Thursday, April 30, 2009

April Interview: Social Dating with Eve Peters

No, I didn't forget about the monthly interview series I promised you back in February. I hope you've enjoyed the first two so far as much as I've had great fun with them. This month did take a bit longer than before because I anxiously waited for a topic that fits in with all of the love (and pollen) in the air this new Spring season ... and I found one rather serendipitously.

I'm very pleased to present Eve Peters, Founder and CEO of MIXTT, a social dating website. I met Eve last weekend at a Stanford Women in Business conference as we were both asking the panelists questions after a session - until I realized that her story was far more interesting, and so I turned to her and asked,
Social dating? How's that different from plain old dating?
Before moving on, what would your guess be? Now, hold that thought.

Eve, what does social dating even mean, and what's the idea behind your company MIXTT?
MIXTT is a fresh spin on the old online dating model. Traditional one-on-one dating sites often produce pressure-filled and awkward situations - not exactly what people are looking for. If you look at the behavior of Generation Y, you see a lot of group hangouts happening instead of formal dates. MIXTT lets people set up small social gatherings with their friends and others - plans that may or may not have romantic undertones. For example, a guy and his friends can meet up with a girl and her friends.

What and when was your "ah hah!" moment for MIXTT?
I was inspired through my experiences using and I used each one for six months and came out of both feeling they were:
  1. inefficient (It's inefficient to meet only one person in one night. Why not meet several?)
  2. an interruption to my regular social life (missed out on Friday pizza nights with friends)
  3. uncomfortable and anxiety ridden (felt like interviews)
  4. not that fun (again, only one person)
For all of these reasons, I thought a group dating/hanging out scenario would be better. We began working on the site in November 2007, and it launched publicly in September 2008 at TechCrunch 50.

Congratulations on making the cut for TechCrunch 50!

I noticed that your website isn't explicitly positioned as a social dating site. Is this intentional?

It is intentional with our current version. The problem is that there's no true name for what we're doing. We're promoting an activity that doesn't have its own online category yet. We don't want to say "dating" because there are high pressure and romantic expectations associated with that term, when what we’re trying to do is to help people meet casually and comfortably. In Version 2, we plan to use more explicit messaging through demos, videos, and commercials. The key message is that this is a fun, fresh way to meet people.

What other improvements will you bring to Version 2?
After launching the site, we realized that the notion of forming and operating specific groups doesn't do the best job of emulating social patterns in real life. People socialize in more dynamic ways: having a “posse” is very high school-ish; in reality, you have many different social circles. Version 2 will allow for more dynamic grouping so that an individual functions as a free agent. Version 2 may also leverage Facebook via Facebook Connect.

What are your thoughts on revenue generation?
In Version 1, we planned to use an ad-based model with affiliate programs and premium services. We’re still working out the details for Version 2, but I can say we’re most likely going to veer away from ads as a primary source of revenue generation.

How do you view your predecessors in the social dating space?
Social dating has been tried before. When you pitch the idea, people say it's great; but, it's all in the execution, and no one has been able to make it succeed yet. Successful sites all master some transaction: eBay mastered the auction; Amazon mastered online retail; Facebook mastered a few things, including sharing stories and even stalking. Sites that succeed are comfortable and intuitive to use, and are undergoing constant iteration.

How do you ensure the safety of your users?
On our site, users have the option to report inappropriate content, and our staff monitors profiles and can exercise the right to kick threatening people off. The great thing about group dating is that you're not alone, so there's an added benefit of safety. We also encourage users to meet in public spaces. People are getting increasingly savvy about their online-to-offline interactions, too.

And finally, the last question I always ask my guest interviewees is: Define entrepreneur, please.
An entrepreneur is somebody who takes a vision that s/he has created or a vision that s/he has developed by listening to other people, and executes on that vision with fierce determination and persistence.

Thank you, Eve! Best of luck to you and your team.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Staying Amazed

Today, I'll be in Calgary for the day. Weather by the hour, courtesy of The Weather Channel

Meanwhile, back home in Palo Alto:

As you scroll down, the temperature increases up to 25 degrees, seven clouds disappear, and the likelihood of rain drops to 0 percent. Am I missing out?

Everyday we make choices that have associated opportunity costs: costs that can be measured (the cost of investing x dollars), and those that can't (in my case today, the cost of bad weather); the former being measured in units of money, the latter in mood. But I'm still going to Calgary aren't I, so what benefits are outweighing my disutility? There are many, but one that I'd like to share with you is: Reading in the sky! Trying to stay amazed

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Lipstick Index

I was browsing in Sephora, and as I reached for a tube of lipgloss, I hesitated because, well, I remembered the Lipstick Index. It's an "economic indictor" that shows that in times of recession, lipstick sales increase: i.e., in bad times, women tend to treat themselves to smaller luxuries to brighten their spirits. This makes economic sense if you consider lipstick an inferior good (a good for which demand decreases when income rises and increases when income falls). 

I'm curious, do you buy this? 

Some evidence to consider...
  • During the Depression, lipstick sales increased by 25 percent.
  • After 9/11, US lipstick sales increased by 11 percent.
  • But, are the above events merely anecdotal? There seems to be no direct correlation in the graph (from The Economist) below. Notice that lipstick sales are also rising with GDP growth.
  • And, just for fun I'll throw in some Google, Facebook, and Twitter trends that I did - inspired by's Flu Trends. Be careful, those spikes you see in 2008 might have to do with Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment in Virginia during election season. Not surprisingly, Twitterers are rather quiet on the topic.
Google Trends

Facebook Lexicon

Twist (a Twitter trends site)

And for the record, I bought the lipgloss. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bird Abusing or Dad Amusing?

Yesterday, Slate's "Today's Pictures" featured birds and their owners across different cultures and time periods. My two favorites are images 17 and 20, which I'm displaying below.

"MANAGUA, Nicaragua—A woman takes a break from hand-washing laundry in a sink to cool off her parrot on a blistering summer day, 1984."

I've seen people water their plants like this before, but never bathe their pets in this way! Something to try on my future puppy?

"BEIJING—A man with his pet bird in Ritan Park, 1984."

The caption says 1984, but in Beijing today, you can still see old men walking their caged birds in parks. Sounds silly, but whenever I'm there, this is one of the sights I secretly look forward to because in this quickly modernizing, fast-paced city, it's rare to catch the calm of everyday life. It's so real. The smoking is typical, really. It makes me wonder now: How are pets in smoking households affected by second-hand smoke? FYI, the smoking population in China is greater than the entire US population.

But then, my dad's response to all of this bird talk? In an email from him this morning:
What is wrong with these birds? Bird number 17 is in shower while bird number 20 is in smoke. Looks like bird abusing!
Um...or, dad amusing! When the first thing you do in the morning is laugh, it's going to be a fine day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend

Highlights from the weekend, in pictures:

In Daly City, watching sunset on Good Friday.

In Sunnyvale, eating gluten-free Easter brunch with the Browns. The multi-shot feature is courtesy of QuadCamera, an iPhone photography application that I recently discovered and am loving. The app works best when you want to capture moving objects or different angles of still objects. See examples below.

Corners of my room.

Best jumping jacks I've ever seen.

So, here's to...
best friends
apps that get it

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Watch Me Fly

Albert: have you noticed these fluttering by this week?
me: hm.
Albert: look for 'em
big migration this week
they're called painted lady butterflies
they spend winter in southern california and mexico
migrate up around this time to northern california/oregon/washington?
migrate back down in august
this year has seen a lot more than usual

I'm trying something new here. Leave a comment if...
  1. you've spotted one or spot one in the near future: note the location and time at which the Vanessa cardui graced your presence.
  2. you'd like to share a moment in which you were wowed or even repulsed by nature/the Outdoors.
In each category, I'll randomly draw a winner who will receive a book of his/her choice that s/he has been meaning to read but hasn't because of the busyness that is life.

Happy Spring.

Update on 4/12/09: Congratulations, Monica and Nick! Monica has chosen Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, and Nick, Rapid Viz: A New Method for the Rapid Visualization of Ideas by Kurt Hanks. Enjoy, and watch out for future interactive posts that involve drawings!