ASKWHO: Make friends with the UAE-founded social app

For many of us, the idea of adding another social media platform to our already web-centric lives is very unappealing. But refreshingly, ASKWHO isn’t about gathering as many likes and followers as possible. 

Founded in Dubai by expats Michael Askew and Matthew Gaziano and currently available around the world”, the group social media app encourages users to connect with others from their local area, share tips, exchange ideas and even meet up in person.  

With mainstream social media often criticized for making people feel inferior and lonely, ASKWHO is entirely the opposite. By helping UAE residents and citizens turn online friends into ‘real’ ones, it actually aims to boost mental health.

The concept

Based around localized discussion groups that focus on particular interests, like fitness, outdoors, art, lifestyle, travel and wellness, ASKWHO makes it easy to find others who share your passions.

 “ASKWHO has been described as a ‘home away from home’ because we help people socialize, settle in and find things that they like to do in the UAE,” says Michael.

“We’re not like other social media brands. To be honest, I think they should be classed as entertainment platforms, because they bring very little value to our lives. ASKWHO connects like-minded people and encourages new friendships and I don’t know of another platform that does this in quite the same way.”  

The inspiration

Having lived in the Middle East for eight years, both founders have experienced the challenges of moving across the world to a new city. 

“Matt and I first started talking about making an app like ASKWHO when we were working together in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. We were frustrated by how difficult it was to meet people and find things to do,” he explains.  

“When we moved to Dubai a few years later, we thought making friends would be easier. However, we actually found it even harder. So, we started thinking seriously about bringing our idea to life.”

Who is it for?  

 ASKWHO is intended for people of all ages and backgrounds, although the average user age of 30.   

 “In a nutshell, ASKWHO is for anyone who generally wants to get more out of life,” Michael adds.
 “We want to encourage people to reap the benefits of real human interaction and provide them with a community where they feel like they belong.” 

It certainly seems to be working. ASKWHO now has 30,000 users in Dubai alone, with engagement and retention rates that are statistically better than LinkedIn and Twitter.  

The incentive

With the current trend for home and hybrid-working making it more difficult for adults to make friends within the workplace, and in some cases removing all daily face-to-face contact with others completely, you could argue that an app like ASKWHO is more needed than ever.  

 “I really admire how people have come together through the app and how supportive and positive are community is,” says Michael. “ASKWHO meetups are now happening most weekends and, as the result of four years of research and trials, I’m thrilled to see that people are enjoying it.”

As for the brand’s future plans, the founders are keeping things modest. 

 “I hear founders of other companies saying things like ‘we want to conquer the world’, but to be honest, we just want to focus on our community and the people in it. We’re very grateful for everything that’s happened so far and if, one day we can expand and reach people in other countries too, it would be an honour.”

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