The big problem with today’s social scene, says Alex Capecelatro, is that we are all fairly disconnected, no matter how many “friends” we might have on Facebook.
“You move to a new town, and you get isolated very quickly,” he said. “It happens at college — you move to school, and the freshmen become siloed into new groups fairly quickly. If you want to find other cyclists or other vegetarians, it’s actually pretty hard to do.”
Capecelatro, a UCLA graduate, is the founder and CEO of At the Pool, a new social networking site recently opened up to UC Berkeley students that aims to step in where Facebook falls short.
“Facebook took the approach where you can share the most intimate details with friends and family — I got a job, I had a baby, stuff like that,” Capecelatro explained. “Facebook doesn’t let you add people you don’t know. What we’re trying to do is make it really simple to engage with people around you.”
At the Pool has chosen UC Berkeley as its newest launch site, offering students a special code to enter the site before it is open to the online public at large. Berkeley students only need to enter the invite access code “Berkeley” at the site’s homepage to receive an invitation.
What differentiates the site from other social networking sites is that it encourages users to set down their electronic devices and engage with people in real life. In fact, Capecelatro calls his site the “anti-social network.” His team doesn’t actually expect you to come back to the website everyday — it sends daily emails with profile matches to people you might be interested in getting to know.
New users are invited to input various personal information — including if their hobbies include cooking, Disney or “blowing shit up” — and the site will email them daily matches that might make promising friendships or even romantic relationships.
Capecelatro said he wished he had something like At the Pool when he was an undergraduate at UCLA. A transplant from New York with a niche interest in a relatively obscure type of BMX biking, Capacelatro said he had trouble finding someone with similar interests until his third year of college.
“I thought there should be an easier way to meet this person,” he said. “I tried to start a club, but that didn’t really work.”
These thoughts led to the site he is now launching at campuses across the nation.
Capecelatro said the site, which has gained a following after it was covered in Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, Techcrunch and other media outlets, has already seen small stirrings of interest among UC Berkeley students.
However, not all students seem too keen on adding yet another social network to their bookmarks list.
“I listed interests and looked at the site itself, but I’m not super into it as of now,” said Madeline Suchard, a UC Berkeley sophomore who recently signed up. “I think it is a cool idea, but I doubt I will become a devotee.”
Capecelatro’s team is hoping to host “pool parties” at UC Berkeley where users of the site can meet other members in person.
At the Pool has already launched at a couple other schools, including the University of Connecticut and the University of Georgia.
Sara Grossman is the lead research and ideas reporter.
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