Causr is a location-based app that allows its users to connect with people nearby based on needs and interests. The app, which is currently available in the Apple App Store, has users around the globe, from the US to Australia. Causr founder and CEO James Eder participated in a Q&A on the app’s development and how users can leverage the app to make connections wherever they are. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
You came up with the concept for Causr during a commute on London’s Underground; how did this moment spark your idea for the app?
Yes, that’s right — not long ago I was sitting on the Underground in London when someone came and sat in the seat next to me. They were clutching their CV [resume], so I asked them where they’d been and what they were looking for. A few weeks later, we were sat together again, this time in the office of my first established company, Student Beans.
Sometime later, I needed to speak to a specific person from a company. I left the office, was standing on the platform in Golders Green in North London and happened to meet the exact person I needed to meet. I’d simply asked them if our train was coming soon, and it went from there.
These chance encounters made a real impact on my working life, and it got me thinking about the other opportunities I and other people must’ve missed over the years and continue to miss every day. Some people have said we’re manufacturing serendipity. Causr is here to help create connections that would otherwise be missed.
Do you consider yourself to be a disruptor in your market?
Yes, I would say so. Whilst we’re not trying to replace the existing ways people connect with each other, we are adding the ability for people to connect based on their location in real time.
By 2050 it’s projected 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. Whilst we’re more digitally connected than ever before, society has become increasingly isolated at the same time, and research has shown loneliness impacts health in a greater way than smoking or obesity.
Historically, the idea of local community happened much more organically, as we didn’t have access to the technology or have the ability to travel as we do today. Many of us don’t know people who live next door,let alone our neighbors. Whilst there are other apps and technologies who are addressing this need directly where people live, people are very transient and are often travelling, whether that be every day on the commute or away for work.
People do business with people. If we’re able to help bring people in society closer together we can transcend the sharing economy — from car sharing to Airbnb. For example, if I know someone else in the taxi line is from my same company and going to the same office I can share a car with them. Likewise, if I know someone who is traveling went to my school or university, why wouldn’t I host them or go for a meal?
Why do you think this service is needed?
Causr was built to address three core pillars that stop us from connecting and speaking to people who we don’t know directly or we are unaware we know. Firstly, people don’t feel like they have the permission; secondly, the confidence; and thirdly, the context to connect. By being on the Causr app users are giving other people the permission to connect. By using the app, technology is enabling users and giving them the confidence they might not otherwise have to connect with others. As when I saw the man holding the CV during my commute gave me the context to break the ice and start the conversation, the app gives people context of who’s nearby with their name, job title, status update and the groups that they join.
We are surrounded by opportunities every day and many go unrealized. Studies show that as high as 50% of working people want to change their job; people could be sitting next to someone who could help them realize their dream and not even know it.
Having traveled extensively for work over the years I’ve often flown in for a conference a day or two early and stayed a few days later, having spoken at an event that left downtime where I’ve eaten alone or been delayed in an airport or a business lounge somewhere. Whenever I’ve spoken to people during these times, it’s often resulted in an interesting conversation, which got me thinking that perhaps there are other people who could benefit from technology to help people connect more easily. Richard Branson recently wrote that “Technology should enable more in-person interactions, not reduce them,” referencing Causr as a good example.
If you look around often you’ll see people stuck to their phone and not talking to each other. The connection and human interaction we crave is being fed artificially by the notifications and likes we receive from around the world. If we can help people connect more I really believe we can make a difference for individuals and communities around the world.
What are your goals for Causr over the next two to three years?
Whilst we’ve only recently launched, there’s a huge amount to look forward to over the coming months and years. Our vision is to create millions of meaningful connections for people nearby, all around the world, every day. Over 80% of our test users on our WebApp were on iOS, so we launched there first. The aim over the coming months is to do a further release on Android and continue to build out the product.
As mentioned, one of the pillars and reasons behind creating Causr was about giving people context. We can see when users update their status; on the app it shows others what people need help with, what they are looking for or how they can help. You can also join groups that enable users to filter by that group or allows others to see what the user is interested in or has a connection to. The more context users provide the more reference points people have to connect easily with one another — leading to meaningful connections we aim to initiate.
There’s an initial focus on the key business hubs, but as we’re available globally. We already have initial users from the US to Australia.
How do you hope people will leverage your app — where do you see potential opportunities for growth?
Ultimately, we hope that the app will enable people to connect face-to-face in real time. We’ve already had some great examples, including people meeting in Miami to talk about solar panels and renewable energy. The biggest commercial opportunity we’ve heard so far was a £500,000 deal from one of our users.
The real opportunity for growth we can see is through partnerships with existing communities and organizations looking to help their members connect wherever they are in the world. That could range from multinational organizations who have hundreds of thousands of employees, many of whom travel, to Alumni organizations, and while we’re not an event app we’re also very useful for people before, during and after events. Imagine being able to land anywhere in the world and connect easily with people nearby; context helps this happen more easily. This is the future we’re on a mission to create.