Shapr Launches App for Matching Up Business Leads, Raises $3.1M

With a dose of the matchmaking mechanics found in dating services, on Tuesday a startup called Shapr unveiled its app that connects professionals looking for leads, jobs, and opportunities.

The startup also raised $3.1 million in a seed round with private investors that include BlaBlaCar CEO Frédéric Mazzella.

Based in New York and Paris, Shapr created a social discovery app that tries to put another spin on networking. It matches professionals who need to find someone, through their mutual connections, with certain expertise or knowledge.

Co-founder Ludovic Huraux says Shapr users can add up to 50 people from their existing LinkedIn contacts to create a circle of folks they can turn to. The user and their circle mutually share their extended professional networks with each other for the purpose of making business connections. Huraux compares Shapr to breaking bread with your peers to find new leads.

“In real life, you have lunch with someone you trust, you talk to them about your issues,” he says. That contact might suggest one of their connections to help.

The Shapr app sends five recommended connections to users every day based on the types of new contacts they seek. Users can also post to a forum called Shapeline to get the word out to their current contacts with details on what they need.

This could be used to alert people to job opportunities, for example. It can also be used to find professionals with particular expertise, such as a patent attorney. The app’s matching can be done through tags and information fields to detail what the user is interested in, which can include finding funding, mentorship, or hiring talent.

Still, this is an idea with some caveats.

Despite the flurry of attention matchmaking dating app Tinder has gotten, building a business around software that introduces people to new contacts is not easy. Sonar in New York tried to evolve in a similar space, but did not gain the traction it needed.

Though Sonar was primarily a social app used to search for new friends, its team also added connectivity with LinkedIn to help professionals find new contacts. However, those efforts did not bring Sonar substantial gains, and it shut down in 2013.

Huraux is familiar with making connections through digital means. He previously founded Attractive World, a dating site in France. Shapr came about through a chance meeting with a new contact. Huraux happened to sit next to the grandmother of Zane Groshelle on a flight to France.

Huraux learned that Groshelle, a veteran of music recommendation service Songza, was also in the technology scene, and the grandmother introduced the duo to each other. Groshelle and Huraux and compared ideas, and then went on to cofound Shapr.

The company has 13 fulltime employees, split between the technical staff in Paris and the marketing and community management personnel at WeWork Soho, a co-working space in New York.

For all its ambitions, Shapr’s plans could raise questions of overlap with the paid services LinkedIn subscribers get—especially for messaging new contacts. However, Groshelle believes the Shapr app augments rather than competes with its info source for profiles. “We see ourselves as complementary to LinkedIn,” he says. “If you’re looking for a job, you can use Shapr as your personal referral system.”

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