A team of former Tinder employees, led by Tinder’s original CTO Ryan Ogle, are today launching a new app aimed at professional networking. The app, called Ripple, aims to be a sort of mobile-first alternative to LinkedIn that addresses some of the problems common to the aging, now Microsoft-owned business networking platform.
LinkedIn today has a heavy focus on job searching and head hunting, which is only a subset of professional networking, and is plagued with issues like unwanted connection requests and inbox spam, among other things.
In addition, LinkedIn came about in the days of the desktop web, which has since limited its abilities to fully take advantage of what mobile has to offer, explains Ogle.
However, he’s careful to clarify that Ripple (not to be confused with the cryptocurrency, by the way), isn’t just a “Tinder for business networking.”
Rather, it takes some of the psychological principles that helped Tinder become a top app in its own market, and has repurposed those for use in professional networking.
“You have to address the problems with professional networking itself. It isn’t as easy as just throwing profiles up on a screen,” Ogle says of competing apps that have tried to enter the business networking space in the past.
“People have misconstrued why Tinder succeeded,” he continues. “Certainly, the swipe was interesting, engaging and fun. But the reasons why Tinder succeeded were far deeper than that. We thought a lot about the psychology of networking and the problems…what holds people back and prevents them from achieving what they want to achieve.”
On other dating platforms, it was common to allow people to message anyone they liked. Tinder, on the other hand, shifted the focus as to who’s next, not who you tried to reach and who rejected you.
In this way, Tinder addressed the stress that comes with being either the pursued or the pursuer. It only connects you when a match is mutually agreed upon, and it doesn’t show you a history of your past “likes.”
With Ripple, the goal is to take a similar problem-solving approach to business networking’s challenges, which differ from those in the dating world.
Ripple got its start as an internal Tinder hackathon project. But instead of introducing business networking as a Tinder feature (as Bumble has now done), the company realized it deserved to be its own app.
IAC’s Match Group, which owns Tinder and a number of other dating apps, came to an agreement with Tinder to spin-off Ripple App Corp. into a separate company and fund it. Match Group now has an undisclosed, minority stake in the new app. The company has no other outside investment, though the founders have put some of their own money in.
In addition to Ogle, other co-founders include Tinder’s first Android developer Paul Cafardo and Tinder lead designer Gareth Johnson.
Despite Ogle’s claims that Ripple isn’t just a biz-flavored Tinder, using Ripple feels very familiar.
Getting started is fairly simple. At launch, the app is able to automatically pull in your information from existing networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google when you sign up, making filling out profiles quicker.
You’re then taken to a screen where you can select your interests — like sales, marketing, technology, etc.
And while it does leverage the swipe mechanism, it attempts to downplay Tinder’s focus on photos by putting more text information on users’ cards that can be viewed without having to leave their profile — like job history, skills, education, mutual connections and events attending.
But, at the end of the day, Ripple shows you stacks of photos you swipe through, saying “yes” or “no.”
The app additionally offers a way to find potential connections nearby, a way to create events and groups other users can opt to join.
More controversially, there’s a “face scan” feature which — as you may have guessed — lets you aim your smartphone at someone’s face (or a photo of them) to find them on Ripple.
In theory, this should be used with consent — to make it faster to add new connections and ditch the use of business cards. We haven’t been able to test this in the real world to see if it works at a distance, which could be problematic.
There are, of course, other concerns with a Tinder-inspired business networking app: the potential for harassment from people using the app for non-professional purposes. Ripple will attempt to address this through a built-in reporting feature in an upcoming release (It wasn’t ready for version 1, but the company isn’t expecting a large number of users in its first few days, we’re told.)
Reporting users will later also involve a swipe-based, mini-game of sorts where users can flag others for a variety of issues. Ripple’s algorithms will use this activity, combined with other signals, to filter out bad actors — including not only harassers, but also those whose advances aren’t liked for other reasons, like pushy recruiters or spammers.
“That’s going to be one of our big differentiators. We’re going to be very aggressive in eliminating people who are doing things for non-professional reasons,” Ogle claims.
We have only been able to test Ripple’s beta build, which had a number of bugs. Hopefully, those are handled at launch.
Ripple is available on both iOS and Android, starting today.