No dates, let’s just meet up

The new social-media platform NOC is designed to help students in Leiden meet new people, say its Italian founders Luca Spagnolo (24) and Matteo Consonni (24). “You don’t just go up to someone and say hello”.

“It all started in July 2013; we were drunk …” says Consonni. “No, we weren’t drunk, but we were drinking beer”, Spagnolo interrupts. Consonni continues: “At the time, it struck us that we were surrounded by plenty of people. We were fed up of only talking to each other and no one else – we’ve known each other since we were small – but you don’t just go up to someone and say hello, either. If I were to speak to a girl in a bar, she might think I wanted more. It’s quite difficult to meet new people.” “We started looking for an online solution, but nearly all social-media platforms focus on online dating”, Spagnolo adds.
Last year – when Consonni was reading Public Administration at Campus The Hague – the guys had the opportunity to develop their idea. “The Centre for Innovation’s Venture Academy gives students the chance to transform their ideas into a start-up business plan. At the time, Luca was in Bali, where he met Jenny Ho – the third member of our team. Jenny came to Leiden and fell in love with the project too.”
Students, expats and travellers can share an activity on NOC and then get together with other people who are interested in it. “The activities have been divided into eighteen different categories: coffee, music, sports, travel; it includes nine different study disciplines too”, Consonni explains.
Spagnolo remarks: “We felt it was important that the online platform is used in the “real” world. The technology can help break the ice and connect people, but after that, they have to get up off the sofa and do stuff.”
NOC went on online on 24 August during Orientation Week Leiden, the introduction week for international students at Leiden University. Consonni recalls: “We teamed up with the OWL because international students especially need to meet new people. Besides, we want to close the gap between international students and Dutch students.” Ho interjects: “It’s great to see people meet up in real life. Some of them have already organised a trip to the Escher Museum.”
The three are very busy collecting feedback so they can continue to improve the service. “Obviously, we’d like to make some money with this company, but we developed this model initially to help people, not to get rich.” PM

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