A Startup Reimagining Online Dating
The statistics out there report that one in five people meet online – which includes everything from social media sites like Facebook to dating sites like Match.com. But even in this digitalized age, an estimated 80% of people don’t meet on the computer—and it’s those people that the founders of Date My School are trying to target.
“We looked at why more people didn’t use these services,” said 31-year-old Balazs Alexa. “It has the potential to make your life so much easier in the sense that you don’t have to wait years and years to find the one, and you can find them much more effectively and faster.”
Finding a partner “more effectively and faster” might not sound romantic. (Actually, it unquestionably doesn’t sound romantic.) However, Balazs said that he, along with his 30-year-old co-founder, Jean Meyer, have figured out a safe and private way for people—specifically those who have attended a two or four-year college— to find romance.
“Our site is geared towards students and alumni of over 2,000 two and four-year colleges,” said Meyer. “And because of that, we can verify that each person is who they say they are.”
The exclusiveness leaves out a lot of good potential mates but the two say by having access to collegiate data that confirms that a person's identity, the founders can ensure fake profiles are weeded out.
Privacy is another component to Date My School, which now has over 200,000 users, allowing each member to choose what schools and even which specific departments can access their profile. The idea for DMS happened while the two were themselves students at Columbia Business School.
"Many of our users say that we're a cross between Match.com and Facebook.”
“So, at Columbia, the business school is 70% guys, the teacher’s college is 80% girls, the nursing school is 90% girls,” said Meyer. “So we figured out there was a huge separation between departments—and even other universities. So we wanted to start a website, using technology, to help this huge market of people.”
At Columbia University, where the two launched their beta, 40% of the students are now using the site.
“The business school was a big help,” said Meyer, “not only as a launching pad, but as a way to access funding and market the website.”
Meyer, who is originally from France, and Alexa, who is originally from Hungary, both had startups in their home countries but decided to come to the U.S. to take a stab at its market.
“I wanted to give it a shot,” said Alexa. “To start a venture in the largest, most unified and most entrepreneur-friendly market in the world. And four months into the MBA program, Jean and I were already working on DMS day and night.”
The company is not yet profitable but it has received over $3 million in funding -- and Balazs and Meyer are hoping to secure more capital in the upcoming year to help develop their mobile apps.
“Sites like Match.com and E Harmony are dated. Their sites look like they are from the nineties,” said Meyer. “We are a new version and many of our users say that we're a cross between Match.com and Facebook.”
As for the skeptics who think online dating is generally scary on the whole, Alexa says their site is worth a try because of its privacy and security – and that the love element is not taken out of the equation.
“We don’t take the romance out of the process because whether you meet online or you bump into someone randomly at a bar, it’s not how you meet the person that makes things romantic,” said Alexa. “It’s just helping you find someone easier – and once you do, it’s up to you.”
Six Shooter Q&A
What is your favorite quote and why?
Alexa: "Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment."
This was my favorite quote before I first traveled to the U.S. or even knew who Ralph Waldo Emerson was…. It sums up well how I feel about life -- and why I am an entrepreneur.
Meyer: "Do first, Think after...."
I don't really believe in the value of an idea. I believe in execution and output. The faster you will produce something, the faster you'll be able to tweak it, fix it and understand what you did wrong.... Everything is in doing. Overthinking a product or a concept barely leads anywhere.
Tell me the three ways Date My School is different than the other well-known dating sites?
Alexa: 1. Safety. Every user is verified upon sign up, alumni and students alike.
2. Privacy. DMS is the only site where you determine who can access your profile, i.e. if you only want 27-35 year old Harvard med school folks contacting you, go for it.
3. Efficiency. Users set up dates within a few hours, on average. It's the most efficient dating site I know, mostly due to the safety and privacy properties.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Alexa: A friend of mine, Daniel Schay. He built a company during college and sold it successfully. He did all that in Hungary, on a market quarter of the economic size of New York. That's true entrepreneurship, and whenever I need advice, I turn to him.
Meyer: I would be lying if I said that Steve Jobs has never been an inspiration. I think he is, to some extent, the inspiration for every entrepreneur in the world. Other than Jobs, I have a huge admiration for Xaviel Niel, a self-made man and French entrepreneur who disrupted the mobile and ISP consumer market in France.
Date My School has a comical side to it that can be fun and amusing. But for many people finding a partner is a serious task. How do you find a balance in the tone?
Alexa: That's a really good question. It's a hard task since we are targeting the 18-45 segment which comprises three generations. We are extremely serious about privacy and safety, but we try to balance it out with a lighter, fresh tone and design.
Meyer: Serious doesn't mean boring. You can have a lot of fun on DMS and still find this magic spark. Most of our users claim we are the baby of Match.com and Facebook: Fall in love but don't get bored or annoyed doing it.
You say you're trying to entice the 80% of people who don't find online dating sites appealing. What's your game plan?
Meyer: Make online dating fun, addictive and safe. We want them to check DMS every day not only because they want to check if this handsome young man from Princeton replied to their last message but also because they feel this urge to go on it to procrastinate like they do on Twitter or Facebook.
What is the future for Date My School?
Alexa: We would like to improve the last human interaction that hasn't really been transformed by technology: relationships. Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. all transformed how we work, communicate, keep up with friends - nearly all aspects of human life and interactions. Dating hasn't been improved enough yet.
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