June 22, 2012
“We wanted to solve the problem of ‘how do you meet new people?’ in a way that’s much more comfortable than, say, walking up to someone at a bar or lobbing a message through a website. What we came up with was the whole Grouper social club experience of which the ‘group’ part is only a small piece. It’s also about being matched (rather than choosing), going in blind (rather than knowing who you’re going to meet), and the convenience of having the location and scheduling figured out for you.” – Michael Waxman, founder and CEO of Grouper.
If it walks like a dating website and talks like a dating website, it’s obviously a…social club?
“We think of ourselves as a social club and not a dating site (we never even like to use the ‘d’ word), not because of the stigma, but because we’ve found that people are more comfortable when you don’t attach labels to things,” says Waxman.
Makes sense. Although 40 million people in the US have tried online dating, there’s still undeniably a certain stigma attached to its usage. A social club is casual – no pressure attached. Right?
Maybe not. For curiosity’s sake, I decided to give Grouper a shot. After receiving my invite, the next step was to find a pair of friends (guys, specifically) to join the group date….err….meeting. I asked two of my roommates, one of whom is in a relationship, and happily so. Upon coming home from work, I overhear the following conversation taking place inside his room.
Roomate: “Hey, so get this. I’m going on this group outing thing with James and Zach. Basically three guys meet up with three girls at a bar. They asked me to go as their wingman.”
Girlfriend: “What? That’s a group date. No, you’re not.”
End of story.
Okay, so maybe the “social club” part works better for the participants than the boyfriends/girlfriends of said participants. But an even more alluring quality than the precise terminology is Grouper’s basic premise – the group.
“We’ve found that the group dynamic works really well on a lot of levels: many members tell us it’s less intimidating to meet a stranger from the Internet when you’re in the comfort of your friends,” says Waxman. “Also, whether or not you hit it off with the other group, you and your friends almost always have a great story to share, and it’s a fun way to start the night.”
Other dating sites (not that Grouper is a dating site) have used a variety of approaches to monetize their service. E-harmony uses a monthly subscription model (ranging from $19.95 – $59.95 per month). JDate opts for a freemium model, whereas others give their services away in hopes of building a large enough network to entice an acquisition, like OkCupid‘s $50 million dollar sale to Match.com.
Grouper is free to sign up for, and each date…err…get together, is an upfront $20 per person, which covers the cost of the first round of drinks and Grouper’s customized date….errr…excursion planning. Waxman also adds that the upfront cost ensures that people show up.
Grouper isn’t Waxman’s first go around on the startup rodeo. Having founded Batiqu, an education-focused startup (as a teenager, no less), I asked the Grouper founder and CEO what learning lessons he’s taken away from his previous business. He offered the following:
“One of my favorite startup mantras is a line from Tony Robins that goes, ‘It’s not about resources, it’s about resourcefulness.’ I was 19 when I started Batiq and we spent way too much time waiting around for resources (whether it be the next round of funding or the next hire or the next survey results), rather than being more action-oriented and resourceful with what we already had. Not only did it makes us slower, but it also made us less creative. At Grouper we take pride in doing a lot with a little. We have that hacker’s mentality.”
Grouper is currently available in New York City, Washington, DC, and San Francisco and will soon be expanding to Boston and Chicago. Tech Cocktail readers can get priority into the invite-only Grouper service by going to this link: https://www.joingrouper.
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