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.

1 comment:

james said...

that is a really interesting idea. i totally agree that those are indeed problems with online dating and that it seems like it is a good solution.

enusure safety, wow.

okay, my question would have been, how does she plan on getting a large portion of the market? like achieving network effects? because the space of the dating world seems to be very crowded.

i dunno. i'm not convinced that it will take off, but... i wonder what their biggest problems are. interface? but i think it's totally spot on with problems with current online dating sites and am glad that she's doing something about it! awesome.