This past weekend I got a chance to hang out with Charles Forman and Dan Albritton, the twenty-something, fast-talking co-founders of New York-based Iminlikewithyou, a new web-mobile hybrid service, that is going as addictive and as powerful as Facebook. And just as Mark Zuckerberg reinvented the Yearbook, Charles & Dan are going to reinvent the art of flirting.
Iminlikewithyou has emerged from the YCombinator program, and has been in stealth mode for almost six months. Charles and Dan bootstrapped this operation, and are using Amazon EC2 and S3 services as part of their infrastructure.
The company, based in a decidedly unglamorous part of Midtown Manhattan, has recently closed a Series A round of funding from pretty high powered angels, whose names the two co-founders are keeping close to their collective vests.
Unlike a lot of Web2.0 start-ups that simply automate all the fun out of dating, Iminlikewithyou has stepped back, rethought the whole courtship process. Instead, Iminlikewithyou uses technology to amplify the most organic form of human interaction: flirting. What they have come up with is a web service that can be described as luscious, simple and elegant. Did I say, addictive?
Flirting, or the art of flirting, one of the few joys left in these politically correct, over sanitized times. It is the aspect of dating that allows a man or a woman to not only display wit, but also makes innuendo acceptable. It is the sheer unpredictability of flirting – will the date ever happen? – that makes it a delicious delight. On the flipside, as French poet Victor Hugo said, “God created the flirt as soon as he made the fool.”
Iminlikewithyou captures all that and bottles it in its web service, which is equally at home on your mobile phone as it is in a browser. It has taken flirting and turned into a game that is inspired in part by eBay-styled auction process. More importantly, it captures what could be the next big Internet trend: an intent-based web ecosystem.
Here is how it works:
You sign up for the service, by answering very basic questions: email, location, age and gender and what is your flirting preference. It takes about 10 minutes, and you are in the network. You add your photos and some other personal information, and you are rewarded with 500 points. Now this is where the game begins.
You are interested in someone, say a lovely lady from New York, you start the flirting process by basically bidding some of your 500 points on her, say 50 points. The bid indicates your intent to woo the young lady. Unfortunately for you, if you’ve made a wise choice, there will be others who will want to date her as well. They will try to outbid you and, well, the process goes on, till the young lady is convinced that you are the one to reward with her attentions. You get SMS and MMS alerts all through the bidding process.
Since the service is in closed beta, you are not penalized for being a loser, but when the service launches, be careful what you bid for.
If you happen to lose, you are not just out of luck with the lady, but out of those points, too. In the future you lose a percentage of your bid amount. The percentage may be quite large, to discourage too much ‘reaching’ on the part of guys who can’t reasonably get the girl.
This is why you need to be economical about how you bid your points, and judicious in indicating your intent. (Not so different from the triage we men use when doling out dollars in singles a bar, either.) And if you come up empty, don’t take it personally. As François de la Rochefoucauld put it – “What we find the least of in flirtation is love.” (You aren’t looking for love anyway, remember?)
The good news is you can recharge your points by answering random questions that pop-up on the screen. Every time you sign-in you get some points, and you can build up your points-balance.
Each question you answer gets you 5 points, and those questions help the company build a better profile of you, something that can be used for highly targeted advertising. A classic question: do you like gin and tonic? Answer is no, but you bet, I will see a vodka ad sometime in the future.
The service has built in communications features like instant messaging, and also has the ability to upload photos and videos. It also has anonymous calling features built into the service, again giving the ladies control over who can talk to them, without giving out their phone numbers.
One of the reasons this service is going to be successful is because it puts ladies in charge. A lot of my friends have said that they are sick and tired of getting emails from guys, which are obviously canned and rote. They all currently use the traditional dating sites, and were quite thrilled by the prospect of Iminlikewithyou.
Being an old fogey, I perhaps have forgotten that when you are in your 20s, flirting is more exciting that the prospect of finding a life partner. And yet I found myself spending ungodly amount of time on the site, collecting points and of course bidding. Nevertheless it would be foolish to suggest that it is a service that is targeting the gray-hair set.
Iminlikewithyou is a service for the Facebook generation, and its easy integration with Facebook tips their hand on which demographic they are focusing.