“It’s awkward, inefficient, and completely hit and miss,” says Ma. That’s why the Decide.com co-founder started Weave, a new mobile app for iOS that allows people to connect with LinkedIn professionals who might be lingering nearby. A user can choose to anonymously say whether they want to meet them or not. If both people are interested in meeting, Weave connects them to arrange a time.
“Mobile has opened up realms of possibilities for connecting with interesting people,” says Ma. “When you’re out and about, a lot of times you’re bored and waiting — airports, at school, bus stops, coffee shops, malls, etc. — you’re sitting at your workplace and you don’t have someone to go to lunch with, or you’re like me and have to take 5 deep breathes before walking into a networking event. If I’m already out and about and was about to review someone else’s background beforehand and knew that that person was mutually interested in meeting me, it makes it a whole lot easier.”
There are a number of other location-based services that are looking to solve this problem. And there are all sorts of privacy implications that arise with a service like Weave. Ma, who prior to co-founding Decide.com worked as a program manager at Zillow and Microsoft, said he’s very conscious of the privacy issues.
“People’s time is valuable. I’d hate for someone to come up to me when I’m working and worse if I didn’t want to meet them,” said Ma. “The need for both people to mutually want to connect before we expose a chat for them helps a lot here. You’re meeting people on your own terms. When you want, and with whom you want. We never expose your exact location.”
To get Weave going, Ma has partnered with Elpizo Choi, a software engineer who previously worked at Cut Media, CityGrid and CoffeeMe. Choi is based in Seattle, while Ma has decided to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ma said he wanted to move to the Bay Area to see first-hand about the San Francisco-Seattle debates.
“I know quite a bit more about the Seattle startup scene than I did 5 years ago, but I know nothing about the Bay other then what I read online,” he said.
Ma also is hoping that having the two co-founders in different cities will help build more exposure for the app, which for now is only available on iOS.
Ma co-founded Decide.com in 2009, a spin out of another startup company he started called Eggsprout (a job and career-focused Web site). Decide.com sold to eBay last year, and Ma said it was time for him to move back into the startup ranks.
So far, Ma said he’s had some success using Weave.
“Yesterday, I used Weave to reconnect with a friend in San Francisco working two blocks away who earlier that day had another Weave meeting at a coffee shop with someone else. I also met someone who was just getting off the train next to me who had an extra ticket to a Jason Calacanis live interview. I ended up going to that event and connected via Weave with another person nearby. In just one day, I have leads into investors, a whole lot more users, possible business partnerships, and even possible future employees. Serendipity is powerful.”