When Harry 'Online Dating' Met Sally 'Social Networking'

I'm usually a sucker for romance, especially during this time of year, which is why when I got off the train this morning and was greeted by a red rose from <a href="http://engage.com/">Engage.com</a>, I had to stop and find out more.

Michael Singer, Contributor

February 14, 2008

3 Min Read

I'm usually a sucker for romance, especially during this time of year, which is why when I got off the train this morning and was greeted by a red rose from Engage.com, I had to stop and find out more.It seems the Series A-funded startup wanted to get its name out there amongst the Match.coms, eHarmonys, and Lavalife.coms of the world. So it staged a "Love Train" event at the Montgomery Street station where riders were given a flower and a chance to make a personalized Polaroid picture for a friend or loved one. The crew was happy. The riders were serenaded. It was a nice gesture for San Francisco, a city with a huge single population.

Engage.com is two-years-old and has a pretty impressive lineup of executives, including co-founder and CEO Suneet Wadhwa, who came from Snapfish, and experts such as former Psychology Today Editor in Chief, Robert Epstein, and former Match.com maven Trish McDermott, whose title is now "VP of Love."

"Engage.com is really the second generation of online dating," McDermott said in an interview. "We are seeing the need to go beyond a simple dating site and build more of a social network around it."

The theory is that friends are better judges of character than a profile set up by a computer algorithm. And what better way to facilitate that than through a network of friends and co-workers whom you trust.

"With Match, some guys would have their entire term without a single e-mail," McDermott said. The site is currently based on a free subscription model with the user demographic ranging from the late-20s to people in their mid-30s. McDermott also was optimistic about the ratio of men and women using the site as some online dating destinations are overwhelmingly male.

Another way the company hopes to differentiate itself is through sponsored social events, such as a single's blood drive with the Red Cross.

"We were trying to match people up together based on their blood types," McDermott quipped. "It's a different way of matchmaking for sure, but it makes meeting people fun."

To that point, McDermott released company-sponsored research Thursday entitled "The State of The Date."

Among the findings of a survey of 658 respondents:

  • Most singles (68%) report they are interested in falling in love and getting married in the next five years. Younger singles (ages 18 -- 39) were the most likely to say they were "Extremely interested," while older singles, (age 50 and above) were the most likely to say they were "Not at all interested."

    A majority (85%) said gossiping taking place on social media, especially public disclosures of their failed romantic relationships, was not acceptable. Only a few singles (12%) think bad romantic news should first be delivered electronically.

"In many ways, and with a big nod to social technologies, 2008 is a great time to be single," McDermott said in her blog. "As more and more singles migrate their off-line dating practices to online communities like Engage, they are expecting sites to be more social and to offer experiences that are not only more natural and authentic than first-generation dating sites have typically offered, but also a lot more fun."

McDermott said that Engage.com is now looking at ways of incorporating more Web 2.0 elements. The Series A funding from The Founders Fund, RevolutionVentures, First Round Capital, and Advanced Technology Ventures is expected to help.

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