Monday, September 23, 2013

Computer Dating: A Cautionary Tale about AngelList and Crowdfunding Sites

A novel dating app, just incubated and angel funded, reminds us to caution you before  listing your best new investment prospects on AngelList or on equity Crowdfunding sites.

From today’s edition of the always informative peHUB First Read:
“London-based startup Dattch is a dating app with a difference. I don’t mean the fact that it’s exclusively for lesbians, bisexual and/or bi-curious women — though that certainly makes it stand out from the ranks of straight dating apps. What really sets it apart is its mostly female team who set out to design a dating app specifically for gay women.

"Dattch is currently one of 17 startups in the Wayra London incubator cohort, and has just closed a £100,000/$160,000 angel/small seed round, with three angel investors — including Yannick Pons and Andy Phillips. That investment bolsters the €40,000 invested by Wayra as part of its incubator program, where Dattch will remain until January."

The first computer dating application we learned of was started by our classmate Dave Dewan, MIT ’65, although we later learned that a competitor, Operation Match, had been founded by Harvard undergraduates Jeff Tarr and Vaughn Morrill slightly earlier.

“I started Contact Computer Dating in April 1965.  It was a huge fad for two years (we had a cover story in Look magazine; I did What's My Line on TV etc.)  Then it died out, only to reappear decades later as a huge business,” says retired executive and angel investor  Dewan.

With Dave’s app, you filled out a questionnaire describing yourself and your interests.  Lots of other singles did the same. Dave would take the answers and key them onto punch cards.   His program would then find the best matches.  A guy would get phone numbers for five women he could call.

How did it work out? Not so well for Dave.  As a test, he and his girlfriend signed up.  She met a nice guy from Amherst and started going with him.  Dave, ever the tech guy, says “that was sad, but it proved the system works; it found her a more compatible guy.”

Our advice: remember Dave Dewan’s girlfriend before you list prospective deals on public sites, lest they find a more compatible angel.

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