Quick Pitch: Introduce yourself anywhere. Easily broadcast who you are to those around you while controlling what you share.
Genius Idea: Preventing missed personal or professional connections.
The next time you’re waiting in line, look around you. Chances are you’ll see other line-waiters passing the time on their mobile devices. Are these empty time slots missed connections in the making? Could this time be better spent networking?
Andy Kim, CEO and co-founder of Mingle, thinks so. His startup makes an application for iPhone — and soon mobile web — that lets you digitally introduce yourself to those around you with a single personality trait or skill, as sourced from your Facebook profile.
“We want to facilitate how people meet people, online and offline,” he says.
Kim dreamt up the idea for Mingle following an observant trip to Costco where he witnessed others around him constantly checking and posting to Facebook via their mobile devices. “Who are these people, and what are they doing?,” he pondered.
At the time, he says, he was looking to hire an iOS developer, which made him especially curious as to whether any of these Facebook-updating strangers had ever built an iOS application. He didn’t have a socially acceptable way to find out.
And so Mingle was designed to be the catalyst for person-to-person introductions by way of mobile for these exact scenarios.
As a Mingle user, you first connect your account to Facebook to create your profile. Then, you use the application to declare where you are, and select one aspect from your profile — choices include occupation, hometown, speciality, interest and so on — to share with those around you.
Once you introduce yourself via Mingle, you’ll gain access to the 30 closest introductions from nearby app users. You can click on an introduction to view a user’s public quality and initiate a private in-app conversation via the “Ask a question” button.
Theoretically, you could walk into a coffee spot, declare yourself a freelance designer in your introduction and get inquiries from patrons looking to learn more about your services.
Part of Mingle’s unique appeal, Kim explains, is that it lets a user put forth the side of her personality she deems most appropriate with each introduction. “People want to be known as different things depending on where they are,” he says.
Does Mingle’s approach to networking actually work? Anecdotally, yes. Kim points to a few feel-good stories. One user landed a job interview at Dreamworks, he says, and another was offered freelance gigs by way of the application.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is that a majority users have bogarted the application to their own linking. Mingle is intended for professional use, but 60% of app activity is of the social or dating variety, Kim says. A future app update is planned to make professional networking a more dominant activity.
Long Beach-based Mingle is currently in private beta. The iPhone application was released eight weeks ago, has been downloaded more than 20,000 times and was even featured by Apple in the App Store. To date, Mingle’s 9,000 users have sent more than 40,000 person-to-person messages.
Mingle is in the process of raising a seed round. It competes with applications such as Yobongo and Sonar in the connection-around-location arena.
Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.