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Melbourne social networking app Brane enlists F1 star as promotor

When Michael Chmielewski first arrived in Melbourne to study communications and media, he had trouble finding friends who shared his passion for motorbike riding. He found social media platforms, such as Facebook Groups), weren’t effective when he wanted to find people nearby to join him.

“Ironically, in 2017 I was on the couch for six months after a motorcycle accident, and in 2019 my mother was in hospital with cancer,” Chmielewski said. “During these hard times my partner and friends were incredibly supportive, but at times I just wanted to chat to someone new who wouldn’t ask how I was doing or how things were.”

“I wanted to take my mind off things and I remember really just wanting to chat to someone about the new Star Wars film, because it gave me a moment of feeling like things were normal,” he added. “But, there was no platform for me to easily and instantly strike up a conversation with someone that liked the same things that I did.”

So, Chmielewski (pictured, right) enlisted the help of friends Greg Kodikara and Christian Mengler to work on a new app, that the three co-founders called Brane, to would solve a problem that isn’t adequately addressed by existing social media platforms or swipe-based dating apps: the ability to connect people in their local area that share the same interests, whether that’s video games, music, action movies or dining out at a particular venue.

With its AI-based technology to automatically match users based on interests and location, 80,000 people in 188 countries have signed up since the app officially launched in 2022. Now the app is ready to scale further  Brane launched a crowdfunding campaign via Birchal in March 2024 that is set to close on 9 April.

In a further boost, Chmielewski also announced that Formula 1 champion and two-time winner of the Indy 500 Juan Pablo Montoya (pictured, left), alongside his son Sebastián (pictured, centre), have come on board as part-owners and brand ambassadors.

“I’m a guy that travels a lot and visits a lot of places,” Montoya said. “The Brane app is a really good way to connect and find people with the same interests as me as a traveller, like places to eat and hang out.”

Montoya added that he likes the app’s ability to create communities of Formula 1 fans, and build local fan engagement around his son Sebastian as he travels the world on the F3 circuit. He’s also signed on as a business customer for his driving school, Team Montoya.

With regards to revenue, Brane shares that it generates revenue from business clients, who can create communities of people that like their brand, product or service and automatically grow interested audiences via AI that matches the user’s interests to the organisation’s brand values.

Unlike other group chat platforms, such as WhatsApp, the app can be seamlessly embedded into existing brand apps and can generate anonymised data about followers’ other interests, and feeds it back to the business so they can better understand where interests intersect and predict coming trends.

“I’m so proud to see Brane enter the next big growth phase, twelve years after I first had the idea.” Chmielewski said. “To get endorsement from two racing legends is proof that the concept fills a gap in the market and has the goods to go up against the big social media platforms. The track ahead looks good for us.”

This story was originally published on Inside Small Business.

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