Earlier this year, American Express came to us with a big challenge – to learn how Business Owners are thinking about networking, and to create an experience that helps reinforce OPEN Forum as a smart, dynamic platform for business owners with a focus on real community engagement.

This needed to be an app for people, so we started with people. We interviewed over 50 business owners across the nation from a range of company types and industries, asking questions about networking tools and testing prototypes. This project had a few extra considerations: Do we create a new app or build on top of the current one? Do we focus on in-app networking, or face-to-face connections? We made sure to address each of these questions thoroughly during our research process.

And we uncovered the heart of the problem—relationships are critical for growing a business, but networking is challenging to prioritize.

“There isn’t a place where everyone actually wants to connect, which is key. Relationships are what really grow a business.” – Founder and Principal, PR Consultancy

While relationships are what build your business, it can be tough to create new ones. Existing social apps out there for business owners are muddled with recruitment offerings, full of paid-premium spots, and crowded with noise and spam. The OPEN Forum app strips all that away, so users can spark meaningful conversations with people in their industry and find others with specific skill sets. It’s the quality of relationships that matter, and OPEN Forum helps you make more of them faster.

But that’s only half of it.

The OPEN Forum app also unlocks networking opportunities. Discover new conferences, trade shows, and meetups. Already know where you want to go? The app connects you to other attendees ahead of time so you can make the most of the event.


Product Highlights



Our research showed that business owners attend two to five events per month, on average. It’s during these events that business owners are truly able to focus on creating and building relationships. We learned was that digital interactions aren’t nearly as powerful as face-to-face connections.

These events can be overwhelming though, and maximizing your time is a challenge. As an attendee, you might brush past your next big opportunity, and you don’t want to miss that chance. We worked hard with OPEN Forum to provide a better way to connect with the people around you.

“Going to an event with thousands of people… How can you connect with the people who are a good match for you, who are already in the same room?” – Founder, Technology Startup

John-David, Product Manager, and I represented OPEN Forum, and helped release the beta to the attendees at Grow Global 2016 in Long Beach, CA

What’s happening to the previous version of the app?

An older version of the app was a daily digest with articles at the forefront. We are making the app smarter and more dynamic for small business owners. Articles will always be one click away at openforum.com.

This release is just the beginning for us. There are big opportunities for new features to make the app even more powerful. We are out there now, experiencing these events firsthand and mapping out new functionality to continue to bring more value to Business Owners.

The American Express OPEN Forum Product Team

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