8. Dating. Current dating sites are not the last word. Better ones will appear. But anyone who wants to start a dating startup has to answer two questions: in addition to the usual question about how you’re going to approach dating differently, you have to answer the even more important question of how to overcome the huge chicken and egg problem every dating site faces. A site like Reddit is interesting when there are only 20 users. But no one wants to use a dating site with only 20 users—which of course becomes a self-perpetuating problem. So if you want to do a dating startup, don’t focus on the novel take on dating that you’re going to offer. That’s the easy half. Focus on novel ways to get around the chicken and egg problem.
My Idea – Love at First Tweet
While I’ve posted ideas for dating sites before, I like Paul’s take on this. It’s easy to get caught up in the “do what you know” mantra – and let’s face it, us geeks probably know a little too much about being single. Add in the whole “plenty of fish” pipe-dream (one guy, 10 hrs a week, $10 million a year), and you get plenty of introverted entrepreneurs flooding this space with every offering you can imagine. So it’s refreshing to take a step back and look at this from two sides: how to solve that critical underlying chicken-and-egg problem to give the site an initial boost, while still looking for a hook that will be a competitive advantage against any one of the many entrenched players and their deep, deep pockets.
Aight, so how the heck are you supposed to start a dating site that is useful from day one? I’m sure there are lots of ways to address this, but here are a few that I came up with. For one, you could build a site that is based around the concept of matchmaking. For example, let’s say Amanda and Britney are friends. Amanda thinks that Britney would like this guy Chad from her math class, so she would submit Britney and Chad to the site and suggest that they get together. Another option is to tie into an existing social network that already has a huge population. The Facebook apps like “Hot or Not” or “Are You Interested?” fall into this category, and rack up insanely high users/lines-of-code ratios.
For today’s idea, I’m proposing a dating site that is based around Twitter called “Love at First Tweet”. To help kick off the initial population of the site, it would be extremely simple for anyone to join – just send a message to @LoveAtFirstTweet with a 140 character tagline that would serve as the centerpiece of your LAFT profile. You could also create a profile for anyone who is following you on Twitter – just include their username when you do your @LoveAtFirstTweet to create a profile on their behalf. Once the profile is created, the system would tweet back the URL of your new profile. Once you enter your twitter username and password for verification, you can go in and add some basic details about yourself, such as your age, location, gender, and photos.
The main profile page would also allow you to browse other LAFT member’s profile pages. Each page would contain the basic profile information, along with all of their most recent public Tweets. From there you can follow other LAFT members – and send a notification to that member letting them know you’re following them. In addition to simply following someone, you can take the extra step of sending a virtual gift to let them know you’re really interested (for a small fee, of course). Any of these actions would trigger optional automatic posts that would be pushed out through the user’s Twitter feed, which would trigger a viral effect to bring in more users to the LAFT network.
What do you guys think? I did a quick search for a Twitter-based dating site and didn’t find any…let me know in the comments below if something like this already exists.