WinkVid Launches Web Video Speed Dating

April 5, 2010

12:32 am

WinkVid is a fun, new startup in Chicago that offers singles an alternative to profile-based dating sites by introducing video chat. The concept itself was conceived at SocialDevCamp Chicago in November 2009, when partners Jake Lumetta and Jordan Fulghum teamed up to build a fully functional prototype for the developer Hackathon. (WinkVid won best open source application at the event). After SocialDevCamp the team kept working, holding beta speed dating events and refining their product until they launched to the public this week.

The original working WinkVid prototype being demonstrated at  SocialDevCamp Chicago

The original working WinkVid prototype being demonstrated at SocialDevCamp Chicago.

Co-founder Jake Lumetta took the time to answer some questions that will help people get to know them a bit better:

TC: What is WinkVid?
JL: WinkVid is a fun new way to meet singles using live, one-to-one video chat. Users will meet 10 other singles in 1 night through our events, called WinkUps. A WinkUp follows a speed dating format in which users have 4-minute long dates with nearby singles. After the WinkUp, users are matched up with the dates in which there was mutual chemistry. It’s a more unique and authentic experience than that of traditional profile-based dating services.

TC: Who is WinkVid?
JL: WinkVid is co-founded by myself and Jordan Fulghum, a couple Chicago entrepreneurs.

TC: Where is WinkVid now?
JL: We’ve spent a lot of time talking to local singles and building out the first version of WinkVid. Over the past several weeks we have held some beta events to smooth out the experience and have received a lot great feedback.

We’re excited to announce we’ve just opened our doors for business to all Chicago singles! We want to help singles in Chicago that are tired of profile based dating sites, dread the bar scene or are just searching for a new, fun way to meet others.

TC: What was the inspiration for WinkVid?
JL: For me personally it is friends and family. I’ve seen and heard how hard it is for them to meet people as well how painful and tedious current dating sites are. I’m trying to make meeting new people fun and easy, the way it should be. The opportunity to work on the idea, which Jordan had been tossing around, arose when Jordan and I paired up at SocialDevCamp last year for the Hackathon competition.

TC: How long did it take for you to build a working prototype?
JL: We built v0.01 of WinkVid at SocialDevCamp in a span of 36 hours. We built a very rough protoype entirely within the Hackathon competition. It was intense but the free pizza and good company helped. The experience was a lot of fun and I think demonstrated how much can get done when two people are extremely focused and determined.

TC: What made you decide to turn WinkVid into a real product?
JL: After we presented it at SocialDevCamp, not only did we win prizes, but response we got from those in attendance was awesome. Many people came up to us afterwards and told us how much they liked the concept and the product. It quickly became clear to us that WinkVid is something that resonates with people. We even had David Recordon, the Senior Open Programs Manager at Facebook, come up to us and give us props. From there we ran with the enthusiasm and started talking to real potential customers (singles in Chicago) to learn more about their problems and how WinkVid solves them.

TC: Are you bootstrapped? Do you have day jobs? How does that work?
JL: Yes we’re currently bootstrapped. We’ve had a combination of 9-5’s, consulting, and client work on side while working on WinkVid. We just stay committed and work nights and weekends if we have to. The long hours are well worth it – you only live once right?

TC: What kind of feedback have you gotten so far from users who have tested WinkVid?
JL: We’ve held a few beta events with Chicago singles and have gotten great feedback all around. People seem to love it with many suggesting that they would recommend it to their friends. From our beta events, we’ve had some awesome results with quite a few people getting multiple matches. There have even been 4-5 couples that have met for drinks after meeting in the WinkUp. So within a pretty short timespan, WinkVid has been proven as an easy, fun, unique way to meet singles in Chicago.

TC: Do you have any idea as to the potential market for this?
JL: WinkVid is a combination of speed dating and online dating which are ~$1B and ~$2B in size respectively and we are playing in both. There is also an opportunity for us, since we are viewed as a hybrid of sorts, to tap into a market where the people aren’t comfortable with traditional profile-based dating sites yet are still looking for a personal, convenient, authentic way to meet others.

TC: How will you differentiate WinkVid should competitors arise? Do you have any competitors?
JL: Since we’re small we are able to move fast and have an intimate relationship with our users. We have spent months getting to know quite of few them on a personal level and have heard their pain points when dating. This enables us to keep a laser focus on delivering a service that is both fun and that makes their lives better. This insight will guide us as we work on new, innovative features. There are currently 2-3 major competitors in our space.

TC: What’s next for WinkVid?
JL: Right now we are excited for our upcoming WinkUps on Sunday, April 11th and want to invite Chicago singles to give it a try. We guarantee you’ll match up with someone (seriously, we do). In addition to that we’re just trying to get the word out to singles that there’s actually a fun way to meet people online now.

Check out the WinkVid video (above) for more information.

Editors Note: This article was written by Tim Courtney a longtime TECH cocktail Chicago supporter. He has organized SocialDevCamp Chicago, Chicago Tech After Hours (ChiTAH), and was an original co-founder of Silicon Prairie Social. You can follow him on Twitter at: @timcourtney

Disclaimer: Tim participated in free beta events for WinkVid and advised them after testing the service.

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Tim Courtney is a long time Tech Cocktail Chicago supporter. He has organized SocialDevCamp Chicago, Chicago Tech After Hours (ChiTAH), and was an original co-founder of Silicon Prairie Social. You can follow him on Twitter at: @timcourtney.

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