Graduating from Harvard Business School in 2011, Hinge Co-founder and CEO Justin McLeod was invited to attend a “last chance dance” function hosted by the school. Everyone was supposed to write down who they were interested in and the organizers would let students know of any matches. The logistics, however, were too much, even for Harvard, and the plan to connect matches fell through.
This idea of connecting matches would lead to an idea for McLeod and eventually an entrepreneurial endeavor to create an application that would transform the way people look at and interact in online dating – Hinge.
Download Hinge for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad in iTunes App Store
Download Hinge for Android in Google Play Store
There are many different dating and meetup applications available today, but the online dating world is largely the same as it has always been – disconnected from people’s real life social circles.
Dating apps range from OkCupid to Grindr, Blendr, and HowAboutWe, but none of them have added a social layer to their applications from a user’s real life connections. Most have users fill out lengthy profile details and ask dating and personal connections to connect you with random people or are based on the intent to hookup.
“What we’re trying to do is create a whole new space and it’s what we call social dating – it’s making dating social like it always has been.” – Hinge CEO Justin McLeod
This disconnect has generated a negative stigma for online dating. It is uncomfortable, intrusive, and disconnected from the life you live, and not much has been done about this since the inception of online dating.
Hinge CMO, Bennett Richardson, described the world of online dating as a “parallel universe” to your real life. The people you are being matched with are completely disconnected from your social circles.
This was a problem that McLeod recognized and set out to change.
How it Works
Hinge connects users to the Facebook page of every potential match and lists all of your mutual friends. If two users rate each other four or more stars, both people will receive a notification that the other is interested.
The following is a description straight from Hinge:
- Every day at high noon, you will receive a new batch of friends of friends.
- Rate your interest 1-5, and we’ll save your favorites.
- When someone is added to your favorites, you’ll secretly appear in their rating queue shortly after. If there’s mutual interest, we’ll provide a clever introduction via email.
- You two take it from there – hit ‘reply all’ and say hi, or ask your mutual friends about them.
The Evolution of Hinge
Hinge is a young company founded in 2011 by former undergraduate roommates at Colgate, Justin McLeod (CEO) and Bennett Richardson (CMO).
The application has evolved from at least 3 different betas. One of McLeod’s early creations, Secret Agent Cupid, was simply an application to rate your friends and let them know you were interested in them.
The beta projects evolved into a Facebook application – this is when I first heard of Hinge from a mutual friend of Justin’s. At that point, the application consisted of answering questions about friends to determine personality types and create profiles to connect people by common interests and personalities.
The problem was that there was no long-term engagement. It was a short process that people got bored with.
“For us, the most important thing is we’re trying to be something different in dating. We are not just trying to improve the old model, we are trying to create a new model that takes advantage of all the tools that you have at your disposal today that you’ve never had at your disposal before.” – Hinge CMO Bennett Richardson
There was an opportunity in the dating mobile space with apps that didn’t keep people engaged. Hinge started on the iOS platform for iPhone users. The first month in iTunes, the application was downloaded a notable 2,000 times.
Since then, there have been over 20,000 matches with a “high response rate” and over 1 million ratings using the Hinge application.
With daily releases of 12 potential matches, users also have reason to come back each day at noon.
Using your real life connections from Facebook, you always have at least one mutual friend with everyone in your batch of potentials.
This common connection for matches means they often share the same social circles. This potentially can lead to the ability to create a deeper connection than any other dating application available today.
The application is definitely not perfect and is currently only available to users in the D.C. metro area. Some users complain of the star-based rating system, lack of a bi-sexual option, and don’t want to see their average rating and number of favorites.
Hinge is listening to user feedback and user behavior and has many changes in store for the near future.
Right now, the application is most popular with employees at Living Social, Wedding Wire, Advisory Board, and Hill staffers and Hinge has a user base that mainly consists of the young professional type, predominantly ages 22-30 in D.C.
Leaving school for the work world with longer hours, travel, and no more college keg parties it’s harder to meet new people – no wonder the appeal of a mobile application that can introduce you to potential matches with common connections.
What Doors Will Hinge Open Next?
By the end of April, Hinge will expand to New York City and on April 1, it was no joke when Hinge launched their Android version of their application.
Potential updates include the following:
Expanding to 10 of the best cities with the most 20 something smartphone users with a goal of being available in all of them by this time next year.
A shift to an up or down vote rating system.
A double date option.
Top bachelor and bachelorette rankings among your friends.
The ability to play matchmaker for your friends.
- Badges and multiple levels to for users to unlock based on use and referrals.
Expansion of the ability to specialize the app for attendees of events like parties, conferences, and concerts.
“I think that Hinge really has that opportunity to do what Facebook did for social networking.” – Hinge CMO Bennett Richardson
What do you think the future of Hinge will hold? Have you ever used online dating? Would you consider Hinge?
Let me know in the comments![Interview conducted April 3rd at Hinge HQ located only a couple blocks from the White House in Washington, DC]