Letslunch, a New Concept in Networking, Launches in UK

Our blogger Lachimi Tiwari met with Christopher Pruijsen, Country Manager UK of Letslunch, a networking platform who describe themselves as "the easiest way to network with people that you wouldn't otherwise meet'. Letslunch aims to expand members' networks by connecting them with industry-relevant entrepreneurs and business professionals for 1:1 lunch meetings. Here's Lachmi's interview with Christopher:

I caught up with Christopher Pruijsen, Country Manager UK of Letslunch – a new platform which offers us a unique way to network. Letslunch has been successfully operating in the US, Italy and New Zealand since Feb 2012, has over 15,000 users and has helped bring about 12,000 lunches.  60% of its users in Italy are women and it recently celebrated the 50th lunch of its most active luncher. Letslunch launched last month in th UK.

TNW: Statistics show that female entrepreneurs are lagging behind their male counterparts.  Have you seen a similar pattern in your interactions with up and coming entrepreneurs?  

CP: In my work with Oxford Entrepreneurs, it was always a huge struggle to get more female entrepreneurs. 

However, what I found is that women are just more cautious than men, they take a bit more time to consider what they want, but when they decide, they really go for it and are very committed. 

Whereas some guys think 'let’s just try it out'.  

TNW: What advice do you have for an aspiring female entrepreneur? 

CP: Just try out – there’s no real risk involved. Even if you run a business and you fail, if you did everything well, it will look good on your resume because investors will think you’ve learnt something from it. 

Also, be sure to look up other successful female entrepreneurs and ask them any concerns you may have. 

Entrepreneurs embrace a pay it forward philosophy and are more willing to help than corporate counterparts. You need go out there and get all the help you can. 

TNW: You have a good female user base in Italy, why do you think that’s the case? 

CP: I think it’s because of the social nature of our platform. In general, the platform appeals to a lot of women because it allows them to utilise the time they have for lunch and meet new people. Women are more open to that. 

TNW: So tell me, what can Letslunch do for me? 

CP: Letslunch offers you an easy way to expand your network by meeting people you wouldn’t normally meet.  If you are looking for a job or if you are offering jobs, it will also allow you to find a job or find a relevant candidate.       

TNW: Who pays for the lunch? 

CP: Everyone pays for their own lunch.  There are also some sponsored lunches, where for example companies may pay for lunch when they invite a group of relevant people.  

TNW: Our UK Editor, Maila Reeves is used to people taking her out to lunch.  Does this mean she will have to pay for lunch? 

CP: Yes, VIPs will have to pay for their own lunch. 

We asked our VIP user base in the US and Sarah Lacy, former Senior Editor of Techcrunch said would never consider it if she was paid to go lunch. 

We believe this is because it changes the nature of the interaction.  Instead of 2 people meeting and interacting freely as equals, it transforms the interaction into a purchased good. 

TNW: The UK Launch of Letslunch will be showcasing Version 3.0.  Tell us a bit about what we will see which our counterparts in the US have not seen before.

CP: Version 3.0 will be launched simultaneously in the US. For starters, we have improved the interface of the platform. 

We have also introduced a group function because there was a demand for it.  You will be able to access group information via LinkedIn and Facebook and will be able to plan for lunches within these groups.    

We also have a new Careers Lunch widget which can be used on recruiters’ own websites.  Using this widget, recruiters will see lunch profiles of potential candidates and arrange lunches to help build a relationship with their candidate. 

TNW: What’s your business model?

CP: We create a match for lunch based on time and location availability of the people.  Letslunch then suggests the restaurant in the area to go to and these restaurants are willing to pay us money if people go there for lunches. 

Another  new feature is an Ad space which will allow users to feature themselves as lunchers.  People can pay to have their profile displayed throughout the website or to a certain demographic to target the people you want to meet.  

TNW: Some lunchers may use letslunch as a covert way to date someone, is there anything being done to protect users from that?  

CP: Yes, our clear message to everyone is that we have a business focus, on networking. 

Secondly, all the users have accessible public profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.  You will be able to see what they are upto. 

Thirdly, if a user tries to have a lunch date, there is a high probability that they will get a bad lunch review.  Once you have a bad review, it will lower your ranking and you will only be matched with people with low rankings.  

However, it works in reverse too.  The only people who can lunch with VIPs can only do so after 3 positive lunch reviews. 

TNW: Letslunch also has a section where you can store a Wishlist of users you would like to have lunch with.  Who would you like to be on your Wishlist?  

CP:

  • Maila Reeves, UK Editor of The Next Women
  • Courtney Boyd Myers, Director of Audience Development at General Assembly Europe and contributing writer at The Next Web
  • Oli Barrett, Director of Startup Britain
  • James Eder, Founder of the Beans Group
  • Eileen Burbidge, early-stage tech VC at Passion Capital 

Letslunch is offering 100 The NextWomen readers a free Ad space for 45 days when they sign up to www.letslunch.com. To claim your free Ad space, please email syed@letslunch.com

Born in Singapore, Lachimi Tiwari is a social scientist turned geek. Lachimi has been on a self-discovery journey since she has been in the UK.  Having worked in 2 startups before, Lachimi is now hungry to get back to her startup roots, a place where she thrives best.

In her 1st startup she worked in the Tech Team at not-for profit organisation, Hindi Centre Singapore which offers Hindi Classes for students from 4 years to adults.  Her 2nd startup role was in StarHub, a large Telecomms startup in Singapore, managing bids and vendors and in project management roles in the pre-launch phase.

Lachimi took a detour and joined the education sector, researching older people and technology in Scotland and as a business analyst, managing assessments on student record systems.  She also serves on British Computer Society’s West London Branch as Publicity Officer and as Committee Member for the British Computer Society Women’s Special Group.

Lachimi is passionate about startups, empowering women, issues around the ageing population and women in technology.

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