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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Single in the ATL? Maybe this will help

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Have you ever done the online dating thing? It's actually not so bad. In fact, it might be a little too effective. (Then again, maybe it's different for females.) Sure, there's nothing quite like making eye contact across the room, but for busy bees and homebodies, the whole online dating thing can allow, if anything, some temporary entertainment.

Whether looking for love or lust, it may interest you to know there's a new online dating player in town brought to you by the sex and culture lovin' peeps over at Nerve.com. "So ... ?" you're asking yourself. "OKCupid didn't help me, why would this?" OK. Fine. Point taken. But then again, Nerve Dating is 1) Free, 2) Free, and 3) You're still single and looking. What do you have to lose? Your dignity?

Really, it's always good to be a little skeptical. That's why I spoke with Nerve.com's CEO Sean Mills (former president of The Onion) about the company's Atlanta launch, why online dating isn't math, and why we ATLiens should give our hearts and loins to their brand-spanking new dating site.

Here's what he had to say:

Tell us a about the Nerve Dating's goal.

Every aspect of the web has evolved to become more social - except online dating. If you look at most sites today, you could mistake them for a generic e-commerce or airline website. They don't deliver fluid, dynamic social experiences. Rather, they view 'relationships' and 'attraction' as a mathematical equation to solve.

After observing the industry for a number of years, we set out to create Nerve Dating.

First and foremost, we wanted to create a site that we, as well as our friends, would really enjoy using and better reflected how relationships are started today - over great conversation.

The site we came up with feels more like a lively party than an awkward blind date. On Nerve, you actively share your thoughts and opinions about restaurants, bars, movies, music, and books, and anything else you've seen or done; then, you're introduced to other people who did the same. If you see that someone ate at your favorite restaurant last night, or that think Purple Rain is better than Thriller, it's like overhearing that conversation at a party, or seeing someone attractive wearing a t-shirt with your favorite band on it. From there, it's easy to start talking ... Algorithms don't lead to love, conversations do.

There's Match.com, OKCupid, Grindr, Blender, Adult Friend Finder, eHarmony, Chemistry.com, plus niche sites like, uh, PositiveSingles.com ... What I'm saying is, the online dating market seems a bit oversaturated. What makes Nerve Dating different?

You're right - on the surface, online dating is a seemingly crowded space. But when we really honed in and looked at Nerve readers and the larger creative class that they represent, we didn't see any site, brand or experience that really spoke to them.

The industry is full of sites that rely on gimmicks, algorithms, and love formulas. Meeting people online doesn't have to be gimmicky — winking, sending little pixilated pieces of fruit,cold-calling people based solely on static profiles. We did not want to do that, and feel like other dating sites are missing the point.

Existing dating sites, with their algorithms and gimmicks, have failed to adapt to the new, and far more social way we all use the web - actively sharing opinions, experiences and naturally interacting over great content. As a result, starting conversations with people you don't know online is still difficult for most people. That's the problem that Nerve solves.

Nerve focuses on "starting that first conversation so you can meet more people." Besides being able to see common interests, how does Nerve Dating plan to help members break the ice?

Nerve is not a static experience. The people on Nerve are actively sharing their opinions about the world and their experiences at the restaurants, bars and movies they're hanging out at. By sharing opinions and the prior night's adventures, our members can make it easy for others to strike up conversations with them. Starting conversations based on these real life daily experiences feels more genuine and closer to the natural conversations that people have offline.

Why Nerve Dating instead of meeting people IRL?

Nerve is not for meant to be the only way people meet each other. It's supposed to help. Similarly, Facebook isn't the only way you're supposed to socialize with your friends - it's just supposed to make it easier. So Nerve is meant to make it easier to meet new people, both by having a huge audience of interesting, creative, smart people and by having features that really make it effortless to strike up conversations with people that you otherwise might have let pass you by.

One of the ways Nerve aims to connect members is by allowing them to share and view interest and activities. Undoubtedly, common interests are important, but what about the idea that opposites attract? Sure, ATLJohn69 might also like the Adele, but maybe he's a douchebag and SouthernBellATL would be better suited with that unlikely bearded dude who listens to Meshuggah. What then?

You're right! Sometimes opposing opinions work just as well, if not better, than shared interests to get a conversation going. On Nerve, you have unlimited access to the opinions and activities of people that agree and disagree, giving you all the ammunition you need to strike up casual conversation at will. We aren't about determining a "match," just about making it easy to start conversations with people that you are attracted to. We don't hide people who have different tastes we just get everyone to express themselves.

Do you have douchebag or bitchbecrazy warning system? Or sex rating system? Maybe an anonymous sexting component? Those could be incredibly helpful. (Especially that last one.)

In the interest of not tipping off spammers and other unsavory types who wouldn't look to use the site for what it was built for, we can't go into too much detail. Rest assured, we have smart technology and a smarter team that make sure the experience a really high quality one. So when we see bitchbecrazy/douchebag style behavior, we prevent you from seeing it or swiftly deal with the situation. In addition, we allow members to flag inappropriate communication from other members, and if the situation arose, we take the extra step to block and manage specific members.

Has Nerve Dating's researched uncovered some dirt on the habits of ATL singles that we should know about?

While we haven't uncovered dirt specifically drawing on ATL members just yet, we have dived into our existing userbase to extract some really interesting and rather quirky stats around love and sex:


  • In response to 'how many sexual partners is too many for one person?' — 78% of respondents answered 'it's just a number'

  • Respondents put their dog ahead of their parents with regard to who their partner had to get along with, if they were dating:

    • 58% answered 'me, and only me', 18.1% confirmed it was their best friend, followed by 17.8% answering it was their dog and only 6% stated their parents


  • 62% of respondents feel that the 'three-day rule for calling' is the most outdated rule for dating

What are some components of Nerve Dating that you're most excited about?
One of the most exciting components for us is our audience. After years of observing the space, it was our goal to create a site that catered to culturally savvy, creative, and smart people. So the fact that our audience has really responded to the site is really rewarding. Here are some quick stats on our audience:


  • 51% Female, 49% Male

  • Median age: 29 years old

  • They are well-educated - 97% of users indicated they had a college or above education

  • They're culturally active and huge consumers of music, film, books, and fashion:


    • Most popular films discussed/checked in for the month of Feb/Mar: "The Artist", "Shame," "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

    • Most popular TV checkin for February: "Breaking Bad," closely followed by "Downton Abbey"

    • We've got a really engaged userbase:
    • There have been over 300,000 shares since our January launch (which include answers to the 'Opinions' features, 'Last Night' checkins, "notices" and messages sent)


The growth of social media has fundamentally changed the way that people speak to each other online. Rather than exclusively emailing or private messaging our friends, we comment on their photos, status updates, and links. One could say that context and content have made us more likely to connect.

Existing dating sites, with their algorithms and gimmicks, have failed to adapt to this new dynamic, and as a result, starting conversations with people you don't know online is still difficult for most people. We found that in the context of online dating, starting a conversation with 'context' - a comment, opinions question, checkin - is vastly more powerful than directly messaging a potential date. Users are 30% more likely to get a response if they respond to something specific - a checkin, comment, opinions question, compared to another member who messages without any context.

What's the cost of membership?

Almost everything is free. You can:


  • Create a profile

  • Search for people

  • Share what you did last night

  • Answer questions in Opinions

  • Check out other profiles

  • Respond to messages that get sent to you

The only thing that you need to pay for is starting conversations with new people. For that, you'll need to subscribe ($20/mo for 3 months). But for now, in Atlanta, the site is entirely free. So enjoy that while it lasts!

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