A networking app has received a boost from SAIT student participation, and they hope to compete with a networking giant in accessibility.
LinkedIn is the premier app for connecting people with business owners and businesses with 810 million users on the site.
The app launched on May 5, 2003, and it has been used for professional networking and career development.
However, LinkedIn hasn’t always been friendly toward students, according to Rebecca Kirstein Resch, owner and CEO of Inqli.
“Every single student I talked to said some variation of the same thing: I don’t belong here,” Kirstein Resch said.
“’I don’t have the credentials and achievements that everyone else has on LinkedIn, it’s scary to reach out to people, people ignore me, people don’t respond.’”
Inqli is the brainchild of Kirstein Resch, born in Calgary and living in Victoria, B.C., after years of development and forming the concept.
She says Inqli will bring people together through mentorship and leadership from companies.
“It is for students, but it’s also for anyone who identifies as a learner,” Kirstein Resch said.
“You can be 65 and working in a small business, or in a not-for-profit, or going back to school. So, it’s really for anyone, but the idea came from working with college and high school age students.”
What is Inqli?
Inqli utilizes a language processing algorithm that uses artificial intelligence to match people over time.
The questions people ask are included in the profile of a user, and they are used to refine the match-making process.
Kirstein Resch had the idea for Inqli when she started a non-profit, Rethink Thinking, in 2016.
The Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII) inspired Kirstein Resch with their student-based learning model. Her own daughter attended the school, and this further inspired her to make Rethink.
After Kirstein Resch successfully created her own learning model for Rethink, she developed a human library for their Youth Summit, which are a group of mentors to assist students.
“It was almost like micro mentorship on steroids,” Kirstein Resch said.
“To this day, I still get texts and Instagram messages from some of these students. Just like ‘Hey, can you connect me to someone who does this?’ Or ‘Do you know anybody who is in this field?’”
Those interactions gave Kirstein Resch perspective on what students are missing, which led to her development of the app Inqli.
App in Testing
Kirstein Resch worked closely with the School of Advanced Digital Technologies (SADT) Chief Catalyst Jim Gibson, who is a lead investor in Inqli through his own company Thin Air Labs.
This led to a meeting with David Gaudet, an instructor for the School of Business at SAIT. He teaches the capstone course for fourth-year business students.
After working with each other to market Inqli, Gaudet introduced Kirstein Resch to his students and shared Inqli as a capstone project idea.
Students in the capstone project course in the School of Business came together and set-up a booth to find beta-testers for the app.
“This is a company that’s on a very sharp rise,” said Gaudet.
“I thought this would be great experience for some of my students to work with a tech start-up.”
Inqli was at a stage of generating interest and funding. It has since moved into finding test pilots for the beta-app.
The students brought in 50 beta-testers for the app and are continuing to find students to test the app.
A Villain and a Hero
Gaudet has been involved with marketing, strategy for branding, and teaching for 18 years, and he felt a great affinity with Inqli and Kirstein Resch.
“Rebecca Kirstein Resch has been, for whatever reason, a believer in SAIT,” Gaudet said.
“I love the story that is always about a villain and a hero. And the villain in this case was the emptiness of the tool for students to connect with mentors. And the hero is Inqli.”
Gaudet is the author of The Daily Undoing, and plays a role with Inqli through his competency-based learning/teaching methods.
The goal of Inqli is to provide people with mentorship for people, and to have human libraries of industry leaders for people to reach out to at scheduled times through the app.
“I see the existing apps, such as LinkedIn, not doing the job for that market, and perhaps not doing the job for anybody,” Gaudet said.
Greater reach to network
Kirstein Resch wants to reach students in remote areas, Indigenous communities, and BIPOC populations with their technology.
Inqli has partners from around the world that says location is an important aspect in determining a network.
“It varies dramatically based on the postal code you’re in, who your parents are, and what schools you go to determine that,” Kirsten Resch said.
“It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Kirstein Resch has also worked with the Intercultural Association (ICA) in Victoria, B.C., and has noted that refugees and immigrants have difficulty finding jobs.
“They’re living in Canada, and they have no network, and their experience isn’t relevant to doing their work in this country,” Kirsten Resch said.
“You’ve got professional, experienced people driving cabs and working in restaurants who are looking to move back into their chosen career field. And that’s a huge challenge.”
Their business model is built on free accessibility for people and students when looking for mentorship and have questions for mentors.
Who are the mentors?
Inqli has “Enterprise customers,” which are the companies that would be providing advice and networking opportunities for those looking. They pay a fee for their employees to act as mentors.
The mentors would still get paid for their time mentoring and helping users of Inqli.
This is possible because companies must adhere to corporate social responsibility programs once the company reaches 1,000 employees. Mentors also work on company time.
Companies like TELUS have jumped on board to be mentors for people and students alike.
“People are looking for opportunities to volunteer. Companies are looking for opportunities to volunteer, and those employees and those companies are looking for opportunities that are skills based,” Kirstein Resch said.
“When companies give people time and space, as part of their role to volunteer, it makes people feel mission aligned with their company and makes people feel good about giving their time.”
Inqli recently launched an update for their iOS beta app on April 19. They are still looking for beta testers and ask people to register through this form here.
Alejandro Melgar is a second-year graduating student in the online-print journalism stream. He is the editor-in-chief of The Emery Weal and contributor. You can find his work on LiveWire Calgary and on his website here.