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My name is Mandy and I am part of the team at Shapr, the free networking app that has over 600,000 users. Ask me anything!

Mandy Menaker
Sep 20, 2017

Hello! I am part of the team at Shapr, the viral networking app that has over 600,000 users and growth of 2,500 new professionals a day. We have been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Inc. and BBC News, and I help manage brand development and PR.

Our goal is introduce professionals for interesting conversations using a smart algorithm. We find the most relevant people in your area who share your interests, and you can message when the interest to meet is mutual. Our app has produced job offers, new companies, and interesting partnerships in the UK, US, Canada and France! We recently launched a new feature that lets you add your community in the app, such as your alumni org or diversity meetup.

Ask me anything!

https://twitter.com/mandymenaker

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Conversation (147)

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Which other countries are you planning on expanding into?

Sep 20, 8:59PM EDT0

Hi William, we are currently focused on North America and Europe. We will continue to expand in additional European countries and hopefully Australia over the next year! 

Sep 21, 10:28AM EDT0

Have you found that this app is connecting more people in certain locations than others and if so why do you think that is?

Sep 20, 5:45PM EDT0

Hi Carolyn! The app definitely works best in areas where there are several users. It is much easier for us to connect professionals in New York where we have thousands of users than in a small suburb where we may only have a few people that are spread out. We have to be strategic about growth so that our users have a terrific experience and have plenty of people to meet in person! 

Sep 21, 10:30AM EDT0

Where are the majority of your subscribers based?

Sep 20, 3:32PM EDT0

Hi William! We have users popping up all over due to word of mouth, but our biggest communities are in the US, UK, France and Canada.

Sep 20, 3:53PM EDT0
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Have you had any issues with people using it for unintended purposes eg. Individuals looking for professional people as dating candidates?

Sep 20, 1:49PM EDT0

Good question - We moderate every single profile as people join the app through a combination of automated moderation and human moderators. We immediately block anyone we detect who may using the app for the wrong purposes, or reach out to get clarity from those users. We also ask our community of 600K users to help us moderate by immediately reporting anyone misusing the app! It's important to us that we keep our community strong and safe for professionals.

Sep 20, 2:23PM EDT0
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Is the market for your business big enough to support your idea?

Sep 20, 6:38AM EDT0

Our market is every professional! Since the app is free and not limited to specific industries, we have a HUGE potential market :)

Sep 20, 2:21PM EDT0

Sounds great! I wish you the best of luck with it

Sep 20, 9:14PM EDT0

Why is a business plan important and who should write it?

Sep 20, 3:19AM EDT0

Your business plan is the roadmap for your company's goals and vision. The business plan should be written by the founders of the company. You can ask for help from a marketing person or strategist to help make that business plan clean, presentable and understandable! 

As a marketing person, I have worked on two different business plans for investors. It's good to have an extra eye from someone you trust who is skilled with words.

Sep 20, 2:21PM EDT0
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Should I have a marketing brochure and what do I need to know before creating one?

Sep 20, 1:41AM EDT0

Hi Antonio, 

It depends on your business! What type of a business do you run and who do you hope to attract? Start there. 

For example, we are an app. It is better for us to use our marketing dollars to find potential users who are already on their phones, so that they immediately download the app. If we put out brochures, there is a likelyhood that someone would think about us but forget to download the app later on. 

However, let's say you run an after school program for kids. Putting out brochures on a table at a parent conference may make a lot of sense. 

Think about who you want to reach and then figure out the best and cheapest way to approach them that feels authentic to your brand! 

Sep 20, 2:19PM EDT0

If I am not planning to apply for a bank loan, why do I need a business plan?

Sep 19, 11:16PM EDT0

Hi James, 

Your business plan is a course of action. For every person who comes on your team (a cofounder, an investor, a marketing guru), you want to clearly be able to share your vision for where the company will head and how you will get there. 

Business plans are not about finances exclusively. They are the roadmap for what you will do with your first 6 months, year or 5 years. 

Sep 20, 2:17PM EDT0
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Why is it important to do a monthly cash flow analysis?

Sep 19, 9:49PM EDT0

Hi Jake, 

You want to constantly analyze where money is being spent to make sure you have enough in your bank account to be sustainable, and to make sure you are spending what you do have wisely. For every dollar you make and spend, consider how you could have turned that into two dollars with 50 cents instead of 1:1.

Sep 20, 2:16PM EDT0
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How much capital do you think you need to start up your company?

Sep 19, 1:24PM EDT0

Hi Brittany!

The amount of capital very much depends on your industry and what are you building. The fixed costs when you first get started included salaries (who will need to pay), office space (can you work from your living room to save?), product costs (are you building something physical?), and legal costs (are you protected legally with the right setup and policies?). Beyond that, consider how you will market your service, and what additional costs you may have in the first year. 

There are lots of sample budgets online - start with your business, complete a budget, and work backwards to figure out how much you need to get started! 

Last edited @ Sep 20, 2:27PM EDT.
Sep 20, 2:15PM EDT0

Is there healthy competition around your industry? Why or why not?

Sep 19, 7:12AM EDT0

Hi James, 

We are currently the leading app for professional networking. We worry less about competing apps, and more about competing distractions. At Shapr, our biggest competitor is anything else people do with their time - Netflix, watching Ted Talks, events....we want to educate people that meeting someone new each week should be a priority.

Sep 20, 2:13PM EDT0
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What sector is your business expertise in?

Sep 19, 2:56AM EDT0

Hi Kyle, 

Having come from the startup world, I wear a lot of hats. My favorite things to work on are written content, partnerships and events, but I am part of the advisory committee for a lot of different projects at Shapr.

Sep 20, 2:12PM EDT0
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What part of business do you feel you need improvement in?

Sep 18, 11:51PM EDT0

Great question! We are focused on three things: 

1. The product - we are working on new versions of our iOS and Android app that will be released later this year. These versions include some major upgrades to the app's functionality and design. I can't share too much, but I can say they are going to be beautiful. 

2. The algorithm - we are continually working on the best possible recommendations of who to meet. We have a full time data scientist with a PhD, and we hope to refine our algorithm (which will continue to always be a subject of growth)

3. Our community - we want to keep growing our community with interesting, smart and relevant professionals throughout the globe!

Sep 20, 2:11PM EDT0
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Did you get those 600,00 users organically, or through using SEO and SMM?

Sep 18, 6:13PM EDT0

Hi Keith, 

We have great SEO due to our branded content and earned PR, as well as lots of organic mentions throughout the web. However, since we are an app, people are more likely to find us in the app store or hear about us through word of mouth.

SEO and SMM did help us to grow, but we focus primarily on digital ads and branded content to grow the app at scale.

Sep 20, 2:09PM EDT0

Can you start small without huge capital investment?

Sep 18, 12:25PM EDT0

Hi Jeremiah! 

Absolutely - my last company Fluent City had zero investment and we grew it to a language school serving 23,000 students. 

However, it very much depends on your business. Shapr required incredible engineers, a team behind the algorithm, and a marketing team to get to where we are. You can definitely start small, but you need enough to pay your essential team when you first get started! 

Sep 20, 2:07PM EDT0
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What is the most effective way to reach your customers?

Sep 18, 10:53AM EDT0

Since we are an app, we find in app notifications on your phone to be the most effective tool for getting our users to interact. 

We use email as well, but it is much easier to ignore an email.

Sep 20, 2:05PM EDT0

Very true! You have easy access to all users through the app itself 

Sep 20, 10:49PM EDT0

How is Shapr monetized?

Sep 18, 8:40AM EDT0

Hi Diana! We are currently a free app and do not monetize, but we are fully funded. 

In November, we will launch Shapr Premium, our first paid features. These include the ability to set your location manually (so you can setup meetings in SF before a trip), to appear at the top suggested profiles, and to increase the number of people you can browse each day on the app. There will continue to be a free version of the app as well - these features are optional!

Sep 20, 2:04PM EDT0
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Is your business scalable?

Sep 18, 7:42AM EDT0

We sure hope so! There are still several cities, countries, and industries we can continue to grow into. LinkedIn has more than 500 million users, but they are not meeting face to face. We want to be the compliment that creates 250 million conversations.

Sep 20, 2:03PM EDT0
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This looks very much like a "Tinder for business" concept...Is that a fair categorization?

Sep 18, 5:36AM EDT0

Hi Jillian, 

Our swiping mechanism is similar to Tinder but we are completely professional - we block anyone who attempts to use the app for dating purposes. We are happy to have the UX comparison as Tinder is fun and easy to use, we just want to make sure we also communicate that the app is for professional needs only!

Sep 20, 2:02PM EDT0
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What failure did you learn the most from?

Sep 18, 1:53AM EDT0

Hi Tiffany! 

When we first relaunched the app in 2016, we had French founders, a HQ in Paris, and french investors. I tried to land the story in US publications, but didn't get much coverage. I took this failure particularly hard, as it was the first major press story I had worked on at Shapr. 

However, a year later, we talked through our series A and were able to get some major mentions in the US, because we had bigger numbers we could share and more tangible figures about our growth in the US. 

I learned that there will always be barriers in your way and some challenges are harder to overcome, but you can change the conversation and figure out other ways to break through the noise. 

Sep 20, 2:01PM EDT0

Why is it important to have competition?

Sep 18, 12:53AM EDT0

Terrific question! 

1. It evangelizes your market. For example, we are trying to making networking on an app an everyday habit. That is a behavior that we need to teach people is the new normal. By having a competitor doing the same, it helps to train your market that networking apps are normal. (Having 12 competing dating apps made dating apps normal)

2. Competition pushes you to create a better, more improved product. By seeing what works on similar products, you can say, "How can we build on that and do it even better?" A town with one restaurant might have a good restaurant. A town with three restaurants will have at least one great restaurant.

Sep 20, 1:58PM EDT0
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What do I need to know about financial statements?

Sep 17, 11:55PM EDT0

Hi DMarshall! 

It depends a lot on your specific business and what you are trying to analyze. I would recommend talking with an accountant or a specialist to better answer this question based on your specific needs, since the needs of every company is different.

Sep 20, 1:56PM EDT0
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How do I find out who are the leaders and influencers in my industry?

Sep 17, 10:37PM EDT0

Hi Nathaniel! You can look on Twitter and LinkedIn to see who is getting noticed from your industry, but I would advise that the best conversations are actually with your peers and people a step above. A lot of people at a high level of visibilty offer high level thought - good things to consider but no actionable advice. I often find that an hour long coffee with a Shapr user in my field gives me more ideas on specific tangible things to try than a podcast or an event on a big stage. Consider people are actually in the trenches as leaders and advisors - you may be surprised! 

Sep 20, 1:55PM EDT0

Awesome advice, thank you!

Sep 20, 8:27PM EDT0

What makes a successful marketing strategy?

Sep 17, 8:49PM EDT0

Superb question Kristen. The most important part of any strategy is your goals. Start with your specific goal (such as getting the brand seen or increasing the number of users) and work backwards. Think about what the most effective channels are for hitting that goal and that goal alone. Then put down specific numbers (XX number of users or XX number of mentions or a mention in a specific blog). From there, assess the budget and the team you need to make it happen! 

Sep 20, 1:53PM EDT0
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Where do you see Shapr in 5 years?

Sep 17, 8:13PM EDT0

We want networking on an app to be as normalized as dating on an app. 

Five years from now, we hope every professional will meet someone new off the app every week.

Sep 20, 1:52PM EDT0
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Is location the most important aspect of a business or does that depend on the business?

Sep 17, 8:03PM EDT0

Hi Eric! Location definitely depends on the business. For Shapr, we are a free app and available around the globe. The app started in France, so we opened our second office in New York since it is a global city, only 6 hours behind France, and one in which Shapr is super busy. However, I spend a few weeks each year in SF so that we consider our West Coast users too! 

When deciding where to start your business, consider who you want to attract and where those people are located. Do you need to be physically present with clients? Is there a particular community you are trying to approach? Does it matter if you are in a major city or can you work from your living room and have the same success with less overhead? 

Start with the business you want to create and go from there! 

Sep 20, 1:51PM EDT0
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How do you determine startup costs and other expenses?

Sep 17, 8:00PM EDT0

Great question Robert. We have five founders who help to lead each department. They meet weekly to talk through any major campaigns and costs, and assess the needs of the company. There is a set budget that was created at the start of the year, and it is modified as needed so that each department knows exactly how much they can spend for each campaign, hire or business need.

Sep 20, 1:48PM EDT0

You have some great strategies in place!

Sep 20, 6:22PM EDT0

Does your idea stand out from the pack, is your business idea unique?

Sep 17, 7:19PM EDT0

Hello! There are definitely other apps who have tried making networking easier, but we like to think that we are leading the efforts!

We have a full time PhD data scientist working on our matching algorithm, and one of the largest communities of professionals available on an app. We are even trending in the French app store today above LinkedIn!

Sep 20, 1:47PM EDT0

That's incredible - huge congratulations on yours and your teams efforts

Sep 20, 8:02PM EDT0

How do you obtain cash to maintain and grow your business?

Sep 17, 7:11PM EDT0

Hi Chad! We have raised $16.5 million through private investors. At the moment, the app is completely free. 

Starting in November, we will launch our first premium features and monetize the app for the first time. These features will include the ability to set your location manually if you want to set up meetings before a trip for example, and the ability to be seen by more people each day. 

All of these features will be optional by users!

Sep 20, 1:40PM EDT0
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How long did it take to get that amount of users?

Sep 17, 6:48PM EDT0

We first launched the app in 2015, but ended up needing to improve the product, so we relaunched in 2016. Overall it took a year and a half to grow to 600K users, but 450K of those users are since January 2017 when we really started getting amazing word of mouth from people who had success on the app! 

Sep 20, 1:46PM EDT0
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Can you see yourself doing this 5 years from now?

Sep 17, 6:20PM EDT0

Absolutely! I love my team, my job and our mission. I work with humble, smart and driven people who want to make meeting new people a priority. 

Sep 20, 1:38PM EDT0

That's great! I would love to adore my work, I think it's an extremely important part of life 

Sep 20, 6:28PM EDT0

What do you want for the future of your company?

Sep 17, 5:36PM EDT0

We want networking to be an everyday habit. 

Our goal is to encourage professionals around the globe to make meeting new people a priority, and to make that a seamless and fun experience.

Sep 20, 1:37PM EDT0
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Have you got a website?

Sep 17, 5:08PM EDT0

Yes! Check out Shapr at http://www.shapr.co/

Or download the app at http://get.shapr.net

We are available in the App Store and Google Play!

Sep 20, 1:36PM EDT0

Awesome!

Sep 20, 5:55PM EDT0

What marketing strategy will you be using for your company and why?

Sep 17, 4:54PM EDT0

Hi Alexander! 

At Shapr we believe in trying many different ways to market the app and measuring each success and failure. We do a combination of ads, events, PR, branded content, print campaigns, etc. For every campaign, we set up KPIs (key performance indicators) before we start.

The best thing you can do as a marketer is analyze. For each campaign, we try to figure out what went well, and where we could have done better. Then we decide if we want to try again based on the metrics. We have had campaigns completely flop, but then tried a different way and succeeded. For example, we did one sponsored article that produced no downloads. We kept the same article, changed the photo and title, and tried again - and it went great! 

Measure, ask questions, and constantly try to improve every marketing strategy you try! 

Sep 20, 1:43PM EDT0

Some great points, thank you! I will take these onboard :) 

Sep 20, 5:42PM EDT0

What is your role in the Shapr team?

Sep 17, 3:46PM EDT0

Hi Mark! I was the first person hired for our US office (we started in Paris). 

My role is very unique. I wear a lot of hats including:

  • Head of US PR - I speak with journalists, talk about the app in filmed interviews, and speak at events
  • Head of Brand Development - I approve all branded content and communication about the app
  • Office Manager - I run all first round interviews for the US team and help to grow our US presence
  • Partnerships Manager - I work with our growing community partners to help their communities meet through the app
  • English based marketing - I help with translations and ad copy that appears within the app or online
  • And all other in between needs! 

Generally my day is divided between talks, writing about the app, partnership meetings and breaks to walk my 7 pound dog :)

Sep 20, 1:35PM EDT0
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Hi Mandy, Shapr seems like revolutionary app for building relationships - congralutaions! Do you have any in-app advertising feature currently or plan to add going forward?

Sep 15, 2:01PM EDT0

Great question Shilpa! We are not planning any in-app advertising for 2017. There may be some ads allowed in 2018, but these would feel seamless to the user experience and we would be very careful in the type of advertising we allow through Shapr. 

Our goal is to have a amazing networking experience for our users, so we are focused on the product and the community first.

Sep 20, 1:31PM EDT0

Wow! 600,000 users and growth of 2,500 new professionals a day and got featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Inc. and BBC News is more than amazing! What marketing strategies did you use to make it this big?

Sep 15, 10:43AM EDT0

Hi Ecner! Here are a few things we have tried/currently do: 

  • Instagram ads
  • Facebook ads
  • PR - pitches and talks
  • An NYC subway campaign in January 2017
  • Branded content with partners including Entrepreneur and Gothamist
  • Working with LinkedIn influencers (asking them to try the app and write about their real experiences)
  • Word of mouth campaigns encouraging our users to spread the word
  • And our latest new feature - Shapr Communities! 
Sep 20, 1:29PM EDT0
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Did you get any inspiration from Tinder with this app? Do you have other statistics from the results of using this app? It may help with marketing!

Sep 15, 10:09AM EDT0

Hi Brandon! The only thing we drew from Tinder is the ease of a swipe in browsing profiles. It's an easy, natural, and fun way to explore who is in your area. 

Beyond that, we are a completely professional app and we block others who misuse Shapr as a dating app. 

Per your stats request - we have made over 4 million matches this year and we estimate that 10,000 coffee meetings happen each week between our users! 

Sep 20, 1:28PM EDT0

Thats so cool! I love how you have taken that feature and incorported it in a professional manner 

Sep 20, 4:36PM EDT0

Do you consider Linkedin as your biggest competitor?

Sep 15, 9:31AM EDT0

Great question Ricardo! We actually consider Shapr to be the biggest compliment to LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn is the perfect tool for keeping up with existing contacts, or searching for specific hiring needs. However, it is not a great tool for expanding your network. Emails through LinkedIn are either unwanted or costly (you have to pay to send inmails or get Premium), and most connections never meet face to face unless there is a specific opportunity to discuss.

Shapr's goal is active networking that translates into meaningful relationships. We introduce the most relevant nearby professionals to grab a cup of coffee. On Shapr, you will only see other people who are actively looking to meet, and you can only message once the connection is accepted by both people anonymously (no unwanted messages - yay). You don't have to have a specific goal to meet. If you both love #marketing, grab a drink and talk about the latest changes to Facebook's algorithm. If you're exploring a career change to #graphicdesign, meet a designer and ask them about their day to day. 

We are the perfect tool for expanding your network and turning connections into real coffees, and you can then use LinkedIn to still keep up with everyone you meet through Shapr!

Sep 20, 1:24PM EDT0

Hi. Would like to ask about the business side of things. Are you funded?

Sep 14, 9:46PM EDT0

Hi Megan! We have raised $16.5 million all through private investors. This includes two rounds of seed funding, and a $9.5 million Series A we announced this summer. 

Sep 20, 1:19PM EDT0
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Thank you for being here with us Mandy! Shapr is a brilliant idea! I am gonna ask the obvious question - how did you get 600k users?:)) How long did it take and what was the most effective method?

Sep 14, 4:58PM EDT0

Hi Tatiana! Great question. 

We first launched in 2015. At the time we emailed our friends and personal contacts, and used some Instagram and Facebook ads to build a small user base. We actually struggled with retention in the beginning, so we pulled back on marketing spend to figure out why people were installing the app but not utlizing it. During the next 6 months, we scrapped 70% of the code and relaunched in 2016 with a more simple design. Key learning: spend slowly in the beginning until you know the marketing is effective and that the product is ready.

When we first relaunched, we again used Instagram and Facebook ads, which for us were very effective. We also scored some great PR on Forbes (via a pitch), BBC News (inbound) and Huffington Post (through a free service called HARO -help a reporter out)

In January 2017, we ran a brand campaign in the NYC subway system, which plastered our ads across almost 600 cars. Through that visibility, we scored a major article in the print edition of The Wall Street Journal and an interview with TechDay. That campaign cemented us as a major player and a known company in NYC, and helped people to recognize us when we started to show up on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Since then, we have started to experiment with branded content, which has proven super effective for us. We do sponsored articles currently with media including Entrepreneur and Gothamist. We have also tried working with influencers, such as bloggers and LinkedIn contributors, but in an organic way - we ask them to test the app and write about their real experiences.

Currently, 50% of our growth is completely word of mouth, and the rest is a combination of social media ads, branded content, earned PR, and speaking opportunities. We have gained 450K users since January 2017 using these methods!

Sep 20, 1:18PM EDT0
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