When Megan Valverde, a nurse from Boston, arrived in Amsterdam with her husband and two young boys, she was delighted to explore a new city but faced with a challenge.
‘For years, my husband and I have talked about how as we’ve gotten older, it’s harder to make friends, especially when you have young children,’ she says. ‘You quickly realise you have to find friends with kids because your interests and ability to stay out late don’t really align any more. Becoming expats and moving to this amazing city, it was like starting all over again.’
That was enough of a challenge three years ago, but she believes that for newcomers or people who started a family during the coronavirus, it must be even more daunting. ‘With the pandemic especially, I always just think about the people in our situation, moving to a new country or city in the last year and how hard it must be for them to find friends.’
Inspired by dating apps such as Bumble and Tinder, she has built a solution. Party of 4 app, which launches on April 12, is a free matching service where people can find other couples in their neighbourhood or beyond who are open to new friendships.
‘There’s really no other app that prioritises couples to find friends – I was pretty amazed,’ says 35-year-old Valverde, who now has an infant daughter too. ‘On April 12, the app is available for download and we already have 550 couples who have signed up for the launch on the website.’
The business is initially focusing on Amsterdam but is hoping to expand to other cities and possibly countries after hearing from a potentially large user base in places such as Rotterdam, Utrecht and Haarlem. ‘There’s a lot of interest from people there, and I’m so excited to open an Amsterdam hub and just let it go.’
The idea is that people can connect with others through the app and forge some new links during coronavirus restrictions so that when these are relaxed, they can arrange to meet up. Although she wants Party of 4 to be ‘the spark post-corona that re-ignites peoples’ social games’, it is intended to be for social but not sexual connections.
‘People’s minds do go there, but this explicitly isn’t an app for swingers and solicitation of any kind won’t be tolerated,’ she says. ‘We will just terminate the users’ account if that happens. We want to keep it for platonic friendships only.’
Users will be able to create a profile of their couple with their names, ages, bio, interests, and any children and their ages if they like. They can then filter by distance, from 500m to an unlimited area, and looking for couples with and without children. ‘I’ve had a few questions online and I’m definitely not advocating people meeting or breaking any sort of corona rules: I’m advocating for social connection at a time when it is really needed,’ Valverde adds. ‘People have the ability to match and chat within the app, so it doesn’t have to be in person yet. Hopefully when the restrictions are lifted, they will have a few new friends to hang out with.’
The business is not intended to depend on advertising but hopes to grow in several years and develop paid-for premium options to finance the operations sustainably. The app is currently in English since many internationals and locals have this language in common. ‘We are going to start in the Netherlands but the goal is to take this thing global,’ she adds. ‘I really think it has a lot of potential to spread and I want to help people.’
Anyone in the Netherlands who signs up to the website before April 15 and then makes a profile will receive a free bottle of wine to virtually celebrate the launch of Party of 4. Download the app here (iOS)and here (Android).
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