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Quick Pitch: HowAboutWe is an online dating site — once New York-only, now national — that lets users propose unique date activities, making the experience more about meeting up and doing cool things than scrolling through pics and profiles.
Genius Idea: If you’re a tech-savvy person in your 20s and 30s, chances are you’ve been on an online date or two. And chances are, you’ve been on a horribly awkward — or downright awful — online date or two. The whole process can be overwhelming — scrolling through pages and pages of photos, sending messages into the ether, receiving countless borderline revolting epistles from dudes who only display photos of their torsos.
HowAboutWe seeks to alleviate that daunting experience by putting the focus on the date, rather than the hassle of getting there. Upon signing up for the site, users are asked to express their levels of interest in a series of dates, beer tasting, concerts, walks on the beach — that kind of deal.
This information — along with data from your profile — is plugged into an algorithm that determines what kinds of dates you’re sent via e-mail (every user gets a daily e-mail detailing dates that he or she might be interested in) and which show up on a stream on your homepage.
After answering said questions, users can create a rather barebones profiles (based on quirky questions like “What I would bring to show and tell?” and “One thing my mother would want you to know about me?”) that focus more on their personalities than their looks, and then propose dates that they would like to go on.
This injection of novelty into the dating scene seems par for the course for co-founders Brian Schechter and Aaron Schildkrout. The two met in kindergarten, and have since been collaborating on everything from a spaghetti business at a hippie festival the summer after high school to teaching; before founding HowAboutWe, both worked as teachers.
“For most of our careers as teachers, we taught courses that focused on self-knowledge, using the humanities as subject foci and big public projects that gave students chances to express themselves and share their knowledge,” Schechter says.
“We’re talking having students write their own versions of Plato’s Apology and perform them in front of large audiences, creating massive hip-hop operas about the history of labor and segregation, or taking parents and students on weekend retreats to talk about everything they need to say before they go to college.”
When they turned 30, the pair decided to create an online dating site — one that they would use. Hence the creative nature of HowAboutWe, which just scored $3.1 million in series A funding round led by RRE Ventures (syndicate includes Founder Collective, Thrive, FF Assets and individual angel/entrepreneurs like George Kliavkoff and Scott Kidder).
Schechter shared a few intriguing dates from around the country with us to give Mashable readers a better sense of what the site’s users are like:
- “How about we…ride bikes wearing our shortest shorts then get a malted milkshake.” (Los Angeles)
- “How about we…bike along the lakefront and have a progressive picnic at each beach, starting way north.” (Chicago)
- “How about we…buy bingo scratchers at random liquor stores. If we win, we move on to the next?” (Boston)
- “How about we…go to the National Portrait Gallery and make up back stories about the historical figures in the paintings?” (DC)
- “How about we…throw Twinkies at Marie Antoinette on Bastille Day at the Eastern State Pen?” (Philly)
- “How about we…try the new Indian street food restaurant then go to UO and make fun of ourselves in skinny jeans!” (San Francisco)
If any of the above (or myriad other dates on the site) strike a user’s fancy, they can indicate that they’re interested by clicking “I’m Intrigued,” and then, hopefully, start dating. “The date someone wants to go on provides an ideal digital first impression,” Schechter says. Also, the process aims to cut down on the penpal-like discourse so common on other dating sites: You propose a date, someone accepts, you go. And, even if the person is super lame, at least you got an interesting date out of it.
Largely, HowAboutWe is a free service. You can propose dates, browse dates, receive daily dates e-mails, create a profile, look at other profiles, indicate that you’re “Intrigued” and read messages for free, but if you want to send messages, you’ll have to pony up the cash (12 months cost $8 per month. Six months is $12 per month. Three months is $18 per month. One month is $28). Which means that you only have to pay if you actually want to go on a date.
The more active one is, the more the site will work in his or her favor — one could score a $100 check (for dating purposes, of course) for racking up 1,000 points, which are earned by proposing dates, getting friends to join, etc. The latter impetus will also help HowAboutWe grow its base of users. Pre-national launch, it had 25,000 users in New York City.
HowAboutWe could also be a boon to businesses and advertisers. The site features a storehouse of dates called “The Datetropolis,” where businesses can propose dates at their locations, which can then be proposed by users. Right now, this is the only way businesses can advertise on the site.
We like that HowAboutWe is simple and creative. The old practices of online dating — what with the MySpace shots and general penpal-age — were getting stale, and the site injects a new kind of life into the business. Also, the site itself is friendly, clean and attractive, which makes a big difference. One wants users to feel comfortable in an online space: Think about it, would you rather meet someone in a tacky dive (not the good kind) or somewhere well-lit and welcoming?
Naturally the secret behind any successful social network or dating site is having a large user base. Until now, this has been the main drawback of HowAboutWe — its limited, hyper-local pool of daters. Now that it has expanded to the rest of the U.S., it will be interesting to see how it grows and, potentially, flourishes.
Would you use HowAboutWe to secure your weekend plans?
Image courtesy of Flickr, Meagan
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Reviews: Flickr, Mashable, MySpace, howaboutwe
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