Proof of the Seattle Freeze? People Take Fewer In-Person Meetings via App

8/6/14Follow @bromano

Here’s some possible evidence of the Seattle Freeze, that social ill that gives Seattleites a reputation for being superficially friendly but non-committal to newcomers: People in Seattle using a new app for business networking agreed to take half as many in-person meetings with other users, compared to people in San Francisco.

The app is called Weave, and its makers recently raised a $630,000 seed round from investors including Vulcan Capital. It’s another Tinder-style app, in which people quickly swipe through profiles of other users in their area, indicating whether or not they’d like to meet after viewing a summarized LinkedIn profile. When two users agree to meet, Weave notifies them and they can schedule time for a cup of coffee.

Weave has 2,000 active users in Seattle and 5,000 in San Francisco; it’s in several other cities, too. Over the last 30 days, people in Seattle and San Francisco used it at about the same rate—opening the app, on average, a little more than twice a day, and swiping through the profiles of about 30 other users.

But users in Seattle say they’d like to meet another user only one time for every 10 profiles they reject. In San Francisco, that ratio is one yes for every five nos. And, not surprisingly, Seattleites found only three matches per average user over the last month, compared to six in San Francisco. Of the Seattle users, 10 percent are lurking on the service—they only ever swipe no. Only 5 percent of the San Francisco users are lurkers, according to Weave.

So does this prove it? The Seattle Freeze is real?

“We have data that shows it is,” Weave CEO and co-founder Brian Ma says.

Ma, pictured above, grew up in Seattle and was a standout computer science and electrical engineering student at the University of Washington. He worked at Microsoft and Zillow before co-founding a startup, Decide, which was purchased by eBay last year.

Ma moved to San Francisco at the beginning of the year, and says he’s being thinking a lot about differences in the two cities’ social routines. He’s quick to note that Weave shows people’s behavior toward potential new business contacts, which isn’t the same as meeting friends. But, combined with his own experience, Ma thinks the Weave usage data offers some insights about the way people view their careers in both places.

“Here in San Francisco—I’ve only been here now for like eight months—I think it’s like, work, work, work all the time, and if you’re not working, you’re like, what’s wrong with you?” Ma says. He finds San Franciscans to be “very intense, intentional about their networking here … and less so in Seattle.”

Ma had his whole childhood and college network to fall back on when he lived in Seattle, so he never felt the Freeze. And he doesn’t think he gave the cold shoulder to new arrivals, of which there have been many: We learned earlier this year that Seattle is growing faster than any other major U.S. city.

“I thought that I was pretty friendly to people that were coming in,” Ma says.

But, as an angel investor, Ma says he did struggle to find suitable entrepreneurs in Seattle to invest in. In-person meetings are important for building trust, he says, but the tools available today for expanding your professional network are inefficient for arranging those meetings.weavelogo_withtext

“You either like spam your friends for intros or you go to networking meetings and it’s kind of like a hit-and-miss type of thing,” Ma says.

Ma began working on what would become Weave with friends during his bachelor party last summer, which he describes as “the nerdiest bachelor party you can ever think of. We literally just coded over the weekend.” Also on the trip to Vancouver, Canada, was Hsu Ken Ooi, another Decide co-founder, and now the founder of CoffeeMe— a separate professional networking service that emerged as the product from all of that bachelor party coding.

(Earlier this year Ooi also published some stats on the likelihood of an introduction happening over CoffeeMe for different technology roles in San Francisco and Seattle.  A couple of examples: An investor in San Francisco is 18 times more likely than her counterpart in Seattle to agree to meet another investor matched on CoffeeMe. In Seattle, an engineer is about twice as likely to meet a company founder on the service than in San Francisco.)

CoffeeMe is a Web-based, invitation only professional network that also introduces tech industry professionals via a Tinder-style yes/no interface. Weave, meanwhile, is open to all comers and built for mobile devices first.

There are other competitors, too, including companies that have been trying (and not always succeeding) to nail the meet-people-near-you challenge for a couple of years now, such as Highlight, Sonar (RIP), and Banjo (which is now about finding breaking news on the Web). Weave and CoffeeMe are explicitly about professional networks.

Weave raised its seed round last month from Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Social Starts, Darling Ventures, and others, Ma says. It has four full-time employees, including co-founder and CTO Elpizo Choi, and three working part-time, mostly in San Francisco.

Weave, which rolled out an iPhone app in January and an Android app in February, hopes to make money by promoting people within its service the way that Twitter sells promoted tweets.

“Everything right now on Weave is on mutual matching, so you want to meet someone and they want to meet you,” Ma says. “There’s a lot of people who are like, ‘Hey, I’d love to meet you,’ and the other person doesn’t want to meet them. And so I think there’s a lot of ways we can try to promote certain people.”

I asked Ma about the current proliferation of apps that bill themselves as Tinder for X, building on the popularity of the dating app. There’s a version for adopting dogs, houses, places, and more. This Tweet from an account that parodies media and technology pundit Jeff Jarvis may have put it best:

 

Ma says the Tinder user interface, based on a cards metaphor, is simple and appealing because people can quickly say yes or no to something or someone. But he thinks it really shines in scenarios where the user is saying yes or no to another person who is doing the same, rather than simply liking or disliking something that can’t also reciprocate.

“I think the Tinder mechanism works well for people to discover people,” Ma says. “The Tinder mechanism just as a ‘like’ or ‘don’t like’ thing, I think is mostly like a fad.”

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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