What I learned from 200 Lunchclubs
I just did my 200th Lunchclub this week (subtle brag) and will finish the year with 52 straight weeks of meetings. One of my 2021 professional goals was to expand my network and in this pre-post-pandemic world, Lunchclub is a great tool for that.
Lunchclub’s tagline is “We facilitate casual conversations that lead to not-so-casual professional impact. Powered by AI.” Tactically, it’s 30 minute meetings scheduled via their algorithms that match you with people based on some pre-chosen criteria. It’s like speed dating for professional networking. But smart.
I love and hate Lunchclub all at the same time.
- 195 for 200 — Seriously. I only had about 5 meetings that weren’t awesome. You know who you were. Kidding. A few people were really anti-social or we generally had nothing in common. 5 people out of 200. Imagine going to a conference and hitting the cocktail hour and getting that kind of conversion rate on random chats. Clearly they are doing something right on the matching algorithm.
- “Meet Interesting People” — The best meetings I had were from that prompt. The other ones (“Invest”, “Start a company”) seemed to end me up with people that had an agenda or were hardcore looking for a job|co-founder|hire. Not knocking those people, just meant we weren’t aligned for success.
- Non-LinkedIn Origin Story — I’ve got mine down now and can rattle it off in my sleep. 30 seconds flat and I tweak it depending on who I’m talking to. Don’t list off your jobs; I can read your LinkedIn. Throw in some interesting tidbits, do a little pre-meet stalking to find some common ground. I was surprised that more people didn’t have their intro or pre-game down. Lunchclub could stand to do some coaching on that.
I hated (and mostly not their fault):
- What do you want to be when you grow up? — I have no clue what Lunchclub wants to be when it grows up. Maybe it’s not for me to know or it will be revealed at some later stage but right now I cannot figure out what this company is going to become and as a “power user” it’s a little unsettling thinking maybe I am the product. With $28M raised, I’d think they have some sense of where they want to head. Please tell me it isn’t more in-person meetings.
- Who is Lunchclub? — Who runs this company? Who is driving the vision (see #1)? Where is the company voice? The public face of Lunchclub can be found in 5 poorly maintained links here: https://linktr.ee/lunchclubai
- Give me the emails — You used to do email intros between Lunchclub people. It made it super easy to hook them into intros I might do outside of the system for the people that I met. But you moved them into your own online chat solution. I get wanting to keep a walled garden but it would be super easy to keep the email AND do your chat solution.
- Network score and Clubpoints — What are these for and why do I care about them? You’ve had them on the platform for over a year and not a peep about what they mean or how you can increase either of them. My network score went up exactly 6 points in 2021. I have no idea if that is good or bad. I’m guessing it’s bad. While the Clubpoints are sort of self-explanatory, they completely upend what makes Lunchclub great by even offering them. I’m guessing we’ll be able to buy them at some point? Hopefully not.
The Real Magic of Lunchclub
Lunchclub highlighted the real problem with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great professional influencer platform and it’s a horrible professional network management tool.
I’ve been on LinkedIn for 17 years. I would say that in the last 10 years I have gotten almost no value from it whatsoever. In fact, I think most people would agree. You don’t setup or maintain your LinkedIn because you want to. You do it because you have to. You’re either looking to change jobs, telling the world about a changed job or trying to figure out who just emailed you out of the blue (hint: they have SaaS and you need it now — if you aren’t laughing at my sass joke just stop reading).
LinkedIn is a platform for people to do professional social networking. Or should that say social networking about being professional? Basically it’s an attention platform. It’s about building a following and getting people to pay attention to your influence. Attention for your posts, attention for job seekers, attention for recruiters and sales people. It doesn’t help me manage my professional social network at all.
Lunchclub: You’ve got a few interesting features and some momentum. You have a finite amount of time to seize on that and build an interesting business here. Please help me continue to expand my professional network AND figure out how to help me manage it moving forward. Don’t build another attention platform. Don’t make us the product. A lot of people will pay for a product that solves this problem.