Forget cocktail parties and name tags. Your next business card exchange could be in a backseat.
Since its launch last summer, UberPool, the service that allows strangers to share rides in return for discounted fares, has for some passengers another benefit: networking.
Collin Willardson, a marketing manager at men’s underwear and socks startup Mack Weldon, says he uses UberPool every opportunity he can to meet others. Willardson first used the service after a trade show in New York, where he met an individual who worked for a media outlet who later did a story on his company.
“It’s not about saving money,” he told CNBC. “It’s about gambling and meeting random people and seeing what we can offer each other.”
The service is especially useful at events like SXSW, Fashion Week, brand parties and trade shows, he said.
“I’ll get to have a conversation with someone in the same industry as me, or someone outside the industry that can help me in the future. Everyone has something to offer in New York,” Willardson said.
Uber isn’t the only startup offering pooled rides. Lyft Line, offered by rival Lyft, and Via, which operates only in Manhattan, are two that follow similar models.
Tam Vo, a digital product and content strategist based between San Francisco and Los Angeles, also uses car-sharing apps to meet people. “I’ve met amazing individuals through Lyft and UberPool that I have second-degree real-life connections to,” she said.
Vo recently met another woman during an UberPool ride to San Francisco airport. Upon their arrival, the two continued their conversation over beers. During Vo’s next trip to San Francisco, she attended the woman’s event in which she was giving a talk.
“The world is small and being open to unexpected connections makes it a more empathetic and exciting place,” she said.
Which naturally leads to dating opportunities.
“I rode with a really cute guy and chatted the entire ride back to our East Hollywood neighborhood from downtown Los Angeles,” said freelance food writer Esther Tseng.
“I’ve talked to a driver who has had poolers exchange numbers,” she said.
Willardson likes the networking opportunities so much he sometimes goes so far as altering his original destination to continue spending time with a fellow passenger.
“One person was able to get me into the front row of a live podcast recording of my favorite show at SXSW,” he said. “It was a dream.”