Socializing changed after the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to network anymore. Now, with the platform built by Raleigh-based Socialize, people can network and hold events in a virtual, pandemic-safe way.
Originally from Brazil, Socialize Co-Founder Rod Greco earned his MBA from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Pre-pandemic, he was running the app development agency Amplifi Labs. Once Covid-19 descended, Greco said the agency took a huge hit and was unsure where to go in terms of networking events.
After doing a lot of research, Greco said he did not find many companies offering virtual capabilities geared toward networking events.
“All I found was companies doing virtual events—but more on the management side, not so much on the actual focus on networking,” Greco said. “And then I thought, maybe there’s something here.”
So Greco and his co-founders John Petitte and Paul Rieck decided to build something that brought networking events to life in a similar way to how they used to take place in the “real world”—allowing attendees to move across a virtual room, see people’s faces and strike up a conversation with them.
“Our main goal was to simulate how people do real life,” Greco said. “They are in a big group. There’s somebody talking, like at a big event, and then when it’s time to network, they just look at somebody else’s face and they go talk to them. Or maybe they get introduced by other people.”
Socialize officially launched on Oct. 6, holding a successful event for UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship with around 40 attendees. The startup is currently a semi-finalist for one of NC IDEA’s $50K SEED grants.
Socialize aims to reach the small networking event organizers as well as webinar hosters, as the SaaS platform allows one person to stream to the rest of participants along with breakout sessions.
What distinguishes Socialize from other platforms is the organic way people can still “run into” each other’s avatars on the platform or even be introduced to others in a way that replicates real-life networking, which Greco said no other company is doing.
Even after Covid-19 recedes and networking events can go back to normal, Greco said there is still a value in having this online event software in addition to in-person events because it eliminates geographic restrictions and is less expensive for organizers than in-person events.
“There’s a lot of things that can be done to unify both worlds,” Greco said. “And I think that’s going to bring a lot of a lot of efficiency, a lot of cost reduction and still provide the same experience—if not even better—than what was being done pre-Covid.”
Moving beyond their initial launch, Socialize is committed to showing event organizers who are skeptical by offering demos of the product.
“Every time we get people using, I get very good feedback: ‘This is amazing. I felt like I was in a networking event again after five months,’” Greco said. “So it’s always a good experience.”