This is a guest post written by Jason Lorimer.
When I first read about a NYC start up called How About We, I was doubly stoked.
First, I have an affinity for East Coast entrepreneurs being one myself and then add in the
concept that someone was finally out to disrupt the sluggish and otherwise dull online dating vertical — I did a little happy dance in the confines of my office.
My cheer was short lived as I came to learn over weeks of watching their activity that they are seemingly another start up in a long line that start with supremely disruptive ideas only to end up creeping towards the middle. I’ll come back to this particular company and how I think they can have a tremendous impact in the coming months but let’s take a cursory look at the online dating space: All but wholly owned by E-Harmony and Match for over a decade, this market is just now turning ripe with the wide spread acceptance of internet dating as a social norm. It is likely that most everyone reading this has met or knows someone who has met and had a relationship of some measure through an online dating site. While there are a considerable number of niche sites, the foremost freemium player and even a few that border on strange, I could not find a single company that was out there taking a stand that people can get behind. Solving a problem that exists in a world where online networks are the base of our social operations. That is, bridging the online/offline divide in an engaging way. Motivating people out from behind their monitors in a mostly passive way. The company I single out herein, their name rings these attributes. It breathes simplicity. I absolutely love it. Unfortunately my affection ends there. The truth is that this company seems to be doing just enough differentiation to get the attention of their largest counterparts. Which seems to have worked as they are all rumored to be implementing similar “plan making matching” features.
Look no further then the advertising How About We has implemented to see how halfway out of the box they are positioned:
“It’s the Modern Way to Date”
I don’t know these guys and the people I have met in the course of doing business say they are very sharp. I am sure they are. It is a great opportunity. I do not single them out for any other reason then they are the closest among the infiltrators to making a significant dent on the market by providing real utility for people. I think they will grow no matter what they do if for no other reason then the online dating inclined are looking for a new place to park their profile. I do not however imagine they will bring new people into the process though and that is what you need to do if you want to have success that won’t just be copied by the competition. Bring a half million new people into the process and you will have the biggest companies in the space banging down your door to buy you. The market is flat. It needs new customers. It needs you to innovate.
The model I would design for How About We would be all of two pages. A registration page with a fun 45 second video explaining why the service rocks along with a button to log in via Facebook. See how social travel site GTrot does the log in with FB Connect flawlessly.
Notice how they say underneath — “No need to register. Just connect with Facebook.”
Upon clicking the button and approving the terms from Facebook, the now fully connected visitor would be taken to a real time stream, complete with FB profile photo and their fellow visitors suggestions for things they would like to do. You could sort at the top of the stream by the typical filters like distance, age, etc but sorted right in the stream. Clicking on a name would show their FB profile in a new window and you could contact them by shooting them an email that you would mask on their behalf.
When the user is ready to post their own suggestion for something fun to do together, it pushes out to their FB wall with a url back to the site. Other interactions could push as well. Say there were functions that let you advocate for another persons suggestion by clicking “Cool”. This gesture meaning that you are not in that area or so inclined to attend with them but you still think their idea rocks.
You get the idea. Simple, socially integrated and ultimately disruptive.
I know what you might be thinking — only log in with FB connect, no profile hosted on the site, leaving the site, people want to keep profiles separate, etc. Yes, this will turn some people off — exactly my point. It is not the people you turn off you should need be concerned with. Those people already use other dating sites. It is those new ones you can turn on you want and will make the bigger players want you too.
Think about it.
More about Jason Lorimer:
Jason is an entrepreneur @CulturaHQ, advocating on behalf of those with the ambition to do more than just entertain ideas. He builds things armed with an insatiable curiosity and a healthy dose of impatience. Developing socially integrated platforms where people can participate and add their own value to their experience, Jason and his team transform pre-internet business models into post-internet companies that scale.
At the office, when he is not working with partners to incubate their early stage ventures, he posts on his blog and loves kicking around ideas with other entrepreneurs from around the world. Occasionally disconnected from the world wide web, Jason is a music lover and amateur artist with several creative outlets including photography and painting.
You can find Jason on Twitter: @CulturaHQ