UK student fined for popular flirting site – The Zuckerberg story this is not

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It looks like Mark Zuckerberg would not have got Facebook going if he’d started it at a British University. The founder of a UK site integrated with Facebook and Twitter allowing students to flirt has been fined £300 for bringing his university into disrepute. FitFinder only started last month but rapidly expanded to universities across the country.

But founder Rich Martell, 21, a final-year computer sciences student at University College London, has been forced to take the site down. UCL said it had been contacted by a number of other universities unhappy about FitFinder. It’s fined Martell £300 under UCL’s “Disciplinary Code of Bringing the College into Disrepute” and told him that failure to pay the fine would put his degree at risk.

FitFinder had, of course, risque content, allowing students to “spot” attractive people in at their college and post a message about them in the hope they’d get a response. Women’s groups have criticised the site while supporters call it merely tongue-in-cheek.

Martell has bowed to the pressure and temporarily take down the site, but added a petition for its reinstatement on the holding page. He wants to continue the site.

And it’s now emerged that well known Angel investor Doug Richard is interested in the site. Maybe there’s hope for British Zuckerberg wannabes yet…

  • Chris

    Is that THE Doug Richard from the Dragons Den? If so, will Rich Martell only be allowed to take the investment if he gets at least the amount he is asking for? :)

  • Alex

    don’t see why he took the site down. could have just told the university to shove off with their complaint.

    • Soren

      Maybe he wants to graduate ….

  • Angelo Beltran

    O man! I wanted the check the site out. Go Doug Richard!

  • Ian

    “told the university to shove off with their complaint” yeah and lose a good career prospects and income if the site doesn’t become profitable, however with Doug’s support and global promotion via Techcrunch, my guess is he won’t need the degree all that much.

    I think the universities will come off worse here, as will the goverment which is trying to encourage entrepreneurs, not tell them off for doing something that isn’t politically correct.

    • Peter

      I think they should fine the people fining Rich. Doing things like this against popular websites always turns out wrong. They should know that. So they even disrepute the University more willingly than Rich did.

  • Eric

    You can check out the TRUE fitfindr at

    find your fitness!

    • Ian

      Thanks for the advert on this European story, Eric. Search results on your site for one of the most tech-savvy cities in the world – London – gives zero results. Maybe it will one day.

      To balance things out, UK users shoud try, which is run by a friend I know on Facebook.

      • Eric

        It was an advert, but somewhat relative since the names are the same :)

        You are right, we have not reached out to the UK (or any other country other than the US and Canada) as we are a fairly new project that is starting up. We plan to in the future though!

        I’ll check out your friend’s site as well!

      • Snitzelglobin in liederhozen

        You two should get a room somewhere. And please, this is not a gay dating site, it’s techcrunch. No more comments. Thank you, the staff.

  • Jonathan

    This guy should stop messing around, say screw you to the universities, and continue on with his ambition to develop that service. The thought police in Britain can suck it.

  • Graham
  • University forces student to take down website « Amused Cynicism

    […] by cabalamat on 2010-May-31 From TechCrunch: It looks like Mark Zuckerberg would not have got Facebook going if he’d started it at a British […]

  • Que

    Maybe the problem was “allowing students to flirt ” or using the University’s name without consent ?

    I doubt that the University would have had a problem if it was something that “allowed students to study together”

    To problem is that it had something to do with the University period. If this was created like Myspace and did not have the university involved in any manner do you think they would have gave a fuck ?

    You all want to blame the University but maybe he should have never involved the Universities name ?
    Think of Facebook except not for Harvard only or if it is don’t state it publicly; instead say something like for people to connect that are in a specific area but not using the name of a company/organization which does not consent you using there name.

  • Vishal Sanjay

    Poor guy, maybe people who face such things are the ones who succeed, in a few more months he may flunk out of college and turn his business into million dollar company.

  • Gile Pinkerton

    Can’t believe this would happen. Aren’t universities supposed to nurture and support creative thinking! I had to stop my own Ph.D research into online trust dynamics as the Uni and supervisory team I had in the UK just didn’t understand the web at all. I’d recommend rating UCL (and anyone else for that matter) here

    • Jon

      “Aren’t universities supposed to nurture and support creative thinking”

      hahahahahahaha! You really believed that? Most of them are about teaching students what to think and not how to think. And then you get a degree (or degrees) to prove you’ve been properly indoctrinated.

      ‘A worker that never questions is a good worker for the collective’

  • Jade Bryan

    NOW! he has a future of working for Facebook or Twitter! Go dude! hahah

  • Marty

    Not a problem. Martell already knows what to do: go along with the restrictions, keep the site running with “milder” content, *GRADUATE,* or maybe “sell” the site [wink, wink] to his private corporation, etc.

    The universities’ reaction is not a surprise considering that they are managed by old farts that haven’t a clue….

  • Marty

    PS this is great for Martell: the university’s stupidity has provided him with great global advertising!

  • aardman

    “FitFinder had, of course, risque content, allowing students to “spot” attractive people in at their college and post a message about them in the hope they’d get a response.”

    LOL. Only pasty-faced geeks would think this is an appropriate and effective way to catch a woman’s attention.

  • Tom

    How exactly this guy brought the college to disrepute? Did he used its logo? Just asking…

  • leslie
  • Mike James

    Dont just take it down. I will buy the site that way you will have money to pay the fine and money in your pocket too ;-)

  • Caleb Oki

    Give the guy a break UCL. The World is changing

  • Adrian Scott

    Thanks to this article, now the UCL’s administration itself can be fined for ‘Bringing the College into Disrepute’

  • Strat Franks

    UCL has done enormous damage to the international reputation of all British universities with this idiotic decision + it’s UCL’s administrators who deserve to be sacked!

    • Ronnie

      Write to the UCL board of governors and tell them…

  • Andrew J Scott

    A sad inditement of the problem with the attitude to entrepreneurial ambition in this country, indeed our continent.

    There are many other ways that the university could have approached this and they took the least constructive.

    Certainly, legally i suspect they have no grounds. So he is then expected to risk his degree.

    UCL should, indeed, be ashamed for the approach they have taken, even if their concerns about the site are genuine and rooted in well placed concern for the well being of the majority of students.

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    […] UK student fined for popular flirting site – The Zuckerberg story this is not (TechCrunch) […]

  • Pete Davies

    Oh please.

    //It looks like Mark Zuckerberg would not have got Facebook going if he’d started it at a British University.

    That’s just daft. This was no facebook and you know it. The site was causing offense, so the university said it needed to come down.

    Andrew Scott: saddest indictment in your comment is that on your spelling. Don’t be so dramatic, plenty of great entrepreneurial ventures come form Europe. This clearly was never going to be one of them, although I’m sure the publicity won’t hurt.

  • wisdom teeth removal

    heard about this the other day, interesting story

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