Science-incubated Let’s Date launched its mobile dating app for iPhone today, looking to be a user’s social dating identity on the web. The startup had begun beta testing over the course of the past few months in major cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, and has helped set up 25,000 dates in the month of January alone, with a peak of 8,000 dates in a single day.
Sean Suhl, founder of the Let’s Date app, had previously founded Suicide Girls, an alternative online community, in addition to other web properties. As he saw the growing trend of mobile browsing and mobile-done-right startups like Instagram disrupting more established brands like Flickr, he realized that everything created initially for the web was up for grabs to be reinvented for mobile.
“I looked at the dating products out there on mobile and they had a lot of problems in my mind because they were held to the legacy of what was created for the web. So what I wanted to do was to create a ground-up fresh take on dating that was mobile only,” said Suhl in an interview. “But I certainly wasn’t the first…there were a lot of people doing that. And they were all hyper-focused on proximity…so I wanted to create a mobile app not focused on proximity, it wasn’t about finding you the closest person, but finding you the best person.”
To get started on Let’s Date, users verify their identity via Facebook Connect, however they must also meet the criteria of at least having 50 friends and having been a Facebook user for over a year. After logging in they answer a few questions, and those answers combined with information from their social graph populate a dating card with their profile picture and personality traits, as well as links to their accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. As soon they finish they’re prompted with dating cards from other potential singles in the city which they can choose to accept or reject.
If a person hits ‘let’s date’ their card is pushed to the other person, who can then choose to move things forward or not. If the other person also agrees, the app opens up a chat window for the two users to connect and suggests local date ideas using Yelp and their shared interests. Alternatively, if a user hits ‘no thanks’ they are then asked to highlight why the other person was not a good match by crossing out things like occupation, profile picture, or specific traits. The app aims to get smarter with each user interaction and hopes to serve up the most compatible suggestions based on users’ in-app behaviour.
Facebook has become a popular choice for dating startups looking to tap into its social graph to power their backend. Only recently startups like Would Love 2 and Bang With Friends have emerged to reinvent what it means to be friends with benefits on the social network, in addition to platforms like Circl.es and Facebook’s own Graph Search, which is now being looked as the next big thing for online dating. And though there are other mobile-only dating platforms like Grindr, who currently only targets the gay community using hyper-local search functionality, in addition to platforms like Skout and Zoosk that are also on mobile, Suhl believes women don’t pick dates based on location.
“The holy grail of mobile was that you could find people very close to you and go on dates with them…I’m not sure from my perspective if women choose their romantic partners based on who’s closest to them. So I wanted to focus on building a mobile product not focused on proximity,” Suhl added.
Currently the startup is focused on creating a great user experience and getting users on board, and when asked about potential monetization strategies, Suhl replied saying that they were not interested in pursuing traditional approaches to charging for communication between possible matches. The platform will also look to launch for Android down the road, which will be key to its adoption.
Though its seems simple enough, the app has so many competitors to deal with, including Facebook itself, that it will have to find a more unique value proposition than just being mobile-first and having a great design. Regardless of whether the app truly does produce better matches, they’re contending with a whole host of other mobile and online dating apps, so they’ll need to find a way to stand apart in a sea of similar apps.