LA TIMES - Nov 9 - Hybrid social networks are connecting strangers with similar interests online, then directing them to meet in person. The sites are doing especially well among 20s - 30s. Grubwithus is a Venice start-up that enables users to attend group meals. Grubwithus has tripled its user base since the beginning of the year, with meal reservations growing 15% month over month; the company claims 80K subscribers. It launched out of start-up accelerator program Y Combinator and has raised $7.6M in financing from investors including Ashton Kutcher and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Still, some of the start-ups have been slow to get off the ground. After receiving $5M in funding in the spring, Lifecrowd, an experience marketplace for in-person group activities such as kickball and kayaking, went offline a few weeks ago. On its website, the company promises to "be back soon with an even better Lifecrowd." Another rising tech start-up is Grouper, which connects two groups of friends for face-to-face hangouts after pairing them online. Users apply for membership and are matched with someone else on the site. Each person then invites two other friends to join in for drinks; after prepaying online for the first round of drinks, the group of six meets at a bar chosen by Grouper. The setup takes away some of the awkwardness of meeting someone new alone, said Michael Waxman, Grouper's co-founder and chief executive.