Since graduating from Y Combinator in 2012, Grouper has been on a mission to help busy, overworked young people get away from the glow of computer screens and out into the real world to meet new people. To do that, the startup sends its members on “Groupers,” which are essentially blind, group dates between two groups of friends, designed to take the awkwardness out of one-on-one dating.
Eager to avoid being seen as another dating site, the startup instead wants to appeal to younger generations who prefer casual meetups over drinks at a local bar to traditional “dinner-and-a-movie” dates. Since launch, the service has expanded into 20 U.S. cities, and members have shared hundreds of thousands of drinks. Up until now, Grouper has existed exclusively on the Web, but today the startup is looking to take its offline social network to the next level by bringing Groupers to the iPhone.
“Grouper has always made more sense from a phone,” says founder and CEO Michael Waxman. “As a device, it has the ability to get out of your way and let you enjoy the real world, which is what we think Grouper is all about.” To make the dating experience more manageable, Grouper allows anyone to sign up, choose two friends who are up for a blind date, and pre-pay for a round of drinks at a local bar.
The service then matches your trio with another group of three — for now, three guys and three girls — using your application, Facebook info, algorithms and some human curation to match you with a cool date. No profile creation required.
On its web service, members have been able to tell the service when they want to go on a Grouper, and the startup will take care of everything else, including choosing the location, making the reservation and paying for the first round of drinks. If the date is a bust, members are only roped into one round of drinks and can make a move for the exit thereafter. If it goes well, they can pay for a second round themselves, or head to a new location.
While this makes the experience more casual and takes the hassle out of planning, it still requires users to plan in advance. That is the biggest selling point of Grouper’s new iPhone app, which, besides streamlining the process for mobile, now allows members to schedule Groupers on-demand. Starting this week and rolling out over the next few months, members will be able to organize Groupers on-demand, in under an hour.
Inspired by other apps that act like a remote control for real life, like Uber, Waxman says, on-demand Groupers allow users to tap a button, get matched with three new people they’ve never met and schedule a Grouper the same night. The iPhone app comes with a mobile concierge service, so that members can message back-and-forth with the group who makes the reservations. It also automatically sends a confirmation email to both parties.
Another cool feature is that Grouper connects to your Instagram account so that you can snap pics while you’re out on your date, which are automatically pinned on a map by location so that users can tap through, checking out Grouper’s candid date shots. At the end of the date, like Lyft or Uber, the app asks members to rate their experience.
However, unlike the traditional “four star” approach, users can rate their Groupers on a sliding scale. If the date went horribly, it will automatically ping the startup’s customer service team so that they can try to help resolve the issue and take steps to make sure the issue doesn’t happen again.
Going forward, Waxman says that Grouper will look to add other integrations that complement its mobile experience, like being able to order an Uber to take your group to and from the date. While he wouldn’t specify, Foursquare or Yelp integration would jive with its mobile strategy, allowing users to view recommendations on nearby restaurants, bars and attractions.
Waxmans says that, while features like allowing those already in relationships to organize double dates are on the long-term map, in the near-term they will be focusing on additions that make the current mobile experience better and easier. Plus, anything that Grouper can do to add value for its 400 partner bars will be a win over the long-run and make city-wide expansion easier as it scales.