Joinable is the social network for in-person connection

product business thinking

This is the story of a pivot. The good kind, where you stay true to your articulated mission, listen to the feedback—and feelings—of your customers, and build them the tool that they actually need, and which helps them to be truly happy and healthy.

It’s also a story of taking risks. Opening your mind to the biggest vision you can imagine, and then going for it. Betting the farm on it.

We founded Joinable two years ago with a clear and important mission: to bring people together to build local community. We started by interviewing community groups and their organizers–neighborhoods, youth sports teams, parent groups, etc.–and within a year we had built a beautiful new app that enabled them to communicate and thrive. Organizers and group members loved it! However, while we loved the positive impact we had on those groups, we couldn’t help but notice that we weren’t quite fulfilling our mission with the product we had built.

There were two problems we couldn't seem to get around. First, while groups are an important part of the fabric of local communities, they don’t necessarily create a sense of belonging for all of their participants. It’s certainly possible–even likely–to be part of a neighbor or parent group and not feel very connected to the others in the group. Second, it turns out that community organizers have very limited influence over their members, so it was hard for us to reach a lot of people by working through them. (Compare your likelihood of responding to a neighborhood safety email vs. a dinner invitation from a friend.)

So while the Joinable group communication tool was beautiful and useful, it just wasn’t providing the impact we expected. If we wanted to achieve our mission, we were going to have to try something else.

All in on the mission

At the end of 2022, realizing we had to pivot, we asked ourselves a really big question: why was community important to us? What aspect of local community did we care about? We went back to the issues that inspired us initially: long-term declines in community involvement (see Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam) and the epidemic of loneliness and depression (see the Surgeon General’s Advisory on Loneliness). We agreed that our passion was less about supporting community groups and more about helping people build a trusted community that could help them achieve a sense of belonging.

To figure out where we could help, we looked at what it takes for people to build a supportive community of friends, and what's getting in the way. Research confirms what we all intuitively know, that friendships develop from time spent together in person. Lots of time: it takes 30 to 50 hours to turn an acquaintance into a friend, and over 100 hours to make a good friend, according to some recent studies. But people have been making friends from the beginning of time, so what’s changed?

In a word: technology.

Study after study shows that we’re spending more and more time with our devices, specifically on social media, and less and less time with other people. Think about it: when you feel the desire for human connection, what do you do today? Open a social media app on your phone. And after an hour of browsing, liking, commenting and posting, do you feel connected, the way you might after sharing a coffee with a friend? Obviously not. We have substituted virtual interactions for real ones, and it’s not supporting our emotional well-being! In fact, it’s hurting us.

Removing the friction

Recognizing that we wanted to help people spend more time together, we got curious about how people actually make social plans with friends, and what gets in the way. We learned people invite, respond, and coordinate get-togethers by text message. This works pretty well one-on-one, and when you have the person’s number already in your contacts.

But we also learned that inviting someone to hang out, especially a new friend, can be anxiety provoking, and that many people wish they could just see which of their friends were free (now or in the near future) and see what their plans are so they could join in. And once larger groups form, it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page through group chats, because it’s difficult to manage the chat participants properly.

We figured out pretty quickly that we had to build an app that removes the friction from making social plans between friends. A bridge, of sorts, for today’s tech-addled brains: an app that looks on the surface like social media (the interface we’re all used to) but which leads us to what we really want: in-person connection. In January 2023 we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. 

Joinable: the social network for getting together

Today we’re excited to show you what we built: the Joinable social network, designed from the ground up to make it easier for people to connect in person. Joinable is not another social media platform (in fact, it’s not social media at all!), it's a social network that enables friends to invite each other to engage in real-life activities, fostering genuine human connection.

This version of Joinable marks a significant evolution in our mission to bring people together. We have completely redesigned the app to function as a beautiful, simple, and safe social network for everyone to use with their friend network. We understand the importance of genuine interactions and quality time spent together, and Joinable serves as the conduit for facilitating those connections.

Purpose-built for in-person connection

Share intentions effortlessly. Joinable makes it simple to post an intention and availability to hang out. From grabbing a cup of coffee to going on a hike, organizing get-togethers has never been easier.

Get notified with invitations. When a friend posts a new intention, or just says they’re free to hangout, you get an instant notification on your phone so you can decide whether and how you want to engage.

See what your friends are up to. Stay up-to-date with what your friends are up to by browsing Joinable's invitation feed. See who's planning a movie night, attending a local concert, or exploring a new restaurant, and decide to join in.

Your trusted friend network. Joinable helps match your intentions with the friends most open to joining you. Your friends are organized into Circles, which capture their interests, associations, and affiliations. Circles contain only friend connections, optionally friends of friends, which means everyone in your network is a trusted connection.

Join the movement

We believe that technology should bring people closer together, not further apart, and Joinable is our answer to building strong local communities and tackling the loneliness crisis head-on.

Joinable is at the forefront of a movement to design human-centered technology and business models. Our mission is rooted in bringing people together, fostering genuine connections, and combating loneliness in our society. We firmly believe that Joinable can be a force for positive change, creating a world where people feel more connected, supported, and fulfilled.

With this update, we invite you to join us in our mission to build strong, local community. Joinable provides a platform for you to nurture your friendships, explore new experiences, and create lasting memories together. Together, let's reclaim the power of in-person connection and embrace the joy of shared experiences. 

Welcome to Joinable—where real connections happen.