When Serena Candelaria ’14 moved to London after graduation, she knew no one. She said she tried to make friends, but she found it difficult. She wondered if there was an easier way to connect with people, perhaps with the aid of technology.
A year later, she is one of six Yalies in charge of the startup Fives, a company whose eponymous phone application is meant to facilitate meaningful social interactions over commonly enjoyed activities. The app’s interface and structure is similar to those of the app Tinder. The app user searches for an activity, then chooses a public location for the activity to take place and finally records his or her availability. The app then pairs the user with three to five other like-minded people who want to participate in the same activity.
“In this time of connectivity, when we just look at our phone screens, it doesn’t make sense if all the connectivity ends there,” said Candelaria, now the press officer for Fives. “There has to be a way for that to extend to the real world.”
Candelaria said the app will be useful to young professionals in larger cities who often find it difficult to meet new people outside of their current social circles. When her Yale friends found themselves connecting with people at parties, they usually turned out to just be a Yalie they had not met in their time at school. Beyond expanding users’ social circles, the app is meant to encourage users to explore new activities.
“Once we become comfortable in our friend group ,we stop challenging ourselves to try new activities,” Candelaria said.
Kai Chen ’14, the CEO and founder of Fives, said he moved to New York because he wanted to meet people from diverse backgrounds. But he only ended up hanging out with other Yale alumni or employees of McKinsey, where he worked.
In the long term, the Fives team hopes to expand not only nationwide — to cities such as New York, D.C., Miami and San Francisco — but also internationally. Next week Chen plans on traveling to China to speak with entrepreneurs and businessmen about marketing Fives.
Chen said Fives will be launching the app for the general public by the end of 2015. The company will first target younger users, including college students and recent college graduates, and later will expand to older populations.
John Pham ’14, chief product officer, said the app will help local businesses as well as users. Once users choose certain activities, the app can drive users to certain locations around the city.
After gathering sufficient data, which Fives can analyze to better understand consumer behavior, the company will sell that information to interested businesses.
Other entrepreuners have asked Chen whether an exclusively platonic social app could work. “Sex sells,” they remind him. But he and his teammates said they think people are looking for more than romantic partners, and that their app can fill that gap.
Fives groups are always made of up to four to five users.