Startup Lowdown: The Dating Ring

This week, we’re excited to introduce you to a young entrepreneur working to put a bit more personal interaction back into dating. Meet Lauren Kay, founder of the Dating Ring. The Dating Ring is a new matchmaking service that launched in Spring 2013 and is based on Brooklyn, New York. The company arranges groups dates for its members (3 men and 3 women, or groups of 4 for gay members ). Potential candidates must first meet with in-house matchmaker Emma Tessler, before being placed into a group based in interests, personality, and availability. The Dating Ring is one of a number of new startups founded on the beliefs that 1) group dates are pressure-filled than one-on-one dates, and 2) meeting a group of people maximizes the chance of hitting it off with someone.

Launched in Spring 2013, the Dating Ring is one of roughly 70 startups at Y Combinator. The company is growing rapidly in terms of both clients and employees. Furthermore, they recently launched an ambitious campaign to match women in NYC with men in San Francisco. Keep reading to see what Lauren had to share with Startup Lowdown.

StartupLowdown: Between the 3-on-3 aspect and in-person screenings, The Dating Ring has a pretty interesting approach to bringing individuals together. Can you talk about how you came up with this concept?

Lauren: Back in March, I put together a Google Doc and reached out to 30 friends (from high school, college, my former company, sports teams, and improv classes) and asked them what they were looking for in a dating company. Everyone liked the idea of meeting in groups but were looking for a more personalized, friends of friends approach. The first guy I ever met online happened to be a friend of a friend (and we went to the same college) and every time I told that story, it peaked my friends’ interest in online dating .. but they wanted a way to guarantee that connection, and to meet in more informal gatherings.

StartupLowdown: Before I forget, congratulations on getting accepted into Y Combinator! That’s such a huge accomplishment. Can you share any details about The Dating Ring’s growth thus far? What are some of your immediate goals for the company?

Lauren: Thanks! I can’t rave enough about Y Combinator – we stressed about our application for months (and then our interview – I don’t think we’ve ever been more anxious) and it was all 100% worth it. YC is everything we expected but more; the companies in our batch are super diverse and interesting and it’s just such a friendly, supportive environment. I’d like to stay forever, except not with this much pressure! We’ve been aiming for 25% WoW growth with dates, which we’ve reached so far. We’re expanding this week from a team of 5 to a team of 9. We also decided after our first dinner here to launch in SF, which we officially did last week. Our immediate goals are to continue getting more and more dates out each week, and to experiment with the logistics of each date – working on how we can guarantee a fun and unique experience for each group.

Have you observed any broader trends in the online meetup/dating landscape? The market is certainly getting more competitive with new players seeminly entering everday. Where do you think future startups in this realm will continue to innovate?

Lauren: I’m really excited about all of the innovation going on in this space. I think Tinder really nailed it with their efficient approach to getting people to meet who are looking for casual relationships. I think there are a lot of interesting players in this space experimenting with video profiles and efficiency – limiting choice so that people are spending more time offline, instead of online.

StartupLowdown: Any fun or surprising insights on group dynamics/dating that you can share?

Lauren: So many! I think there’s a general misconception that millennials aren’t looking for relationships .. meanwhile, over 90% of men and women who join our service say they’re looking for a serious relationship.

StartupLowdown: On a slightly different note, you wrote a great post about startup life on your blog. What have been your greatest learnings from this experience founding and running a startup?

Lauren: Thanks so much! I have learned more in the past 9 months than ever before. I think the most important things I have learned so far are: Find co-founders who have different skill-sets, but the same work ethic and core values as you do. Try to spend 24/7 with them before finalizing any agreements, and don’t cofound a company with people you can’t live with! Getting to live with my cofounders and be with them 24/7 throughout YC has been an amazing experience – it’s allowed us to get a whole lot more work done, and to become much closer as friends. I’d also say to only found a company if it’s around a really deep passion, and if you’re willing to give up a social life for a few years. Also, don’t be scared to share your ideas with anyone and everyone! The best advice and help I’ve gotten has often come from very surprising sources – friends of friends, Facebook friends I’d met once, etc.

StartupLowdown: Any words to encourage people on-the-fence to give The Dating Ring a try?

Lauren: Do it! What’s nice about The Dating Ring is that you get to meet a member of our team before ever going on a group date – so we can tell you a lot more about the network in person (or over Skype, so you don’t even have to move!) before you commit. The most common feedback we get is that the matchmaker meetings and group dates are a lot more fun than expected – you just have to be willing to give it a try.

StartupLowdown: Everyone loves a happy ending; do you have any “awww”-inducing match stories you can share?

Lauren: So many! The first two people I matched up (when we only had a few members and were doing a mix of 1-on-1 and group dates) got serious pretty quickly and are still together 10 months later. I’m expecting a child named Lauren out of them.

StartupLowdown: Lauren, thanks again for chatting with us! We’re definitely very excited to see what’s to come from The Dating Ring. If there’s anything we can do to support your team, let us know!

To find out more about the Dating Ring or give them a try, please visit any of the links below:



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