Can you swipe your way to new friends?

Innovation Hub
A group of phones

Patrick Quinn-Graham/Flickr

Wake up, world! It’s 2016 and we’re officially in the decade of online-love. Almost everyone knows at least one couple who met with the assistance of technology.

Almost 50 million people use apps or websites to find dates, and use among young adults has tripled since 2013.

But if you’re trying to find a friend, it gets a lot harder.

Why?

Expanding dating apps into friending seems like a smart idea. Most people need multiple friends, but generally, they’re only looking for one romantic partner. So there’s lots of opportunity, right?

Nermin Jasani, founder of the now-defunct app Lumelle, thinks so. She believes that it’s only a matter of time before friendship apps really take off. “Just in the past year, we’ve seen four new friendship apps pop up,” she says. “That wasn’t the case three years ago.”

Y-Combinator — the same company that funded Airbnb and Dropbox — has started investing in a couple of friend-finders. Bumble, a popular dating app, just expanded to friending. And Hey Vina!, based out of San Francisco, just raised a million dollars in seed funding.

At first blush, that seems pretty good. But a million dollars is pocket change in Silicon Valley.

And for every successful friend-finding app we discovered, there were many, many failed ones.

So why haven’t they taken off? The jury is still out on this one. But we suspect it has a bit to do with the stigma involved. Just look at online dating.

Match.com has been around for 20 years, but it just became socially acceptable to announce you met online. And it’s always been easier to admit you’re looking for a date rather than a friend.

Jasani doesn’t think it’s going to take 20 years for friending apps to become mainstream. But it still might take a while.

Innovation Hub's Kara Miller tried Hey Vina for herself. It went well, but not great, she said. And maybe that’s the way it goes with with dating apps, too.

Because whether you’re looking for a date, a friend, or the next money-making friendship app, you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.

This story was first published by PRI's Innovation Hub.

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