In a digital age where nearly every social application can quickly turn into a dating service, one developer dared to go against the grain and focus solely on friendship.

Making new friends as an adult can be a challenge as life drives people down different paths and longtime friends grow apart. Jobs can lead some to cities where they don’t know anyone, the unfamiliarity of their new environment an intimidating obstacle that prevents them from getting out and meeting people.

Julian Ilson and Emanuel Petre sought to remedy this when they co-founded We3, a free mobile app designed to help adults of all ages create genuine new friendships by emphasizing the components that Ilson felt were key: compatibility, reciprocity and recurrence.

Friendship apps are nothing new to the mobile scene, but what separates We3’s approach is its decision to remove the dating motive that has a tendency to rear its ugly head in other apps.

“I couldn’t escape the realities that people wanted to use We3 for dating and many women didn’t want to feel accosted on a friendship app,” Ilson, We3’s CEO, said. “The few friendship apps out there all started with strictly platonic intentions but moved more toward dating because that’s where the money is. People are ready to pay for features that will get them a date and I really didn’t want We3 to go down that path.

“This doesn’t mean mixed-gender Tribes will never happen. It just means it will be in a controlled fashion, where unwanted advances will be kept in check.”

We3 matches users of the same sex in groups of three called Tribes. The group setting helps reduce the awkwardness of introductions and makes it easier for members to settle in.

We3 uses an in-depth 10-level questionnaire to determine a user’s personality, which falls into one of 32 types, then uses a “smart matching,” self-improving algorithm that considers approximately 150 individual factors for each tribe, resulting in users getting grouped with like-minded individuals within a certain distance from their current location. Privacy is a high priority for the app and profiles are never made public, visible only to members of the same Tribe. 

Once a tribe is formed, a group chat is opened where users are encouraged to forgo the courtesies of first impressions and interact as if they’ve known each other all along.

Based in Montreal, Canada, We3 launched in the U.S. April 8, 2017, in New York City before expanding to other metropolitan cities across the country. As the app nears its one-year anniversary in the states, Ilson hopes it continues to pave the way for apps helping users build meaningful friendships in a swipe-happy world of dating apps.

“I’m really happy that we have proven that a large number of people are ready and willing to try out an ‘app for friends,’” He said. “Just like Tinder has largely done away with the enormous stigma that online dating carried with it, I’m more confident than ever that we will be able to do the same in our space.”

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