Sean Suhl, the co-creator of the site Suicide Girls (an “alternative community” that’s known for its nude photos of tattoed and otherwise non-traditional-pinup women), has a new startup that’s launching nationally today — Let’s Date.
Suhl said the idea came out of his examination of other dating sites. Most of them have mobile apps, but he argued, “You could never create a truly great mobile product that was tied to a legacy computer property.” And while there are other mobile-focused companies (most famously Grindr), they’re focused more so on hookups rather than dating and relationships. So with Let’s Date, Suhl wanted to create “the absolute best iPhone dating experience.”
Creating an account on Let’s Date is a pretty different experience compared to most other dating sites (at least the ones I’ve used). Rather than treating this as something walled off from your online identity, you connect the app to Facebook, and in fact it needs to be a “real” Facebook account — you need to have more than 50 friends and log in to your account at least once a year. (Later in the account-creation process, you can also connect your Twitter and Instagram accounts.) Then you answer a few questions about your interests, and Let’s Date uses those answers, along with information from your Facebook profile, to populate a “dating card” with your interests.
Once you’re set up, you can start browsing other cards and suggest “Let’s Date” or say “No Thanks.” If you say “No Thanks,” you highlight the areas of the card that don’t interest you, and the app gets better about recommending potential matches. If you say that you want to date someone, you’re moved somewhere near the top of their pile, and if they have the same response to you, then the two of you are connected.
Let’s Date has already been available in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and says its sent its users on nearly 25,000 dates last month, with 1 million Let’s Date/No Thanks actions taken per day. Suhl expects the core user base to continue to be urban and in their mid- to late-20s. He also noted that if you don’t live in a big city, there’s a chance the app will just treat you as someone who lives in whatever city is closest to you — at least initially. (“Anyway, you don’t want to just date the six other members in your town.”)
He also said he learned some things from that early activity. For one thing, it seems that if the app has a good recommendation for a female user, they’ll be more receptive if the dating card shows up after two sub-optimal matches, rather than at the top.
When I asked if there are any lessons he can take from Suicide Girls and apply to Let’s Date, Suhl said, “I would say that the only way to create a great piece of social software, which is what we’re trying to do with this app, is plant the seed and let it grow into a tree. I feel like some other sites are going to the hardware store, buying a bunch of lumber, and trying to construct a tree.”
Let’s Date has funding from Los Angeles-based Science, Inc., although Suhl isn’t disclosing how much.