Bristol friend-finder app hopes to end loneliness

Fethr

According to a report in the New Scientist, if you live in a dense city, you’re more likely to be lonely. The magazine reported that Chris Webster at the University of Hong Kong and his colleagues analysed health data from nearly 406,000 people in 22 UK cities held by the UK Biobank and compared it with detailed data of their environment, such as their proximity to busy roads and green spaces.

So we welcome the two University of Bristol alumni who are aiming to launch a friend-finding app that links up like-minded strangers.

Fethr was born during the first lockdown when Julian Issa and Miguel Bravo, who met while studying at Bristol, were sharing a London flat.

According to Techspark,  the not-for-profit network for the digital technology cluster in the West, discussing loneliness with fellow flatmate and co-founder Gerardo Rodriguez, the trio realised they had felt isolated long before the pandemic struck.

Julian was a business analyst, and had lived in 10 cities in two years, which made it difficult to build friendships. Researching the topic he discovered that 45 per cent of adults in England felt lonely at least some of the time. 

Julian, who studied for a MSci in Geography from 2010 to 2014, said: Meaningful human connection shouldn’t be such a difficult thing to find in the 21st century and that is why we started Fethr.”

“There is nothing more exciting than being sat in a hostel and chatting to people from across the world.

“However, it’s difficult to recreate that in your normal life. When I was moving to new cities it was difficult to build a community of friends quickly.”

Fethr users fill out a questionnaire about their personality, values, interests and friendship preferences.

Miguel, who studied Mathematics and Philosophy at Bristol, used his background to build a sophisticated algorithm that uses artificial intelligence to match strangers together – no swiping required. The app also draws on research from psychologist Dr Kelly Campbell, one of Fethr’s advisors.

In groups of four to six they can then choose to do anything from drinks and dinner to yoga and gallery-hopping.

After their mate date, attendees anonymously feedback on who they clicked with. If both parties liked one another, the app puts them in contact to continue their friendship. 

Fethr now has a team of 11. After a successful trial in Sydney, the app is now in the final stages of development. It has just launched in London  with plans to roll out to other UK cities, including Bristol, by the end of the year.

Miguel says “Bristol gave me the platform to meet many amazing people from different backgrounds to my own, who have been hugely influential in my life and career path – not least my good friend and co-founder Julian Issa.”

Julian adds, “Fethr is going to disrupt the way people socialise. Traditional avenues for making friends continue to be squeezed by the pandemic, working from home and increased digitisation. Now more than ever before, people want it to be easier to make meaningful connections, whether short-term or long-term.”