Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The concept is simple: You give LetsLunch a time slot, and the website then matches you for lunch with someone who is geographically close and looking for a lunch partner.As of now, the website focuses on providing Silicon Valley-based entrepreneurs a means of networking with people who may have similar interests.
After four lunches through LetsLunch in the same month, you qualify to be matched with a LetsLunch VIP (an established entrepreneur or a celebrity) but only those with the highest rating will be rewarded this opportunity.
Using sophisticated algorithms and your pre-existing social reputation on Twitter and LinkedIn, the website aims to match people based on similar social ratings. To record the quality of conversation at lunch, LetsLunch allows you to rate your lunch partner on a scale of 1 to 10.
Rating matters because you are more likely to be matched with interesting people if you have a higher rating. The website uses clever techniques to make its rating system meaningful; it discounts the rating you assign to someone if you are rewarding all your lunch partners with a 10/10, or if you’re just a hater who has a record of consistently assigning extremely low ratings.
The idea was first pitched by Syed Shuttari at the Founders Institute. Alain Raynaud, a mentor at the institute, was interested in the idea and became the company’s co-founder. While similar ideas have emerged in the Bay Area before (LunchTree, for example), LetsLunch aims to fulfil a very specific networking requirement with a new level of sophistication in efficiently matching people.
But why restrict the idea to just Silicon Valley?
Professional networking is just one of the many reasons why people may want to befriend strangers over lunch. Fulfilling the networking requirement of entrepreneurs through LetsLunch seems to be a good starting point, but restricting the website strictly to that may be prove to be the wrong move.
Thousands of college students eat lunch alone every day simply because the schedules of their friends do not match with their own schedules. Many of them are extremely socially outgoing students who love to meet and make friends with new people.
LetsLunch is more applicable to college students attending small or medium sized colleges than it is to entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. At college campuses, you do not even require sophisticated algorithms to match students who have similar social reputations. Instead, students can disclose their preferences for the class, gender or hair colour of their lunch partner, which can then be matched with the closest possible alternative. LunchTree has been around for months, but because it restricted itself to San Francisco and the Bay Area, the idea never went viral like it would have at college campuses.
Its not always a good idea to restrict new businesses to Silicon Valley, even for the initial period.