My husband often tells me that if he were the one at home with kids, he would organize other stay-at-home dads into a club. According to his fantasy strategy, the dads would each take turns watching all the kids while all the other dads went fishing or something. (I tend to stop listening around this point.)
Of course, his plan relies on first connecting with other stay-at-home dads -- and he doesn’t understand how hard that first step can be.
I couldn’t help but think of this when Soam Lall told me about Kinnecting -- an app he built for parents to find each other. And then when he told me that he was specifically creating options with military families in mind, I had to know more (because I like fishing drinking wine, too).
“Kinnecting was born out of my real world need to connect with other local parents,” Lall said. “When my wife had to leave town, I was left alone with our 15-month-old daughter. I saw parents everywhere, but they weren’t connected. I kept thinking it would be so valuable if there was a way to meet these other local parents. We were bound to have something in common.”
Something like a fondness for fishing and drinking, perhaps?
“As I thought about it more and started pitching the concept to other parent friends, I realized that a platform like Kinnecting was desperately needed,” Lall said. The platform would also open the door for other possible conversation topics. Like, what local kid-friendly restaurants do you go to? Where do you guys take music classes? Do you like that sippy cup?”
He had me at ‘sippy cup.’
I’m that mom that has stopped other moms in the baby aisle at Target to ask for product recommendations … and I get downright evangelical when I find a product I like.
“I also noticed that the popular dating apps were doing the same thing: using an algorithm to match types of people,” Lall said. “I wondered why I couldn't use an algorithm to connect parents. The answer was that I could. And I did.”
That’s right. Kinnecting is a dating app, for parents.
Which is really pretty cool. Finding friends you have things in common with AND who have kids around the same age and gender as yours, is pretty much the holy grail of parenting. An app that cuts out a few steps could make this process easier and quicker for everyone. And for military families, who tend to move before they’ve had time to meet those people, it could be a game changer.
Lall's wife’s family is from Kansas and they were visiting her family during the time he was developing the app. “I started talking to another parent at the playground,” he said. “As I showed her the prototype of what I was building, her face lit up. She just looked at me and said, ‘I’m a military parent and I know no one here. I’ve relocated three times and it’s so hard on my kids. This would be so amazing for military families.’”
Lall said he realized that, while finding people for playdates would be nice for any parents, military parents would benefit even more from the app.
“Imagine a military parent being able to reach out to other parents at a base they are relocating to months before a move. Think about how much easier that could be.”
Easier than, say, asking everyone you know if they’ve ever lived at your next duty station? Or searching on Facebook for groups in the new area there and then requesting to be added to each? Or begging people you barely know to send email introductions between you and people they barely know who happen to live at your new base? Yep — an app sounds easier than all of that.
Tell me more, Soam …
“With military families in mind we’ve spent some time creating features that will help them connect with other parents on their own base. We’ve created invite codes for 60 US military bases (www.kinnecting.com/military) and residents at other bases can request a code and we’ll gladly update the list. A military parent can sign up using the code, get notified when other parents at the same base join the network, and search for other parents at the same base. From there they can Kinnect with other parents and message with them directly.”
But in the age of ISIS threats, Amber Alerts and monthly emails from the FRG warning us to be safe online, how does the Kinnecting app address security concerns? Is that what you’re wondering? (That’s what you should be wondering, by the way.)
“We have chosen not to collect two pieces of data: your current location or your complete home address,” Lall said. “We decided not to integrate geolocation and home addresses for precisely this reason. Additionally, we require that users have a Facebook account because Facebook is currently at the forefront of maintaining authentic identity — we believe it’s the best way to ensure someone is who they say they are.”
In English, please.
“If users want to discuss their location, it’s up to them and they can do so via real time chat as if they were texting a friend. We actually don’t even want your home address, because the best way for us to protect that information is for us to never have it. We also don’t share specifics like a child’s birthday, or children’s names. We just show their gender and age because that information is used to sort for great parent matches.”
So, for those of us who’ve been married for a while and, ahem (hopefully) aren’t familiar with dating apps — how does this work?
A user signs up with their Facebook account and then completes a Kinnecting profile by entering their military invite code (found here), their children's ages, and a very short bio about the parent. Then click the ‘Kinnect’ tab on the bottom to see other users sorted by the algorithm.
If you only want to see parents on your base, only enter the invite code in the search bar. When new parents from your base join the network, you’ll get a notification in your activity feed. Go to their profile and click the ‘Kinnect’ button and once they accept your invite you can message them directly.