Plenty of apps help you widen your online social circle. Here’s one that gets you acquainted with your actual neighbors in the post-picket-fence era. And the free app is spreading from Israel to virtually everywhere in the world.
Tomer Yosef had the idea for Meetey when he moved from the small northern town of Pardes Hana to the big-city Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.
“Pardes Hana is very cozy and everybody knows everybody,” Yosef tells ISRAEL21c. “I used to play soccer with my friends on Thursdays and drink with them on Fridays, and I really missed that when I moved to Ramat Gan. I looked for solutions on line, and when I couldn’t find a platform to get to know neighbors and neighborhoods, I decided to do it myself.”
He admits that the ultimate motivator was the “cute girl” he noticed at the grocery store next to his house. But he did not just want an introduction to her. He also wanted his app to allow locals to organize activities, receive special offers from shops and find professional services – such as a plumber or electrician — right in their own area.
“If I need help finding my dog and post it on Facebook my friends in another city cannot help me,” he points out. “I can get more relevant help from a neighbor.”
Meetey, founded in 2012, is advertised as “a fun, safe and easy-to-use platform that changes neighborhoods into social networks by letting users post stories, arrange neighborhood activities, organize block parties, launch meet-ups, schedule dates and more — and all from the comfort and convenience of their mobile device, laptop or desktop.”
The no-cost app is now connecting 270,000 Israelis, and was rolled out internationally towards the end of 2013.
“We did a small beta launch in Israel, wanting to hit 10,000 users,” Yosef explains. “It spread really nicely, gaining the most traction in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, though we have users in most cities, towns and villages.”
The app works with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android-enabled devices, as well as computers.
“Real-time information is changing all the aspects of our lives. We see that with Twitter and news, we see it with Waze and traffic,” says Yosef. “We hope that our platform will fill that role for neighborhoods, enabling connections between neighbors.”
Once users open an account, Meetey provides a real-time map of other nearby users — without sharing specific personal details. They can find local businesses and relevant people filtered for personal or professional interests.
“You have a feed to see what your neighbors are looking for, whether a glass of milk, a pickup soccer game, a jumpstart for their car battery or someone who wants the furniture they’re giving away,” says Yosef.
“Our mission is to really make communities come together like they were many years ago, through the same technology that got us away from our local life in the first place.”
Building real relationships
A round of seed funding from an Israeli private angel investor is enabling the seven-person Meetey team to put the final tweaks on the product and launch it worldwide.
“We have seen tremendous growth of more than 100 percent in the last three months, and we are looking to focus on big markets at the beginning of April,” says Yosef. “We have strong communities in Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, Paris and Dublin. But anyone, anywhere, can register.”
Meetey started small — Yosef began by hiring programmer Sagi Shmuel and designer Yarom Tamam. A few months later, he took on Shy Rosenzweig as chief operating officer. The company is based in Ra’anana.
“We started our Web-based iOS application platform and did guerilla marketing because we didn’t have funds yet,” he explains. “Then it spread through word of mouth. We saw it was successful in big cities like Tel Aviv, where people are usually from different parts of Israel, and often don’t know each other.”
The company recently unveiled key data from its platform that shows that on average, active users are forming 56 distinct new relationships that don’t exist on their current social graph.
To Yosef, this demonstrates clearly that existing social platforms do not provide an adequate solution for forging relationships between neighbors and do not encourage real-life interactions.
“We are so connected to the online world, that two neighbors could be texting each other without even noticing that they passed each other on the street,” he observes.
As for that cute girl in the grocery, Yosef never did meet her. “I met another cute girl, who is now my wife,” he reports happily.