Online Dating Startups Get Real



Dating isn’t what it used to be, and neither are dating websites.

“Dating sites were founded in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and they were based on models that made people stay online,” said Aaron Schildkrout, co-founder and co-CEO of HowAboutWe.com, at a panel hosted by TechSeri.es earlier this week.

But Schildkrout said his service strives to take daters offline.

HowAboutWe is a site that connects people based on users’ suggested activities. Though some traditional filtering tools are available for searches, potential companions are ultimately chosen for their creative ideas — hence, the “how about we.”

The aim was to fill a need for a dating site that felt more natural, Schildkrout said, though the company still uses algorithms to help make the first meeting go smoothly.

The thing about successfully pairing people up, however, is that their business goes away, he said, adding, “Our happiest customers were lost.”

So the company evolved to fill the needs of clients as they entered relationships.

In March 2012, HowAboutWe launched “How About We Couples,” which curates date ideas and deals for twosomes.

Investors seem to be fans of the evolving business model, too, with the company recently closing $4.2 million of its $5 million series B round of funding.

Another dating service, Cheek’d, takes an approach that’s part traditional come-on, part scavenger hunt. Members get “business” cards that contain a pickup line and an ID code.

The cards are handed to targets, who can enter the code to uncover more information about that stranger — sort of a “real-life game of tag,” CEO Lori Cheek said at TechSeri.es.

Cheek’d users pay $20 for a deck of cards and $25 to customize a deck or get a themed deck (themes include dogs and Wall Street). Keeping the ID code active costs $9.95 a month, less than the average dating site.

The self-funded startup, which will launch a mobile app in the next few weeks, is active in 28 countries and starting to generate revenue.

An architect by trade, Cheek came up with the idea when she was out to dinner with a male colleague who wrote a dinner invitation on the back of his business card and left it for a woman at a neighboring table. She decided there must be a way to take advantage of a chance moment without providing personal information.

Online dating no longer has a stigma attached to it, according to Cheek.

“We’re the answer to missed connections,” she said. “The real-life chemistry lets you put the matter into your own hands — it makes everyone a customer.”

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: Techseri.es on Twitter

About the author: Deborah Findling

Deborah is on the “Squawk on the Street” production team and host of CNBC’s “The Starters,” an online show covering innovative startups. Prior to CNBC Deborah was with NY1. She is an alumni of Syracuse University and received her masters in Graphic Communications Management and Technology from New York University.

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