Better Than LinkedIn? GA Grad Builds New Professional Networking App

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Renuka Agarwal

Who says you can’t find a job on your phone? Companies have been dabbling in mobile networking for years now, and Renuka Agarwal thinks she can do it better. With her newfound back-end web development skills, she launched BOND, a user-friendly mobile app that makes networking easy and fun.

1. What were you up to before taking Back-End Web Development (BEWD) at General Assembly?

Before GA, I had just transitioned industries from finance to media. Since my new job gave me more free time, I started exploring the NY tech/startup scene, a world that had always interested me. As I went to more events, I realized that my lack of understanding of web and software development (I had never taken any computer science courses) was inhibiting my ability to truly engage with the people and content I was encountering. To remedy this, I signed up for a GA class on the recommendation of friends, including a friend who did the WDI class. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

2. What made you choose to take BEWD?

I decided that the back-end course would give me the most comprehensive experience for several reasons. Firstly, in the back-end course you get a very good understanding of how all of the moving pieces work together – the server, the database, etc. As someone with no previous coding experience, I found this invaluable. Secondly, because the course culminates in each student building their own application, it ends up involving a little front-end in addition to the heavy focus on back-end. Finally, I went to the course info session and LOVED my instructor, Steven Nunez. It was very clear that he was passionate about teaching and coding, and I found this infectious.

3. Have you always wanted to start your own business?

Yes! I think I’ve always been entrepreneurial by nature and enjoy creating opportunities for myself to pursue my interests, i.e. I also co-founded a Bollywood/Fusion dance team last summer, Manhattan Andaaz. Running my own business allows me to work towards a cause I find truly meaningful. It also allows me to wear a variety of different hats (i.e. financier, marketer, product manager, etc.), which I enjoy.

4. Tell me about BOND.

BOND is a professional networking mobile app that aims to make networking easier, more fun, and more effective. Here’s how it works:

1) Sign up through LinkedIn

2) Select up to 3 industries of interest

3) Select up to 3 organizations of interest within each selected industry

4) Each week, receive a batch of potential matches, based on your profile and preferences

5) If you’re interested in a professional, give them a handshake!

6) If you and another professional both handshake each other, it’s a match! Send them an e-mail and start connecting.

BOND app

Renuka’s professional networking app, BOND, is available in the iTunes store.

5. What was your inspiration for this app?

BOND comes from my own frustrations with networking. When I was transitioning industries, I had to search through LinkedIn for hours to find contacts who were relevant to me. After finding these contacts, I would reach out to them via LinkedIn InMail; 9/10 times I wouldn’t get a response. BOND solves this problem in several ways. Firstly, by providing you with curated suggestions of who you should connect with, BOND saves you the need to search on your own. Secondly, by only allowing you to e-mail people you match with, BOND drives the e-mail response rate higher. Finally, by making networking a weekly game, BOND encourages you to view networking as a continuous process, not one that you pursue only when you need a new job. Professional relationships, just like personal relationships, take time to develop.

6. What does the future hold for your app?

There’s a lot in store for BOND! Right now, BOND’s focus is on building a strong user base. Future goals include further refining the app based on user feedback. BOND will expand to host more career related events, including panels, book/article discussions, company information sessions and mixers. BONDed, BOND’s official blog, is also launching soon and will welcome contributions from its members. The goal, in addition to ensuring the app’s success, is to build a professional community around the app.

7. What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?

Going beyond convincing people I know to download BOND to convincing the broader population to download BOND has proven far more difficult than I had anticipated. I’ve learned that word of mouth plays a critical role; forums such as General Assembly are also incredibly helpful! Another challenge is taking the “founder” hat off to wear the “user” hat, especially important to do in certain stages of the business, i.e. product development.

8. What’s one of your biggest successes thus far?

Having BOND accepted into the iTunes App Store on first submission was a big win. The support I’ve received from my existing networks has also been tremendous.

9. Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid to get started! It’s very easy to put your plans off – the time’s not right, you don’t know enough, the product can be better, etc. Here’s the thing – perfection doesn’t exist and the only way you learn what works is by learning what doesn’t. Our world is so flat now that all the tools you need are at your disposal. The hard part isn’t building the business, it’s making it successful.  Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to new or rusty connections – people are always far more willing to help than you realize

9. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Backstreet Boys all the way. Once a fan, always a fan. And copious amounts of chocolate, of course!

Interested in learning more about back-end web development?

Explore Web Development at GA

Melanie Albert oversees alumni communications and programming for General Assembly.