Companies use data collection and artificial intelligence (AI) for just about everything these days, from narrowing down the perfect bottle of wine to helping the healthcare industry better serve patients. It should be no surprise, then, that same tech made its way into the boardroom with Lunchclub.
Lunchclub's professional networking tools promise to deliver a more nuanced approach to making career connections, but does it live up to those claims? Here’s what you should know about the up-and-coming network and how it may apply to your next job search or startup collaboration.
What is Lunchclub?
Lunchclub works by asking you questions about your background, professional goals, and interests, and then uses AI to match you with someone who may have overlapping goals or resources.
You’ll receive an invitation to meet with this person for a one-on-one, 45-minute meeting. You can decide to go ahead with the meeting, which can take place in real life or over virtual video chat.
Lunchclub was founded in 2017 and employs at least 30 workers, according to its LinkedIn page. Crunchbase notes that Lunchclub received more than $4 million in funding through three investing rounds.
What does it cost to join Lunchclub?
Lunchclub is free to join as of this publish date, but you may need an invitation to sign up. Some users have been able to sign up right away, however. You are never asked for payment information as a condition of registering, and users can take advantage of several platform features immediately.
As Lunchclub members complete more activities, refer friends, and take recommendation actions, you earn tokens that you can turn in for future rewards and permissions. It’s still unclear how the platform will monetize beyond its funding so far.
How can I join Lunchclub?
Lunchclub advertises itself as an invite-only platform, although at the time of this writing we were able to sign up from the home page without a referral. The signup process was simple:
Enter your name and email information
Click relevant suggestions for your goals, interests, and motive for joining
Upload a photo (optional)
Include a short bio, as well as LinkedIn profile and Twitter links
Answer some starter questions, such as “Something I learned just today is….”
Confirm your registration via email
Connect your Google account
The entire process takes less than 10 minutes, and you should see some matches right away. If you don’t feel comfortable setting up appointments right away, you can skip a week. The platform will show you a calendar that you can adjust to show your available time slots that others can pick for future virtual or in-person meetings.
What perks come with Lunchclub membership?
Lunchclub membership includes the ability to connect with people you may not otherwise meet. But what are the other benefits of this platform?
Bespoke “matching” system
Lunchclub uses a proprietary method of matching professionals based on several factors, not just location or industry. It’s difficult to tell exactly how the matches are made based on the questions you answer when you sign up, but the matches are typically more nuanced than other sites.
Tangible ways to connect
The site gives you a concrete way to do something with your matches. Instead of connecting with random people on a site, then possibly doing nothing with that connection, Lunchclub prompts you to take action right away. Easy-to-use scheduling lets you and your new connection meet in person or virtually.
The number of connections is limited to several per week, at least at first. This is nice from a management perspective, since it can be overwhelming to keep up with many new connections.
Less prone to spam
Lunchclub limits some of the spam potential, because new users can’t sign up just to connect with hundreds or even thousands of people for the sole purpose of selling their products or services.
How does it compare to other sites?
The site markets itself as an alternative to other career networking sites, most notably LinkedIn. The one area that Lunchclub hopes to set itself apart is in the data. It’s focused on creating a personalized career matchmaking service with more sincere connections than if you were to randomly scroll through feeds or perform generic searches on other virtual networking platforms.
While you have to try the actual Lunchclub networking to get a feel for the quality of the matches, the company’s infrastructure is a big clue to how it prioritizes this data. At the time of this publication, Lunchclub was hiring for seven data, engineering, and machine learning team positions and was delivering matches to a growing number of professionals every day.
Less of a time commitment
Because Lunchclub is focused on matches, it doesn’t seem to require as much of a time commitment as other social media or networking sites. You can log on, see your matches, take action with a meeting, and move on. There’s not a “social media” aspect to it that requires you to keep posting, liking, and interacting with other users to try to beat algorithms and get yourself noticed.
Not focused on “likes”
While there is an activity feed showing what your connections are doing, it’s not done with the sole intention of gaining views and likes. For those who grow tired of tracking their reactions and shares, this could be a better way to network.
Should you join Lunchclub?
Are you looking for better professional connections? While the Lunchclub platform doesn’t promise to help you find your next job or mentor, it does offer some unique opportunities to connect. The network doesn’t ask what your job title is or what industry you work in, but its discovery questions do allow you to point the data in that direction.
Find new social and professional spaces
Unlike LinkedIn, which doesn’t match but rather “suggests” possible existing connections, Lunchclub AI takes some of the work out of finding interesting people. It’s a solid opportunity for those who are too shy to invade a stranger’s private messages.
In fact, LinkedIn actively discourages people from connecting with those they don’t know, so Lunchclub may be appealing if you want to break ground in completely new social or professional circles. It’s virtually impossible to use the site as a spam tool, and some will love it just for that benefit.
If you’re OK with leaving a little bit of your future to data and chance, Lunchclub offers some exciting prospects. Just don’t expect it to be the way for you to share your next viral marketing article.
Rather than being a place for professionals to showcase their work and position themselves as thought leaders, it’s more of a way to “speed-date” without the speed aspect. Anyone who’s willing to roll the dice and meet with other professionals who like to knit, love the planet, or enjoy gastronomy may find their industry soulmate through the site.
Give it time to grow
Just don’t expect that perfect match right away. The site is growing, and while available in almost every city, the matches are mostly virtual in some markets. Those hoping for a genuine face-to-face will find that the video calls option is more realistic (and perhaps safer, as well).
If the few matches given upon registration may seem a little off, that’s expected with AI-based tools, which get more proficient the longer you use them. By continuing to be honest in your feedback and using the tool each week, you can expect the matches to be more spot-on as time goes on.
Lunchclub offers something a bit different thanks to its focus on machine learning. For now, the price is zero. Instead, you simply need to honestly answer some questions and connect your Google account in exchange for the potential to meet people you may not have connected with on your own.
For anyone who’s tired of sorting through career spam and posting to yet another social network, Lunchclub may be a welcome change. Just don’t expect it to be the only professional networking you’ll need. With many professionals not using it yet, and others unwilling to connect their Google account, it may take some time to catch on.
In the meantime, Lunchclub is a worthwhile tool to consider. Even one meeting with the right person can fuel your next big idea or help you land that funding partnership you’re looking for.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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