Let’s be honest: Most people suck at making friends after college. For one reason or another, many cling to the pals they made on the high school soccer team or in the college dorms and rarely develop close friendships after that. Maybe there’s that one person at work, but that’s about it.
Some have simply accepted this fate, but not Patrick Arenson. The Miami native’s social life took a hit when he returned to his hometown after graduating from college. His buddies had moved away, replaced by the thousands of transplants who now called Brickell and downtown Miami home. Rather than turn into a recluse, he and Alejandro Perez launched Pingwheel, an app for making friends with similar interests and backgrounds.
Pingwheel asks users a list of questions to determine the best matches nearby. Profiles with similar interests will display what Pingwheel calls a TIC (thing in common). There are six TIC categories in total: Work, school, hobbies, interests, background, and personal. So the more TICs displayed, the more you have in common. The app's calendar feature allows you to schedule plans and see when potential friends are free.
“The app instantly tells you all of your common interests with local users, so it’s a very practical way to break the ice and start up a conversation,” Arenson says. “We also help you find users in your area who might share a specific passion or interest that may otherwise be hard to find, like local Italian speakers who also like fishing.”
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Arenson points out that the app’s ability to connect users based on language or ethnicity can come in handy in a multicultural city like Miami.
Pingwheel isn’t the first app vying to become the Tinder for friends. Others such as Bumble BFF and Friender have tried to crack the mainstream but have so far been unsuccessful. Tinder also attempted to get in the game with the now-defunct Tinder Social.
“By focusing on hobbies, interests, school, work, and backgrounds, we differentiate ourselves because we provide a multitude of information about an individual in seconds, beyond a purely physical connection,” Arenson says. “We focus on what people like to do and who they are, helping you search for friends who almost feel curated because they share many of your common interests.”
Arenson, who was part of the founding team at the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, says Pingwheel currently has hundreds of users around the country.