A new way of networking is catching on with the twenty- to thirtysomething crowd in Japan. Social lunches arranged over the web, where those in similar industries get together for an informal chat have been growing in popularity lately. At the forefront of this trend is the Facebook app Social Lunch which matches up pairs of professionals for friendly lunches. The idea is that going with a friend you already know takes a lot of the stress out of occasion. According to J-Cast, since the app launched in October last year, 20,000 people have registered for the service and around 900 social lunch dates have taken place as a result.
The app, produced by SyncLunch Inc., is simple to use: Team up with a friend in a similar profession, type in preferred location and time and it will match you up with another pair who may be useful for you to network with for a lunch date. J-Cast’s writer signed up with a former colleague who was a graphic designer and was paired up with a couple of guys, one of whom was looking for design tips for his new website. The lunch was a success and seemed a possible opening to future collaborations.
A similar option is the Twitter-based Hirukai service from Digital Garage Inc. Instead of meeting at a restaurant, though, the meet-up organizer offers a space in their office for others to gather in. Bringing along their own bento lunches, those attending can swap ideas, or sandwiches, in an informal atmosphere.
The model for Social Lunch borrows something from gokon (group dating), in which the presence of friends takes much of the stress out of an initial encounter with a potential partner. As marriage rates fall, gokon, konkatsu (marriage hunting) and now machikon events have been on the rise and this has been accompanied by a slew of new apps to help young Japanese find Mr. or Ms. Right. As young Japanese are increasingly willing to try out group dating, it seems that the next logical step is for go-getters to find business partners by using similar methods.