Co-founders Jerry Guo and Michael Waxman like to joke that Grouper is a Y Combinator-funded startup. That’s because they didn’t come up with the idea for Grouper–a social service that sets you and two friends up with three strangers based on your Facebook profile–until they got rejected from YC. “We took our $400 travel reimbursement check from YC and used that as seed capital for Grouper,” Mr. Guo told Betabeat via gChat.
Does that mean Grouper is a pivot?? “Lol,” he wrote, “It’s a completely new concept. We applied to YC with paperbuff.com. In the 36 hours before our interview, we ditched paperbuff and built qomments.com, were rejected, then decided to build a product people would actually want (*measured by charging for it).”
Indeed, Grouper, which just launched out of beta in New York today, was profitable after just 60 days.
Here’s how it works: Rather than having to fill in a questionnaire about your interests, you sign up for Grouper via your Facebook account. The Grouper algorithm mines your friend graph, “taking into account age / education / personalities / interests / attractiveness,” said Mr. Guo, and then sets you up with someone of the opposite sex whom you’re not Facebook friends with based on the results. There are no profiles on the site, and the Grouper algorithm does the matchmaking. You invite two friends of the same sex, they invite two friends of the same sex, and you all meet up at a place of Grouper’s choosing. “The concept is two groups of friends who don’t know each other, but that we think should,” explained Mr. Guo.
Although this sounds like a giant Crazy Blind Date to Betabeat, Mr. Guo disagrees. “No not at all. It’s not a date. (For instance, you don’t have to be single.) We think the most organic social context is one that’s not confined to a bucket/label, whether it’s dating / making friends / networking.” He did, however, concede one inadvertent matchmaking success. “Anecdotally I know of at least one long-term relationship, but we don’t track that since we’re not in the dating space. We do ask if people see each other again, and that’s been about 1/3 of the groups.”
First of all, VCs and judges miss good projects all the time, including Y-C; secondly, having an open platform not labeling it too early is smart: creativity is a hintsight