Toronto’s Big Rock Labs, a listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange as of late May (CSE:BLA), has launched Reach, a location-based professional networking iOS app, with an Android version due in October.
What differentiates the Reach app from LinkedIn is that it’s location-based, pushing you to make connections with like-minded professionals nearby, rather than restricting contacts to people you’ve already worked with. In that sense, it’s like Blendr for professionals.
While the app will be most useful at conferences, during which you’re constantly walking past potential contacts you’ve never met, Reach could also potentially come in handy in airports or cafés.
More interestingly, it’s emphasizing the importance of meeting people face to face, complementary to social media which tends to “connect” us with people we probably never speak with or see.
While a pre-existing LinkedIn account isn’t necessary to begin using Reach, you can log in using LinkedIn or just create a new account from scratch.
According to Big Rock board member and advisor Matthew Kaine, who is also an advisor for Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone and MaRS Discovery District, the problem with LinkedIn is that although it has a user base of 260 million professionals, these contacts rarely translate into actionable business connections or face-to-face encounters.
He says that the concept for the app “was to provide a platform for power networkers as well as introverted professionals, and assist them in becoming aware of new connections and potential opportunities while carrying out daily routines.”
Big Rock Labs plans to release an update for Reach in mid-October, which will refine the app’s functionality by narrowing the search parameters to help professionals “work the room” a little more efficiently, while also adding a “note” function, allowing users to leave themselves a little reminder comment section relating to each new contact.
With an aim towards establishing Reach as a valid job posting and referral platform, Big Rock hopes that Human Resources departments will end up finding the app as useful as professional users.
Developer Uzair Khan, after obtaining his bachelor of software engineering degree from the University of Waterloo, counted Rogers, Deloitte Consulting, Bell and IBM Canada among his clients.
And Kashif Shaikh worked as a member of the BlackBerry Software Infrastructure development team, focusing on the development of mission critical software for BlackBerry’s message routing network.
After finishing the Reach rollout this November, Big Rock Labs plans to follow up with an app called Hostello, targeted at budget-minded travellers seeking high-end accommodation.
Cantech Letter chatted by email with Big Rock Labs CEO Karl Pawlowicz.
What is Reach? What need does it fulfill?
We want to help professionals connect face-to-face again. In recent years, the world has seen a shift in behaviour that has sacrificed conversation for connection. Leveraging the power of social networks as a first step in making connections, we are committed to restoring the power of lasting, dynamic relationships by coordinating a real handshake.
Reach is a free mobile professional networking app that utilizes location-based technology to connect professionals in their area. Find and shake hands with other professionals nearby. Reach strives to reinvent networking in cafes, conferences, airport lounges, events and meetup groups.
Reach is industry agnostic and is a powerful tool for salespeople, marketers, HR professionals, freelancers, recruiters, entrepreneurs and those generally interested to network in a way and at a rate that was not possible before.
What entailed the process of making the app? How did the team come together? Do you have any mentors and/or did you participate in any incubators or accelerators?
The team came together in January 2014 with the idea of creating disruptive apps which offer clear, immediate value to the consumer. We began brainstorming ideas for apps and decided to develop Reach as our first application. We have 3 advisors to the company: Giancarlo De Lio, Matt Kaine and Steph Bigue. And we did not participate in any incubators/accelerators.
Big Rock Labs is publicly listed on the CSE. What persuaded you to follow that route, as opposed to keeping privately held and raising seed rounds?
Yes, we are publicly listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) – the Exchange for Entrepreneurs. We followed this route because there is very little venture capital for new technology in Canada and Canadian investors are more familiar with investing in public companies due to better transparency.
That last response is a little surprising given the current imperative in start-up culture encouraging entrepreneurs to enroll in incubators and chase VC money. It may yet be the case that the public markets make sense for young companies looking to scale a product out of the gate.