What happens when the cofounder of an “adult alternative community” decides to develop a dating app? If you’re expecting a blue punch line to some inappropriate brogrammer joke, know this: Let’s Date is a real app that just rolled out nationally this week. It just happens to be the brainchild of Sean Suhl, a cocreator of Suicide Girls, the site dedicated to the appreciation of inked, pierced and otherwise non-conventional beauties.
Yet while the two concepts are virtual spawn of Suhl, he assures readers that thanks to sharing connective tissue with Facebook, Let’s Date --rated 17+ in the app store-- is currently more than safe for work. (Incidentally, the same goes for Suicide Girls’ fan page on FB, which Suhl notes stays “completely within the rules” for photography on the social network.)
Like many entrepreneurs, Suhl was prompted to enter the crowded online dating space because he believed there was still something missing in the $4 billion matchmaking landscape: “The absolute best iPhone dating experience.” The way he sees it, mobile dating sites are too focused on helping people find potential partners who happen to be in very close proximity (like Grindr). “We like to think of it in terms of dating pools,” Suhl tells Co.Create, “Like all of LA is a dating pool.”
And while a whole other slew of dating apps like Crazy Blind Date and The Game totally ditch the exhaustive questionnaires of their online forbears, Let’s Date tows the information line by pulling in relevant parts of users’ Facebook profiles (and their photos) and asking salient questions about your diet and sexual preferences (kink factor, anyone?).
Then, the fun begins. The service creates a dating card --which Suhl assures us will absolutely not show up on your Facebook’s open graph, unless you go through several layers of approvals to post it--to pick and choose who users can meet up with in person. You will also see if you have Facebook friends in common with a potential love connection which Suhl says makes people more likely to want to meet up. Browsing, you can eliminate those who wouldn’t make a good match by swiping a line across the part of their profile you’re not interested in.
And it’s not always the photo Suhl points out. “There are a lot of fun Hot or Not-type mobile games,” he says, “The dating card is supposed to represent the whole person.” Drawing a line across their spiritual preference, for example, isn’t meant to be mean-spirited but indicates what the deal breakers are to you. It then helps the service to present better matches, Suhl insists. “The Paleo diet is the least popular diet reference by users, so I am staying away from that for fear that I’ll ruin my love life,” he quips. Another fun fact according to the Let’s Date algorithms: People who self identify as heavy drinkers are the most judgmental about religion, as a group crossing out "Religion: devout" 13x more often then someone who identifies as a light drinker.
Suhl says the community is very good at monitoring offensive content. Anyone can flag a card, he says, which will then go in for review by the app’s moderators. “We are rated 17+,” Suhl underscores, “We are not looking to be a dating site for tweens and teens.” That said, anyone who posts inappropriate photos will be reported and banned.
And what about the catfish lurking at the bottom of this new dating pool? Let’s Date currently only takes users with active Facebook profiles who have more than 50 users, “Nothing is 100 percent,” says Suhl, “We hope we get better at screening people. The more we find and compare the more we can look for other flags.” Part of the way Let’s Date will do that is by asking those who’ve been on dates to verify that the person showed up and that they looked like their photo. In case you were wondering, Los Angeles ranks #1 on dater-flakiness, with almost 10 percent of people flaking on dates, as opposed to a 4.5 percent average among other cities.
Despite the no-shows, it’s working. Nearly 90 percent of Let’s Date users are still active in the app 30 days after downloading it and there are one million "Let’s Date" or "No Thanks" actions each day. If you decide to go on a date, Suhl says the app taps into Yelp’s API to recommend a casual, public place like a coffee shop, to meet. In a single day, 8,000 people went on a date using a location that was recommended to them by Let’s Date, according to Suhl.
Just don’t expect him to be monetizing yet. Though there’s a natural connection between sending people on dates to cafes, bars and bistros, and tapping said establishments for sponsorships, Suhl believes Let’s Date needs to refine its user experience and grow the communities first. “This is not the time to be asking for money,” Suhl contends, nor is he ready to develop an app for the Android market. The effort is currently backed by LA-based venture capital firm Science, Inc. “There is no magic number for success,” Suhl says, “There are more people joining every day and every day we get a little bit better.