Founder: Syed Shuttari, CEO
Base: Silicon Valley
“In Silicon Valley, netwrking is the difference between success and obscurity,” says Syed Shuttari, Founder and CEO of LetsLunch.com. In fact, this is the case no matter where you live — whether you’re an entrepreneur, an entry level employee or a senior level executive. If you’re looking for a new job or someone to partner with on your next venture, networking can make the crucial difference.
After working the same corporate job for five years, he decided it was time to start a new career, he started connecting with people in the area over lunch. Then it hit him. What if he had a different lunch partner every day? That’s when he Shuttari came up with the idea for LetLunch.com, a social network designed to connect people one lunch at a time. What started in 2010 as something for Shuttari to network with his friends, now facilitates more than 3000 lunches per month.
LetsLunch isn’t the first site to connect people for the purpose of networking. However, unlike Meetup.com, LetsLunch enables what Shuttari refers to as “networking on demand.”
“With Meetup.com, you have events once a month or so on a specific date, at a specific time; and you either show up there or you don’t,” Shuttari says. “But LetsLunch asks for your lunch area and which days are available. There’s even a dashboard where you can search who’s available for tomorrow.”
LetsLunch has been so successful that Shuttari says he had to quit his day job to focus on running what was originally just a side project. The business model is two-fold: restaurants pay a fee for LetsLunch to send them a certain number of lunches and when an expert hosts a paid lunch, LetsLunch gets 15 percent of the pie. For now, Shuttari says he’s focused on building a great product people can’t live without.
“A lot of people find networking awkward,” he says pointing out that most networking events are conferences where there could be a couple dozen people — or a couple thousand. “But why not just meet those same people for a normal day-to-day activity like lunch?”
Photo credit: magerleagues