave of ambient, location-based mobile social networks came full and fast – they consumed this past year’s SXSW. The reaction: Mild, short-lived amusement.
It’s prompted a bit of SoLoMo backlash (and can we all officially agree to distance ourselves from that label? It’s just god-awful), and caused founders to reconsider how best to use location-reading features to connect – it’s a big part of why new app CanWeNetwork is forsaking the social scene in favor of the professional market.
CanWeNetwork connects with your LinkedIn profile and then reads vectors like your skillset, experience, interests, personality traits, natural language processing, profiles you’ve looked at , and who you’ve used the app to connect with – along with, obviously, your location – to help you find and connect with others around you for networking purposes.
Originally the CanWe Studios team (the umbrella company CanWeNetwork falls under) experimented with focus on purely social connections. “We used it to see how people communicate and test our technology” says VP of CanWe Studios James Sinclair. “So we played around with it for a few months – and we saw how busy social was and all the privacy concerns, so we pivoted quickly into a business vertical. There’s more opportunity in this sector, and more longevity for the platform.”
“People are so stuck on social networks and see them as the tool and not a tool to connect,” he says. “We want to be a utility to give you a way to talk to more people of relevance and get you to go actually talk to them. I want you off the app as quickly as possible.”
CanWeNetwork looks similar to other efforts we’ve seen in this vein, including Intro, which received some early hype. After connecting with your LinkedIn account, you’re able to get a read on potential connects around you, and then you take it from there, accepting or making invitations to meet up (or declining them, for that matter). The clean interface is incredibly simple, thankfully, and doesn’t try as hard as some location-ready ventures have to push connections on you.
According to Sinclair, location is obviously important to CanWeNetwork but it’s not necessarily more important than any of the other signals the app is reading. He says the app only tracks your phone when it makes a call out to cell towers instead of reading your location second-to-second (which, it should be mentioned, also helps with battery life).
For now, CanWe Studios – which raised $2 million at the beginning of the year — is focusing on its using location and connectivity for the business market, although there’s a possibility it will branch out. But for now, the Austin-based team will edge into the market by hedging its bets on something that doesn’t vaguely pressure you to meet up, instead giving uses a cleaner target. And if there’s anything that (ugh) SoLoMo needs, it’s focus.