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Spinnr connects lonely people with each other using an AI bot to make new friends

Philly-based founder Jason Sherman says he’s aiming for fewer trolls and more offline fun.

Spinnr at Temple University (Courtesy Spinnr)

During the pandemic, Jason Sherman realized like many others how hard it is to connect with people when you can’t see them face to face.

There are plenty of social media or dating apps to meet new people, but not as many for making friends, Sherman said. So, he founded Philadelphia-based Spinnr to help people connect with each other online. The app riffs on existing platforms like Meetup, Reddit, Discord and YouTube to match up people with similar interests, according to Sherman. It even has a built-in AI chatbot to check in on lonely users.

“At the end of the day, we want to make the world more connected in an authentic way,” Sherman told Technical.ly.

On Spinnr, users create videos on their profiles talking about themselves and their interests. They can also join “squads” or groups for different hobbies or topics to connect with like minded users.

AI combats trolls, and checks in on lonely users

With Spinnr, Sherman said he wanted to find a way to limit the trolls and negativity that’s present on traditional social media platforms, while still maintaining human connection. The platform uses artificial intelligence to maintain that policy.

“Most of it is managed by AI that we had to custom build to make sure that video content and pictures and things like that don’t get through if they’re offensive,” Sherman said.

Paid and volunteer human ambassadors also welcome people to the app and monitor group conversations to reduce judgemental comments, scams and negative feedback.

Plus, for users having trouble connecting with other people on the app, there’s an AI chatbot feature called Spinny. It checks in on users, acting as an additional friend. This idea led Sherman to create another platform called Vengo AI, where users can create their own AI personas. This platform is targeted towards brands, celebrities and influencers that want to expand their online presence. An AI persona lets people engage more with their audience without personally having to be part of every interaction, he said.

The online connections are meant to be continued off the app

Since launching at the beginning of 2023, Spinnr has around 20,000 users. Itraised $500,000 in 2022 when Sherman first started building the app. The company is currently raising a $3 million round to hire more programmers and continue building out the app.

Even though the initial connections are being made online, users are also connecting in-person, he said.

“People are meeting, they’re engaging, collaborating on songs together, or meeting up to do fashion shoots,” Sherman said. “I mean, it’s really cool what we’re seeing. It’s just going to continue to grow.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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