Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him a Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him at [email protected].
Grouper has taken its social club mobile with the release of a new iPhone app that includes an on-demand feature for setting up three-on-three blind dates in less than an hour.
The way Grouper works is it takes club members and matches them up with a member of the opposite sex. Both parties are then tasked with finding two other friends to come along for drinks at a prearranged place. Grouper takes payment from everyone for the first round of drinks, and then the group takes it from there.
The startup launched in New York in 2011 and is now available in 20 cities across the US. It isn’t saying exactly how many members it has now, but the company did note that it has helped people share “hundreds of thousands of drinks.” Grouper also achieves fairly high engagement, as 35 percent of all meetups from the service post a photo to Instagram using the official hashtag (#groupergram).
After getting a makeover last December, Grouper is taking a big step with its on-demand service. Founder Michael Waxman compared the new feature to the same sense of magic that Uber creates when ordering a car with the tap of a button. In fact, he even went so far as to say that on-demand groupers could be “the coolest experience out there”.
The verdict’s still out on that claim, but the fact that Grouper can now match up two sets of people in less than an hour is evidence of the strong momentum it has. When it first launched, Grouper took two weeks to arrange a meetup. It had gotten the time down to a couple days and now it’s aiming to pull things off in a matter of minutes.
Waxman called the new iPhone app “Grouper as it was meant to be.” The startup’s excited to put smartphones’ capabilities to work for creating group dates, using features such as push notifications and location mapping.
While groupers are a natural fit for the digital dating scene, Waxman was careful to point out that Grouper is about being more than just a dating service, adding that labels just make things more awkward. The founder said that he views the company as competing more with great ways to meet people – such as bars, cooking classes and college – rather than going up against dating sites.
Grouper may be about more than dating, but it’s also been pretty successful as the catalyst for relationships. Waxman says he’s heard of some engagements taking place after the couples met on Grouper. He himself has been seeing someone for over a year after meeting her on the service.
“We’ve heard tons of stories of groups coming together and doing co-ed sports, going on trips together,” he said.
Though I’m hardly the target market, Grouper’s landing page of past “groupergrams” is fairly intimidating at first. When I asked Waxman to explain the service to someone who’s turned off by it at first, he explained:
The way I sold it to my friends initially, and even now is, “Look, what’s the alternative?” You go to a bar, randomly hit on girls? If you’re lucky, one out of 10 times, if all goes well, after a lot of hard work and a lot of painful failure, you end up across the table from a group of girls sharing casual drinks. With Grouper, that’s where you start.
Unlike some other dating services, Grouper has actually been more popular with women. It currently has a roughly 60-40 split between women and men. Waxman continued:
For women, I think the idea of expanding your social circle by meeting the right guy from the Internet is really appealing but it’s also kind of scary and intimidating, and there are safety issues and awkwardness creep factor issues. For women, being able to go on a date with your two best girlfriends, having a third-party match you together, having wing women is much better.
Grouper currently has no plans to produce an Android app, but it is looking into expanding its range of activities and expanding internationally.
“What we’re really about is bringing people together offline,” Waxman said. “Three-on-three drinks happens to be a great step that people really love. It’s not the end all be all. Now that we have this amazing palette of mobile, we can do things that we [couldn’t] previously.”
Grouper bills itself as a concierge for your social life, and I know very few people who’d object to that kind of service. The new iPhone app makes it easier than ever for members to get their group on. And, if going out for a drink isn’t your style, stay tuned, as Grouper might have something for you in the near future.
Image credit: Fuse
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