If you’ve ever used Uber to tap your location and have a cab pull up almost instantly wherever you are, you’ve had a taste of the future of dating — or at least, the future of dating according to Grouper.
The service that lets you pull together some friends and meet new people for drinks will be dramatically lowering the time involved in setting up an outing with the launch of the company’s iPhone app on Tuesday and on-demand meet-ups rolling out to different cities. No longer will you have to wait two weeks to bring two friends and meet three friends at a bar through the app. Soon you’ll be able to get a Grouper going within the hour.
There have been no shortage of next-generation dating apps launching recently, with a variety of companies trying to help millennials find other people through their smartphones. And most of these, like Grindr or Tinder, are already mobile and location-based. But Grouper CEO Michael Waxman said the company will add the benefits of mobile while maintaining the central premise of the app that’s made it so popular. Namely, that people want to meet other people without the label of a date, with the comfort of friends along for the night, and without the creepy factor of photo-based apps.
“If Tinder’s a game, we’re the anti-game. If Tinder is playing Hot or Not and messaigng back and forth, we’re like, let’s cut the BS and be humans and share a drink and see if there’s anything there,” Waxman said. “It’s still the hardest thing and also the most valuable part of the equation.”
Previously, users would gather up two friends for a Grouper, and it could take up to two weeks to be paired with another group of three for a night out. Unlike photo-based apps, you’re not picking someone based on their profile photo — you and your friends are blindly matched with another friend group via the Grouper algorithms. And then a Grouper staff member would sign off on the match, which affected the time it took to create the pairs. Each Grouper participant pays a fee which covers the first round of drinks at a bar picked for you (and has provided the company with a solid business model, Waxman said).
The company has been working to streamline this process and get people together faster, bringing the time from weeks down to days, and Waxman said that adding a mobile app is the final piece of that puzzle that will bring the total time down to a matter of hours. And for participants, they won’t be tied to the desktop anymore, although they could previously get SMS notifications while they were out.
“It’s really Grouper as it was meant to be. We started on the desktop web because we could iterate more quickly. But for meeting people in the physical world, the phone makes more sense,” said Waxman, who notes that he met his own girlfriend on Grouper. “From the map of where you’re going, to messaging back and forth with the Grouper concierge through the app, there are just a ton of ways it can make Grouper better.”
The new iPhone app will be available to all users beginning Tuesday when it hits Apple’s app store, providing iPhone users with features like maps and messaging right away. But the on-demand Grouper feature that creates dates in under an hour will be rolling out more slowly as the company prepares to meet demand in different cities. Waxman said the app has been growing tremendously, and while he didn’t disclose registered or active users, he said Grouper is now running in 20 different American cities and has plans for more.
“We’re really inpspired by apps like Uber, where you press a button and something great happens. But we think that meeting three cool people is better than a car.”