Brains Byte Back

Using digital tools to enhance real-life connections among travelers, explorers, & digital nomads (podcast episode)

In our modern digital world, it is easier to get to know and stay in touch with more people than ever. However, combating loneliness still remains a major issue in society. In fact, it is such a big issue that the UK government now has a minister dedicated to tackling loneliness, in what former Prime Minister Theresa May called “the sad reality of modern life.”

To discuss this, we are joined by Sierra West, founder of Cennec, an app that allows you to connect on the go, wherever you are, based on who you are and what you like, without a romantic focus. 

In this episode of the Brains Byte Back podcast, we cover if it is harder for younger generations to develop connections compared with previous generations, and the importance of making connections in our everyday lives.

We also discuss how the app works, how Cennec separates itself from competitors, and the story behind the app’s name and what it means to Sierra. 

You can listen to the episode below, or on SpotifyAnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsStitcherOvercastListen NotesPodBean, and Radio Public.

Alternatively, you can find a transcript below:

Sierra: Thank you, Sam, thank you so much for having me here. As you mentioned, my name is Sierra West, and I’m the founder and self proclaimed Chief Connecting Officer of Cennec app. And essentially what Cennec app is, is a new way of thinking about connecting digitally. So we’re trying to build an inclusive, safe, community based and lifestyle platform that’s designed to empower and simplify human connection. And our tagline to that is for whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever you like, with an emphasis on non-romantic connections. So basically, we’ve formulated this platform under the principles of community connection, conscientiousness communication, and we like to every so often talk about celebration as well, because we think that’s important. But again, what we’re really trying to hone in on is being a new age organisation where these pillars are not just talked about, but are our critical indicators of success. Our goal is to reconnect you with people in person and not keep you on the platform constantly scrolling through content.

Sam: Okay, cool. Awesome. Well, I have to say, first of all, I really love the mission and the driving force behind this, and I’m super excited to talk about it today. Now for my next question, I want to tell listeners, so the name, Cennec it is spelled C E N N E C, and I really want to know, what’s the story behind this name?

Sierra: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Obviously, this was one of the first questions we get, because it has a uniqueness to it. Really, the core of it is, I wanted a name that was as close to the root purpose of the app as possible. So that being connection, that’s the entire point of the app. And we can get into that a little more later. But with that word, right, I said, you know, how do we create a word that’s so simple. So representative of what we’re trying to do, and almost universally understood, like the word connection, obviously, we’re speaking in English language terms here. And I sort of wanted to Googlephi, the name, if that’s a word, Googlephi. And again, make something simple, easy and representative of what we’re trying to do. So Cennec, we do pronounce that like connection. But with an emphasis on that C and EC, we thought it was very aesthetically pleasing. And also a palindrome which is, which is kind of a cool, unique thing. And it’s also if you’ve seen our logo, it’s very representative of our logo as well, very symmetrical, very aesthetically pleasing, very representative of what the company is about, which is bringing people together and finding that common connection. So with that Cennec was born. But I will say, I think it’s kind of funny to add that several people say, cynic when they first see the word, and very understandably so I think it kind of has like looks like the start of the word circle or or any other see words that more have that s sound. And for a while, I was worried. I guess I could say that, you know, that would be bad for my, my brand. And after giving that some thought I just had this like eureka moment, this popped into my head that it actually does not matter entirely. Because regardless of Cennec or Cennec, I think the mission is very clear. And the representation of what we’re trying to do. Our local almost looks like two circles coming together. And if you think about that, in terms of your life, path and journey, right? We’re all just going through our individual journeys, but all those journeys are interconnected in some sort of broader web. So I find it kind of fascinating when people say Cennec, because I’m curious, you know, what’s in the effort of connection, right? I’m curious about what they’re hearing and what brought them to that conclusion that, you know, that’s what it was called. So it’s been a fun journey so far, but I’m excited to see where it goes.

Sam: Yeah. And I have to say, I’m probably one of those people that did see as Cennec, I think I understood it like that, because I had an understanding of what you folks were about. So I kind of drew the two and two together. And I do also have to say I do like that, that symmetry in the name. So that really resonates with me. I’m really excited to discuss this a little further because I did actually see an article in the BBC recently. And it really stuck out for me and I wanted to bring it up with you. It was titled can Gen Zed, or Z make friends in the pandemic era? In the article they stated that Gen Z They are now using platforms to build sustainable close connections in a way that generations before. Before them din, do you believe that it’s harder for younger generations to develop connections compared with previous generations? And if so, like, Why do you think that is the case when we’re more connected than ever?

Sierra: Yeah, yeah. I love this question. I love it. Obviously, it’s a it’s a complex topic or multifaceted. So we could be talking about this for a very long time, of course, and in no way do I mean to ever, you know, generalize because obviously, some of those factors depend on things like personality, culture, social contexts, etc. But I do absolutely love giving this thought. And, you know, one of the conclusions I came to was that the reach is certainly higher, right? The ability to connect with people in any part of the world, across any topic, across any platform, any digital platform really, is just fascinating. It’s a phenomenon, right? There’s huge positives in that. But where the you know, compensation comes from is the ability to make that true sense of connection. There’s a lot of challenges out there around social media creating, almost connection overload, which can have the opposite effect, the feelings of the social isolation or loneliness, especially when those virtual connections are replacing or detracting from a quality in person, deeper human connection deeper than, you know, some of the superficiality that does come with this content. There is research out there that suggests that younger generations do have fewer close friendships than previous generations, but they have more of those casual surface level connections. So quite a interesting phenomenon. That’s happening right now.

Sam: Yeah, it’s actually something that’s come up on the show before and even like, when I started back in 2018, I think we had an episode talking about the loneliness of younger generations. So it’s definitely not something that is just I feel like sprung up as the pandemics come around. But I would love to know, with so much focus on trying to connect these days and us being more digitally connected. Are there other companies operating in this space? And if so, like, how do you folks differentiate yourself from the competition?

Sierra: Yes, absolutely. It’s great question. And obviously one that comes up top of mind for a lot of people as well, right. We’ve been inundated with social connection, networking, etc, etc. type apps. Again, that’s one of the phenomenons of this of today’s society is, is the technology that’s made this possible. So the trend that we’ve observed over the years has been, you know, more on what we just discussed around the Gen Z and, and their ability to connect where one of the primary indicators is content, we’re very rooted in sharing content as our means for connecting, which again, can have positive and, and negative benefits. So the way we’re coming in, is we are not a content app. We’ve obviously talked and brainstormed about ways to add that in in the future. But the emphasis right now is to enhance your real life, not replace it digitally, get to off your phone. So you can have more of those real, genuine, authentic, human to human connections. It doesn’t have to be physically in person, if you’re not, you know, one to kind of have that extroverted, needing to be around people personality, one of the benefits of our platform is it does have a chat based connection as well. So you can find that same level of cross cultural, global, you know, like minded folks wherever they could be. And so a big differentiator, again, is connection versus content. And then another big differentiator from us between other competitors is that emphasis on connection. So, when you think about other apps, I think the big elephant in the room is that we’ve been inundated with dating apps, right? And that’s really created some of that superficiality issue I think we’ve been experiencing is that people are only seeing connections for a certain value and not the quality that humans crave desire and arguably need right Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that feeling of sense of belonging to really show up in the community, right. So um, We focus on non romantic connection. And in our definition connection can mean five seconds, five minutes or five years. Think about in your lifetime. How many times do you make a best friend, right? There’s a competitor out there that has a Best Friends Forever app, if you’re lucky, you get a few of those in your lifetime, right? A few of those best friends that you obviously cherish, so deeply. But as life goes on, those best friends can end up on another, the other side of the world, and that in person time does have a tendency to decrease. But think about what you did just today. Did you go get a coffee? Did you go for a walk? Did you go to the convenience store? Did you see somebody that had nice eyes or a nice smile, right? All these ways in which we’re connected on a daily basis that enriches our daily lives and experience. There’s a great article that just came out, excuse me, I forget the source at the moment. But it says one quality conversation a day can be a day changing phenomenon, right? can give you that sense of connection and belonging that that humans once again, need. So we’re really emphasising that daily connection that when do you need to connect? Where do you need it? How do you need it right? Creating a digital tool that that enables all that to be possible. So as I’ve been talking, you probably have been thinking about scenarios where this is useful we’re performing really well in the remote worker traveller market where, again, talking about Gen Z and Millennial right, were more global than ever, we’re travellers, we’re explorers. And a lot of people in that bracket talk about wanting the freedom and the ability to travel alone, but not wanting to be alone or have that feeling of loneliness or being alone. So with our app, we’re enabling that ability to connect on the go to connect when you need it. So if I was in Colombia, let’s say Sam, where you’re located, and I wanted to go for a hike, I’ll admit hiking is something that I enjoy. But I definitely get some anxiety built about doing such a thing alone when I’m far from others. And, you know, might not have ways of protecting myself right from animals or others, it doesn’t matter, right? It’s just something that invokes that little bit of anxiety for me, if I wanted to do that millennial thing travelled to Colombia, alone, be a remote worker there, embrace the culture. But I also wanted to experience connection when and where I need it. That’s where Cennec comes in. That’s where we come in. We’re really trying to be that niche app that truly amplifies human connection.

Sam: I get that that makes a lot of sense to me. And I can honestly say that human connection is so essential, I think I do remember seeing one article around the time of the pandemic that said that we crave human connection in the same way that we crave food or water when we go without it. And as someone that is based in like a digital nomad hub here in Colombia, Medellin, I can see that vital that would be for those that come to this place, and want to make those connections. And obviously, with my background psychology, I love the fact that you brought up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into this. So that really stuck out for me, everything you mentioned, this sounds so intriguing. And I think that you really do have like a very special space in the market. And I want to know like what’s next for you folks? What’s on horizon, what you’re going to be focusing on as priority as you move forward.

Sierra: Ah, that’s awesome. I get chills when I hear this because something I like to share just about me personally, in my journey is that I wanted to be an entrepreneur for so long that I kind of giggled, I guess when I heard people, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, ride sharing, sharing their journeys, say, you know, they wake up every morning, you know, so excited and proud for what they do and excited to get out of bed, right? I’ve struggled to be a morning person throughout my life. So again, that just made me made me laugh a little bit, but I’m on a personal journey and such where you would ask me that question. And I get goosebumps because I am so excited for the future and where this journey could could take us. Yeah, so we’ve got pages and pages of what we want that feature and functionality to look like from the app perspective, but holistically, right. We have a lot of work to do. In being this new age company that I chatted about. We’re playing with a lot of exciting models, a lot of ways in which we can create more of that quality, type of experience for community because that’s really how we see it, we don’t just see it as a user base in a classical company sense, we see it as a, as a community, I really do believe the sky’s the limit here, I believe this is the future of the definition of company. It’s not just the profitability model. But what do you actually do to enrich the community you serve the community you’re part of because at Cennec, we firmly believe we are all connected in some way, shape, or form. And the more we stay unique and true to our individual selves and our purpose and reason for being, but then we’re finding how that fits into the broader picture. And the greater good or the greater whole is something that we, you know, really like to emphasise.

Sam: Awesome. Well, I think that you are indeed right. I think there’s some exciting times ahead for you folks. And if people are listening, and they want to get on this app, or they want to connect with people, how can they get involved? How can they get started? Or how could they even reach out to you if they wanted to keep up with the work that you’re doing here?

Sierra: Absolutely. So you have great news is that Cennec in the first initial form will be out on the app stores, very, very soon, we have a little email entry form on our website that connects, where you can add your email if you want to join the community now and get up to date on some of the communications that that we’ll be sending out. In addition, please, you know, feel free to reach out on on Instagram is our main social platform at the moment, we’re quickly expanding, but we’re at Cennec app. C E N N EC A P P find us there. And also is our email. So very open doors, please feel free to connect, the hashtag we’re going with his #letscennec. We’re hoping that resonates with with a lot of people. So let’s connect right? Reach out, get in touch, stay social, right, let’s keep this ball moving. I think COVID was a huge wake up call for a lot of people about, you know, the importance of community and in our society. So I’m, let’s keep this momentum. Let’s keep connecting together.

Sam: Absolutely. Fantastic. Well, I really do wish you the best of luck. And I hope you can make as many connections as possible with your work. And thanks again for joining me today.

Sierra: Thank you, Sam. This was so much fun in great, great conversation, great topics. I hope this is the type of conversation where you can you know, enrich the world with so thank you so much.

Disclosure: This episode includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company

Sam Brake Guia

Sam is an energetic and passionate writer/presenter, always looking for the next adventure. In August 2016 he donated all of his possessions to charity, quit his job, and left the UK. Since then he has been on the road travelling through North, Central and South America searching for new adventures and amazing stories.

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