SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Roberto Medrano, Dmitriy Stepanov, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Sean Houghton

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New Startup "SitWith" Brings Strangers Together For Productive Networking Lunches

Company founded by students of the entrepreneurship program at Carnegie Mellon University.

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The challenge of meeting new people and expanding your personal network just got a lot easier for individuals in Pittsburgh. This is great news for people, such as young professionals, who are new to the area or those who are long-time residents and simply enjoy sharing conversation. SitWith, a startup company incubated the entrepreneurship program at Carnegie Mellon University, has introduced a web-based service that connects individuals by bringing them together for lunch at local restaurants, in small groups of 4, expanding social networking through face-to-face interaction.

SitWith is co-founded by Will Lutz, a Tepper School of Business MBA candidate focusing on entrepreneurial studies, Tianyu Yang, an MISM candidate at the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College and Patrick Morse, a PhD candidate at the University of California Riverside. Their service is aimed wholly at enabling casual social connections. To maintain the informal nature of these relationships, SitWith has established ground rules as to how participants must conduct themselves. It is not a dating platform and is not to be used as a client acquisition strategy. No business cards are to be exchanged during the lunch.

SitWith's services are free to individual users and can be accessed by visiting the SitWith website. Users can choose to join a previously planned lunch, or start a new lunch while selecting the date and restaurant. SitWith has also just launched a free mobile application for Android phones, which can be downloaded via link on the company's homepage. An iOS version is in development and users are encouraged to sign up for notification of the apps release.

The main goal of SitWith is to create meaningful face-to-face interactions and great conversations that people cannot get through Facebook or email. The seating is completely random, and participants do not know who they are meeting until they arrive, making for an interesting variety of people in each group. Lutz says that they do their best to decrease the likelihood that someone is paired with a person that that they already know. SitWith is currently active in three restaurants, located in various Pittsburgh neighborhoods: the Harris Grill in Shadyside, Union Grill in Oakland or Sharp Edge Bistro downtown.

SitWith lunches take place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. As these days are considered slow business days in terms of lunch crowd volume, restaurants recognize benefit from Sitwith infilling empty seats. Lutz said that SitWith plans to expand to other single-location restaurants throughout in the Pittsburgh area.

The program is especially useful for newcomers to Pittsburgh, helping them connect with other people who are more acclimated to the ins and outs of the city. Lutz has begun working with HR departments in several Pittsburgh companies to promote SitWith to their new employees who have relocated to the area. Theories suggest that people who build a healthy social network within a geographic area are more likely to stay in that region. SitWith founders believe that, by helping to create social connections, their service can improve employee retention rates for companies that encourage a SitWith lunch.

Lutz feels that his education at the Tepper School has been instrumental in helping him to successfully navigate the waters of the startup world. "The classes and lessons are really remarkable," he stated. He also recognized Carnegie Mellon University's diverse and extensive professional network in helping him reach out to local HR departments and businesses.

For the past several months SitWith has been working out of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's Project Olympus, an incubator for student and staff startups at the earliest stages of creation. The incubator aims to enhance and accelerate the research and development process, and helps new ventures with licensing, corporate collaboration and strategic partnerships. The company was recently chosen as part of the latest class in the AlphaLab program, a top-ten ranked business accelerator funded by Innovation Works, the Ben Franklin Technology Partner of Southwestern Pennsylvania, supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 12,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Pittsburgh, Pa., California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. 

SOURCE Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University

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