Stay long enough in tech and you’ll see the same ideas being recycled, usually with a slight twist. To wit: Friendsy, a student-only social network that’s aiming to bringing Tinder-style meet-up ease to existing communities of U.S. college students. Like TheFacebook of yore, it requires users have a .edu email to sign up. While its app also includes the now ubiquitous Tinderish swipe-to-like mechanism.
Friendsy launched the app just under six months ago (although its first push was as a website, back in 2013) — and is now reporting nearly 100,000 users across the U.S., who have racked up some 750,000 matches within the app thus far, up from 450,000 mutual matches back in March.
As well as offering to match students who specifically want to date each other, the app also lets users specify if they just want to ‘hook up’, or platonically ‘friend’ each other — so it’s starting from a broader use-case base than Tinder or Facebook. (Although Tinder has been looking for ways to push into the friend zone for a while now.)
Friendsy’s pitch is the app makes it easier for students to meet fellow students who they don’t know yet — something which the founders argue remains hard to do on Facebook, given it’s focused on people you have already met. While Tinder is more nakedly about hooking up, and does not offer as many options to users to approach a crush (Friendsy allows users to send anonymous invitations to friends they might like to date, for instance, as well as allowing some anonymous chat so users can sound out whether they want to move an anonymous approach on to a more formal footing).
And while there are anonymous chat apps like YikYak, they don’t limit usage based on .edu email — so aren’t so tightly focused on college campuses.
The Friendsy team has now pulled in a seed funding round, with $500,000 coming from Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Slow Ventures. The new financing expands the $200,000+ they had already raised from the same investors, as well as from Princeton University itself. The seed financing will be used to prep for a big back to school push this fall, according to the founders. Friendsy has built up a network of 100 campus representatives at this stage, to help spread the word about the app — taking a leaf out of the Tinder growth playbook.
Clearly the core differentiator for Friendsy’s service is limiting its access to existing communities of students, although that does pose a problem if it ever moves to scale beyond that — since it will be abandoning what makes it distinct. It also means current users will ‘graduate’ from the service once they graduate college. Still, Facebook made the switch from only students to the wider world, and now likely has far more parents and grandparents using it than students, so it’s clear that enough traction can carry a tech service far from its original proposition. Even if that means it’s no longer the sleekly distinctive animal it once was.
However, Friendsy is by no means the only social network catering to the student communities that Facebook outgrew; U.K.-based Unii, for instance, also runs a campus-centric social network exclusively for U.K. students with a university accredited email address. It launched back in May 2013, signing up 100,000+ students in its first six months of operation. So if Friendsy starts looking at college campuses outside the U.S. as a way to grow its student community it’s not going to have an uncontested run.