Get close with Catalyst

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Does the world need another hook-up app? Peter Simmons thinks so. This week, his Raleigh-based startup launched Catalyst - "the social network that goes out with you."

Catalyst attempts to set itself apart from other location-based social apps by touting its unique features. First, unlike other apps that identify users by general locations or within a certain radius, Catalyst users will check-in to a precise location. Instead of just knowing who is in Uptown on Saturday night, or even who is at the Epicenter, you can know exactly who is in the same bar or club as you are. Second, the app protects privacy by only disclosing mutual "likes." The hottie at the bar won't know you've got your eye on him unless he's likewise fond of you. From there, it's up to the two of you to make the connection. Third, selfies aren't original, but Catalyst hopes that a daily prompt to take a selfie will assure users that the user profiles and pictures on the app are real and recent.

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I asked Simmons whether this app will only appeal to the college crowd or people with exciting social lives. While he says they are initially targeting young people ages 18-25, he believes the appeal is much broader than just checking in at clubs. As the user base grows and diversifies, he envisions people checking in at their favorite morning coffee stop, the bookstore, the gym, or the grocery store - any place where they may want to make a connection.

Like any social networking app, there needs to be a critical mass of users in order for it to take off. Only time will tell if there is enough interest in yet another app that promises to connect people online in hopes of them connecting offline. What it does have going for it is that users can meet people where they already hang out. But being the old-fashioned fuddy-duddy that I am, I wish people didn't need to rely on an app to make a move. If you see someone you like the look of, put your phone down, be a grown-up, and go speak to them.

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