I didn’t wake up one day and think, “let’s build a social network”. That’s probably not what Vasilisa woke up thinking, either. This story doesn’t go like that. In fact, I was thinking of every reason NOT to build a social network: (1) It is a very crowded and competitive space, (2) there are lots of big players who can outpay, outgun, and out ‘manage’ you and, well, the list goes on. I tried almost every decent platform I could think of until one day, something happened that made me realize, “I have to do better than this”. 

Now, human beings are tough nuts to crack. I challenge you to find anything that is more complex than a human being. Every social network or social media platform out there was built for a specific purpose, and oftentimes they accomplish those specific purposes well… but there still remain several unsolved problems.

1. Staying relevant when we’re all changing in different ways… is simply not possible.

Amidst our changing priorities, identities, interests, we also go through different life phases at different times, and experience different significant life events at different times. To expect a given social group to be able to grow and develop in the exact same direction as any one individual is simply unrealistic and impractical. We are diverse, not homogenous. Of course, some of us have amazing friends that stick by us no matter what, but there is a lot of growth and support to be found in people who are moving in the same direction or going through the same experiences as us. The shared experience allows people to relate, connect, and grow together. Yet, it is incredibly difficult to find like-minded people with whom we can share a meaningful connection because…

2. Majority of the platforms are either for dating or networking

And what if we don’t want to do either? We still enjoy sharing new perspectives of others we wouldn’t have ordinarily gotten to meet. We can still be interested in what it is they’re doing, whether at work or outside of it. I don’t want to be “networking” because it’s often people taking turns to brag about themselves in a stuffy environment, where everyone is there because they’re hoping to get rather than give. It’s almost always a “walk me through your CV” and that’s not fun at all. Why not just enjoy great company and be ourselves? Whatever happens after, then, is a BONUS. The best part? We don’t have to keep up the “act” because we didn’t have one to begin with.

3. The “hit” rate is often discouragingly low

Ask around. Most people peg the “hit” rate at less than 10%, closer to 5%. There’s a reason “swiping fatigue” exists, and why is that? A large majority of platforms are open to all, but what that means is that the chance of you being “matched” with someone who has very little in common with you is very high. Interests are a nice place to start but it’s almost always never enough. It is just one part of what I call the “longevity quotient” (i.e. the probability of two individuals getting along, hitting it off, and having a happily ever after as friends or whatever else).

The asynchronous nature of text conversations doesn’t help either. (Let’s take a moment to mourn(?) all those “how are you?”, “what do you do?” or dead-ended openings that were never responded to.)

4. There are a gamut of safety and harassment issues

I went on a meetup platform (a very, very famous one), created a minimal profile and joined a parenting group. Next thing I knew, I was getting propositioned by dads. This IS a problem common to many platforms out there. Why should I feel comfortable meeting with these people when I know how some of them are? Why can’t we meet the people who we would’ve gotten to know if our teammate, Kathy, had brought them to the last BBQ we were planning to host that got canceled due to social distancing?

5. Being “too busy” and trying to get back in touch is a problem

Lots of us are guilty of it. We lose friends all the time, no matter the season and even when we don’t intend to. Whatsapp messages with friends get pushed all the way down because of huge chat groups with 1,000 participants of which ten of them NEVER stop talking. Before long, you realize that you’re about 11 months late in replying to Oliver about that lunch catch-up that you’d promised to get back to him on after checking your calendar on Microsoft Teams. People ARE busy. Keeping track of each others’ lives is not an easy task and we shouldn’t pretend that it is. Discoverability is a problem. Did you know your almost-best-friend in middle school is also an entrepreneur mom? Did you know that your ex-colleague is also keenly curious about the possibility of living on Mars?

These are just some of the many reasons behind why we’re building Soda. We’re building a platform to power people’s discovery of those they already “know” and those they’ve yet to meet. We believe that communities should be as fluid as the people that make them, and that finding ways to be meaningfully connected should be as possible at any age as it were when we were in school. We’re more isolated than ever before – whether by how busy, how digitally dependent we are, or due to CoVid-19 restrictions – and it’s time we bucked the trend, safely.

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