When you’re looking for a date (or—let’s be honest—a hookup) you turn to Tinder. But what about when you’re just hoping to catch a flick, go for a run or grab a cup of coffee, and ideally not with a total stranger? Enter: KinectUs, a new iPhone app from a Boston-based startup that allows you to instantly find other people in your proximity and your network who are interested in doing the same thing.

How it works

The idea is to enable you to unlock the hundreds of connections you have on social networks so that you enjoy more real-life interactions and experiences with them. Users start by selecting from a menu of nine pre-defined activities: “Sip” (meet for coffee), “Eat,” “Drink” (meet for cocktails), “Watch” (catch a movie), “Listen” (catch live music), “Learn” (visit a museum or art gallery), “Run,” “Play” (sports), or “Anything”—a wildcard option where people can chat and come up with their own activity together.

Once you choose, KinectUs searches the area and lets you know who in your network currently wants to do the same thing. Because the app is powered by an advanced machine learning algorithm, the results get continually smarter as the system learns your preferences.

One of the biggest perks to KinectUs is privacy: Its patent-pending approach requires two people to mutually select each other before they are ‘Kinected’ in a chat session to coordinate plans. Profiles contain minimal personal content, and while users’ distance are displayed in a generalized way, their exact locations are never displayed on maps. And furthermore, ‘Kinections’ are ephemeral: They automatically expire in 24 hours.

Founder Chris Nordstrom

KinectUs was co-founded by Chris Nordstrom and Romit Roy Choudhury, a mobile researcher with the University of Illinois. Nordstrom boasts a mixed business background that includes roles in strategy, product development, licensing and acquisitions, across a range of organizations from startups to Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits in a variety of tech industries. He told BostInno that the idea for KinectUs came about from his own experiences traveling and moving a lot.

“Being in a new area is not always easy,” Nordstrom said. “Although other social platforms provide ways to browse and meet people, many center around dating. Other platforms are group-activity focused and are more static and involve large group activities scheduled well in advance. I wanted to create a simple platform centered around connecting people who want to do a particular activity, right now.”

There’s one particular moment he points to as inspiration for the app. While sitting in the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport, Nordstrom was considering getting a bite to eat, but didn’t want to eat alone.

“I thought—there must be someone  interesting here in the airport who might want to grab lunch with me right now … wouldn’t it be cool if I could just push a button and instantly connect with those people?”

Exploring new features

The self-funded startup—which just launched its app in early June—has a total of 12 engineers, developers, designers and advisors on board. Nordstrom says he deliberately decided to bring KinectUs to market before seeking outside financing to “create value in the company, reduce risk and provide external investors with an attractive and tangible platform in which to invest.”

Now that KinectUs is on the App Store and they’ve built a foundational IP portfolio, the startup is starting to explore external financing options.

“Our current version is only the first step for KinectUs,” Nordstrom added.

As the community grows, Nordstrom says they’ll be expanding the activity options—and eventually, allowing people to tailor KinectUs more to their daily lives. Another future enhancement will likely include activity coordination tools to help people with the logistics around meeting up. The company also aims to bring the app to additional mobile platforms. Because KinectUs is location-based and real-time, Nordstrom noted that there is a unique opportunity to connect users with local businesses and brands. And due to the interface design, he’s confident that it will be easy to make this happen in a “relevant and unobtrusive manner.”

For now, they’re focusing on marketing and partnering efforts in the Boston area. However, Nordstrom revealed that KinectUs is currently exploring at least one additional test market.

The ultimate goal? For KinectUs to become “the go-to app for on-demand social plans.”

All photos via KinectUs.