Your best friends
Potential new friends
All ingredients of a fun night, and all key components to our feature startup this week: Grouper. Founded by Michael Waxman, Grouper matches together two groups of friends over drinks for what’s essentially a blind group date (a “grouper”). While they don’t consider themselves a “dating site”, Grouper was designed to appeal to a younger crowd – people more comfortable with the idea of “hanging out” as opposed to an official date. All anyone has to do is sign up with Facebook, and pick two friends; Grouper handles the rest. They find a match (based on personal interests, age, education, etc), pick the location, make the reservation, and even order the first round of drinks for the group. Participants only need to show up.
The idea behind the setup is that it’s easier to let loose with around new people if friends are around, and based on some of the stories from real groupers, this is certainly the case (their team has created a few entertaining pages with Groupergrams and Grouper Texts – definitely worthwhile to check out). The company has gained significant traction in the last year, expanding into 12 cities and forming a partnership with luxury car booking startup Uber. In this interview, Michael tells us about the concepts behind the startup and his take on where “social meetup” / online dating is headed.
StartupLowdown: Michael, thanks for taking to time to speak with Startup Lowdown. I had a work friend who would not stop talking about how great a time he had when he tried Grouper, which led me to contacting you. For those of our readers that don’t already know what it is, could you briefly describe Grouper?
Michael: Grouper is an invite-only social club that arranges drinks for two groups of friends [3 guys and 3 girls, 3 guys and 3 guys, etc] at great bars and lounges around the city.
StartupLowdown: Between the 3-on-3 aspect and getting off-line as fast as possible, Grouper has a pretty unique approach to bringing people together. Can you talk about how your team decided to go about it that way?
Michael: We’ve found six to be the magic number because 2-on-2 is too intimate, 4-on-4 is too much of a crowd and not everyone can talk to each other, but 3-on-3 maximizes the ability to get to know everyone in the group.
StartupLowdown: I’ve noticed that Grouper emphasizes group fun rather than individual romances. Is romance/dating implicitly an encouraged outcome? Do you consider yourselves a competitor to the existing online dating sites?
Michael: Great point- I think one reason Grouper is so successful is because our members go on Groupers for many reasons. Because we’re not a dating site, you don’t have to be single to go on Groupers — and going to support your friend as a wingman is totally fine. A huge portion of our members have never used a dating site, for instance, so we don’t consider dating sites competitors. We’re trying to improve upon the experience of going to a bar more than anything else. Of course, we love hearing about relationships coming out of Groupers, and I actually met my current girlfriend on a Groupers.
StartupLowdown: Can you share any details about Grouper’s growth thus far? What are some of your immediate goals for the company?
Michael: We don’t release numbers, but we’ve been lucky to grow pretty quickly from New York City. We’re currently in 12 U.S. cities and Toronto, and are looking forward to further U.S. and international growth this year!
StartupLowdown: Have you noticed any broader trends in the online meetup/dating landscape? Where do you think future startups in this realm will continue to innovate?
Michael: I think the pendulum is swinging back towards more natural interactions, particularly offline. People are increasingly tired of the awkward model of first generation dating sites, the “browse-and-message” paradigm of shopping for people. The technology of the future that helps you meet people will be more natural and familiar. Like drinks with your friends.
StartupLowdown: Do you have any fun or surprising insights on group dynamics that you can share?
Michael: Where to begin? One question we get a lot that I can answer is, “do people ever fight over a girl or guy in the other group?” The short answer is, not really. Since you’re with 2 people you’re good friends with, you already have a great dynamic with them and there’s an unspoken understanding as to who’s getting first dibs [this time!]. Everyone’s there to meet and have fun, and the 3-on-3 model allows everyone to mingle.
StartupLowdown: There are some pretty epic stories on the Grouper site (Grouper Texts is hilarious too); are there any other user stories that stick out in your mind that you can share?
Michael: We have almost two dozen of our favorites at joingrouper.com/stories and over 2,000 groupergram photos at joingrouper.com/groupergrams. There are, however, some stories we don’t have photos for. One good one is a Grouper crew of guys in Atlanta decided to play a prank on of their wingmen. They told him it was a themed Grouper where the guys had to show up in bike-racing gear. He bought it, and arrived at the bar decked out in spandex, etc. Everyone thought it was hilarious, and it set the tone for an epic night.
StartupLowdown: Any words of advice to Grouper rookies?
Michael: Go into with an open mind and bring good wingmen or wingwomen.
If you want to give Grouper a try, you can learn more about them at the pages below: