I have never swiped right. Or left, for that matter. In fact, I’m so clueless about online dating that I don’t even know which of those gives the thumbs up. I married my husband, Sherpa, nine years ago, before online dating was the norm. I have zero regrets about never having experienced the world of Tinder. From what my friends tell me, finding The One in 2020 requires wading through the muddy waters of ghosting, dick pics and deadbeats.
And so, up until the end of last year, I quite happily assumed that my dating days were over, whether online or off. But then I came across an app called Braindate, which has been dubbed the ‘Tinder for Thinkers’. It’s a matchmaking app for professionals that aims to make networking at conferences and industry events less awkward by using an algorithm to help people connect. Users can choose between two types of Braindate: a 30-minute one-on-one or a 45-minute group session involving up to four people.
Braindate was launched by a Canadian tech company called e180 in 2013. Rather than existing as a stand-alone app that guests need to download, Braindate is integrated into the main event’s app. Since 2017, it has been used at more than 200 events across Australia, Europe, the Middle East and North America.
The CEO and founder of e180, Christine Renaud, told me over a Skype call from her Montreal HQ that the app is designed to make networking less hit-and-miss. “Everybody is sick of standing up with a glass of wine feeling awkward, trying to bump into the right person,” Renaud tells me. It’s all I can do not to shout “Yes!” in agreement.
Renaud saw the potential of applying the logic of online dating to professional networking: “What Braindate has in common with certain dating apps is the idea of building an online persona that truly reflects who you are, so that when you sit down with somebody, you are already well on your way to having a great conversation.”
Participants answer questions about their expertise and personal interests, and can also post topics to discuss during Braindates, which are ideally problems they can help solve. A clever algorithm then suggests topics that are likely to be of interest based on their profile information.
Could technology really remove the awkwardness of networking? Renaud maintains that having a topic of conversation in place helps avoid painfully long pauses, and I wanted to believe her.
On the day of my first Braindates, I woke up feeling excited and quickly changed into the outfit I’d laid out the night before. I’d given it carefully though: I didn’t want to come across as flirty, yet I didn’t want to look like a boring dullard, either. I opted for a patterned maroon tunic with a high neck worn over black leggings with cream loafers. I studied myself in the mirror: it would do.
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