When you hear social media, ironically, I bet you only think about online services like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Many a person has complained that “social media” has actually disconnected the world, more than connected it. Sure, you can “hangout” with someone on Google+, but that’s not the same as seeing someone live and in person right in front of you. Chatting over coffee with someone in a Starbucks is a very different experience than two people sitting into two different coffee shops talking over streaming video. The experience is different.
I’m not a social media hater (I love Twitter, though I’m one of the proud and few that aren’t on Facebook, but it is refreshing to see a startup tackle the task of getting people together—offline. At The Pool (which was almost called Hyphos) is one such startup. Founded and helmed by Alex Capecelatro, At The Pool is bringing a bit of humanity back to the web. He explains, “We love to hear about spontaneous and serendipitous interactions that have occurred from using our product. There was one instance where a group of people in the UK created a dinner group that all began through At The Pool. Our team didn’t personally have any influence with this, but the group figured out a new and interesting way to use the platform to meet up offline.”
ATP is the best kind of startup, the kind that is founded as the direct result of a real problem faced by the founder, who explains, “I’m a huge cyclist and runner, an entrepreneur, and a vegetarian. A few years ago I was living in upstate New York working on a tech startup in what felt like the middle of nowhere. Meeting new people nearby was incredibly difficult. I serendipitously met someone at a dinner who worked in tech, liked to go cycling, and shared a number of my interests. Unfortunately, this was right before I moved to Southern California, where I ran into the same problem. Later on I discovered that one of the Facebook founders lived in the same small town I was in. Why is it so tough to meet like-minded people around us? I realized the Internet does a great job at connecting us with our closed network of friends and family, but doesn’t help us find new, like-minded people nearby. That is where At The Pool came in—an Open Network dedicated to connecting people together offline based on common interests.”
ATP consists of three major features: shouts, friends and explore. Shouts are a type of status update that allows you to ping people with activity ideas. For example, “Let’s hit the slopes,” or, “Let’s see a movie,” or “Want to take over the world?” Rather than showing every person you have ever met, the friends feature only shows you who is nearby, now in an effort to help you connect with people in the real world. Explore lets you discover new people to interact with.