Clique provides more secure online dating through social networks
For young city-dwellers, dating is a social problem: infinite complications (limited time and money, instable or constantly-changing social circles) add stress and frustration to the already-daunting process of searching for romantic relationships. The result is often loneliness and unsatisfying serial dating.
Many people turn to online dating in the hopes of finding a “match,” but there are downsides to the experience of using such sites: encounters often feel awkward or forced, or they may lack the initial sense of trust that allows new relationships to flourish.
A recently-launched online dating site called Clique is trying to provide an alternative – and better – online dating experience by using social networks to match singles living in New York City. So, if you were looking for a date, you’d look at the profile of a friend you trust, and see who that friend suggests for you. If you’re not single, you can be on the site as a wingman to help your friends get matched.
After finding that their invitation-only model had limitations, Clique has just recently announced that they are allowing the general public to join the site. Getting the site off the ground in a market dominated by well-known dating sites like Match and OkCupid hasn’t been without challenges.
Dowser: Where did you get the idea for Clique and what’s the theory behind its model?
Christy Purington, co-founder – I was living and dating in NYC, which can be a little bit polarizing and hard to meet people. The two main options are to meet people with friends or online dating. The bar scene is crappy. Online dating never really appealed to me, this concept of meeting strangers. So I wondered how I could bring the experience of connecting through friends online. Essentially with one click we’re making it so that your friends can set you up easily or you can set it up yourself. The best dates I was going on were those my friends had set me up with, so I figured it would work for others.
How did you actually bring the idea to life?
I first thought of the idea two years ago. It was one of those things I’d throw around at a party or with friends. I got great feedback from people who said online dating wasn’t for them but this seemed like a safer way to do it. Finally one of my friends said, you need to stop talking about it and just do it. So [my co-founders] Kelsey and Mat got involved in site design and development and we started working on it part-time for eight months, meeting in the morning and hashing it out before going to work. But the process was going too slow and we decided that we wanted to quit our jobs and do this full time in December. From there, it launched in February.
How is the site funded?
We’re basically supporting ourselves right now. We’re not charging users; we’re building up some traction to see if it’s a viable business, if there’s something here filling a need. We’re hoping to move into a new business model, either where we charge for a second layer of dates where you can see your friend’s friends, or another where we offer group deals and date deals. We might partner with local businesses to provide rewards for successful matching.
What kids of setbacks and challenges have you and your team experienced so far?
I think it’s dangerous to let your vision get ahead of you. We would have benefited from taking it a little slower, listening to our users at each step of the way. So we’re changing some things that aren’t working now.
What kinds of changes are you making?
People are letting us know that they want the interaction to be easier; they’re requesting introductions directly from the middle-man. Currently we only play matchmaker, where you can say, hey these people should meet. But now we see that the flip-side – of the dater approaching the wingman – is something people want. You just have to roll with the punches and not get discouraged. There are good days and bad days, but you can’t let go of the grand vision. It’s easier said than done.
And recently, you had a big change in the model, so that anyone can sign up to join the site now, whereas at first it was by invitation.
Yes. We had this grand idea of it being invitation-only and the reason behind that was that, essentially, if you go on to Clique and you don’t have any friends on the site, the experience doesn’t work. But we were getting people writing to us offering to grow their own networks if we let them on the site. So we figured we’d try that and see how it works.
Interview has been edited and condensed.