If Chirag Ahuja has his way, lunch in New Zealand will soon have a completely different flavour.
The twenty-something biotechnologist, turned technology entrepreneur, is leading the team launching LetsLunch in New Zealand in the next month.
LetsLunch is a social network for business people, but instead of status updates and digital discussions, it brings together people from different industries to shoot the breeze over lunch.
Users connect their LinkedIn profile to LetsLunch, and give it times they are available to go have food. LetsLunch uses this information to match people to potential lunch companions, and emails them a list of other people who are available to go grab lunch. Afterwards, users are asked to rate each other, which goes towards refining the algorithm, and making matches more accurate.
As people continue to use the service, and their rating increases, they get the opportunity to meet VIP lunchers. Ahuja says there are currently 10 ‘celebrity’ business men and women on LetsLunch’s VIP list, including CEOs, CIOs, venture capitalists, and at least one telco executive who “has over 10,000 LinkedIn connections”.
The original LetsLunch was launched in the US last year, before going to Italy where it has generated a lot of buzz.
Ahuja says a social network like LetsLunch would fit right in with Kiwi culture, and would help people make lasting business connections.
“In New Zealand people value meeting people and networking,” says Ahuja.
“The problem with traditional networking events is you only get to talk to people very briefly, you become just another face.”
Ahuja says LetsLunch provides an opportunity for users to talk with people outside of their usual field.
“If you’re a developer, you usually go to developer meet-ups. If you’re a marketer, you usually go to marketing meeting ups. This lets you meet people outside of the usual silos, and gives you access to the kind of people you’d need to advance your career,”
Ahuja is no stranger to tech start-ups. He is a co-founder of TranscribeMe, which won the Auckland Startup Weekend last year, and while studying at Auckland University he entered the Spark Business challenge with a similar idea to LetsLunch.
“I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. LetsLunch is already established overseas, and has a good base,” says Chirag.
LetsLunch will be launching as a free service, but Chirag is not ruling out the possibility of monetizing it. Among his plans is partnering with restaurants and cafes to have sponsored suggestions for places to lunch.