On most online dating sites, there’s no incentive to connect with someone right away. Match.com profiles are just always there for you to peruse, so there’s no pressure to act now and meet your perfect match. Recent Harvard Business School grad Arum Kang wants to change that with her new startup Coffee Meets Bagel, which integrates the concept of time-sensitive matchmaking with daily deals incentives.
Coffee Meets Bagel works like this: users sign up using Facebook connect so that the site can privately match you with mutual friends. Every day at 12pm, the site sends you an email with a match chosen from your social graph, and you have 24 hours to decide whether to “like” or “pass” on the person.
If there’s a mutual like–meaning that both users liked each other’s profiles–you’re both sent a text message through a private line that allows you to talk to each other for up to seven days without exchanging contact information. Through that line, you can either plan a date or exchange numbers to plan one for the future.
Users who get a mutual like also receive an email in their inbox with a deal for a local business–something like a complimentary cheese plate or prosecco at a New York restaurant–to incentivize actually going on the date.
Ms. Kang told Betabeat that she arrived at this online dating model by looking at what customers wanted, and examining what other dating sites were lacking.
“Coffee Meets Bagel was really born while we were brainstorming about how do we actually make online dating compelling for people to really get excited about it, and not just something that people would choose to do as a last ditch effort,” she told Betabeat by phone. “After graduation it’s harder and harder to meet people, and a lot of people resort to online dating–but there’s still a stigma. We wanted to create a company and a brand that’s exciting and that people can look forward to interacting with.”
Ms. Kang thinks that receiving a once a day email will provide users with something to look forward to, without inundating their inboxes with low-quality matches. And because matches are also curated based on your social graph, they tend to be people you’d be more interested in than the strangers on sites like OkCupid.
“When you think about the dating experience, you really have to think from the customer’s experience and the whole dating cycle,” said Ms. Kang. “Instead of [stopping involvement] once they’re connected, we wanted to make meeting the person easier. We recommend venues that people might like and give people a little bit of an incentive to go there. When you connect, you get a text to start talking, and you also immediately get emails saying, ‘By the way, you get this gift from a venue to celebrate your first date.'”
The deals angle seems like a great incentive to get people to actually go out, though there are ways to get around having to use the deal on your date. Ms. Kang said that each complimentary gift comes with different policies. “Some venues make sure it’s used by the matches by requiring reservation with a unique code from us that only the couples get,” she said. “Once you make the reservation with the code though, you don’t have to mention it again when you arrive. However, we work case by case with each venue to fit their needs.”
The site is free for users, and plans to make money through a virtual currency model, where users can buy or earn “coffee beans” to spend on virtual gifts like “open sesame,” which, when purchased, shows you exactly which mutual friends you and your match have in common.
Coffee Meets Bagel has been in beta since February, but just launched officially last week, and already boasts thousands of users. The site is currently bootstrapped, but Ms. Kang said the team is actively fundraising for an angel round.
With the future of daily deals rather questionable, it will be interesting to see if the model can be rejuvenated by being adapted into another industry. Meanwhile, the biggest problem we see with Coffee Meets Bagel is that it unfortunately has us craving both a coffee and a bagel.