With the growth of professional networks like LinkedIn, people are connecting online with new and potential colleagues like never before. But Treatings, a local professional networking site now in beta in 11 cities around the world, wants people to connect like they used to—in person, over drinks or coffee.
The New York-based service, which has users sign up with their LinkedIn profiles, has just announced a partnership with New York University's alumni association to help the group facilitate meetups among young alumni. It is billed as "the professional equivalent of online dating sites"—but the core guideline is that anyone who signs up is expressing that they actively want in-person opportunities to network one-on-one. It's also geared towards millennials who want to share ideas and opportunities with each other, rather than necessarily a place for early-career professionals to connect with mentors.
"It's not an expert network," says CEO and cofounder Hayden Williams. "There are a lot of people who would not want to be on the platform. Journalists, VCs—anyone who gets flooded with requests, it would cause a problem, not solve it."
Williams says that he got the idea for Treatings when he was working in investment banking and wanted to get out of it. "I found that my existing networks were only helpful for people in my own field, and not other fields that I might potentially want to work in," he says. "I didn't need to talk to the CEO or VP at a company, but someone my age or even younger, and have mutually beneficial conversations. The whole idea is to facilitate that. You don't sign up as a mentor or mentee, you sign up almost like a dating site, and frame it in a mutually beneficial way. Most people sign up for Treatings because they want access to other people, but then discover, and are surprised and flattered, that others reach out to them."
The NYU partnership came about after Treatings noticed that members tended to reach out to people who went to the same school—so they approached alumni associations to find out how the site could benefit the organizations' own efforts.
"Alumni organizations do a good job of getting people together in groups, but not one-on-one," says Williams. "Staff are often approached by their alumni and asked if they know someone at X company or in X field, and they just don't have that data on hand, so this facilitates that." Treatings tested partnerships with the local New York City chapters of various alumni associations, including Georgetown, helping the chapters connect people with similar interests. The NYU partnership, which the university's alumni association will promote through its career-development website, newsletters, and social media channels, is Treatings' first school-sanctioned partnership.
"It's interesting to us that our service is running counter to the trend of apps bringing communication online," says Williams. "Our existing users are really enjoying talking in person—people really do like that access. Alumni organizations are also as focused on that as ever, as more and more of their outward communication goes online."
[Image: Flickr user Dmitry Kalinin]