The Pivot: 3degrees Out (for now), Find Your Lobster In
*I’m pivoting 3degrees, and this post introduces our new direction. As I wrote this, I realized a quote from my Dad introduced each section nicely. This may double as his birthday present, as salaries for entrepreneurs not taking salaries are at an all-time low.
The Version One:
“Dad, you don’t know social media. You just called it The Facebook and told me I had a typo in my email signature because there was an “@” symbol in front of “Dato.” This will work. Trust me.”
“Bri, all I know is that all anyone will want to do on your site is date. It’s not good or bad, it’s just the way it is.” - Dad Quote #1
Today I’m opening the doors for early signups to the new app I’ve been building called Find Your Lobster.
As some of you may know, my first project was 3degrees. At its core, 3degrees was built to quickly and easily connect people with similar interests so they could meet offline and do fun activities together. Leveraging Facebook to exclusively show users friends of friends, each connection was at most an introduction away.
I envisioned creating a platform for everyone from the guy on the business trip in Boulder looking for a temporary skiing partner to the recently relocated college grad looking to salsa dance. There were also, of course, romantic implications. There’s no better way to meet a potential significant other than through a mutual friend, right?
I purposely left the product open ended, encouraging both personal and professional connections. From an entrepreneurs perspective this was dangerous – I preach focus when I talk early stage startups, and I was doing the opposite.
I can’t tell you exactly why I didn’t focus – maybe I knew the activity portion of the site broke social paradigms, and I loved that challenge (and the potential implications of cracking that nut). Maybe I didn’t want to build a dating site. Maybe I just wanted the activity application to exist so I could use it. Sometimes it’s tough to have an unbiased opinion of your own work.
Entrepreneurs are desperate to instill their personality into their products. Whatever product we build feels like a direct reflection on who we are - if it’s not solving a big problem, or has boring implications, it’s tough to swallow.
Whatever the reason, I launched 3degrees without a clear direction and waited for users to show us the way. I hoped the activity engine functionality would take off. Somewhere deep down I knew the true viral potential was dating.
We got some early press, which led to signups. We pored over the analytics and reached out to users. The data was too strong to ignore. Over 90% of searches were dating-based. In fact, 97% percent of the time the first thing people did was search for single, local, friends of friends. Stop the fight. My beloved activity engine had failed.
You ain’t so bad, pivot! 3degrees didn’t work like I wanted it to, but it led me to something better.
The silver lining? People were using it for something. It was time to reevaluate the immediate direction.
“Only do it if you love it. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard – you’ll need to work your ass off. But if you don’t love it, even if you work your ass off, you won’t do it well.” - Dad Quote #2
The knowledge we gained from watching our users made it clear a dating-focused application was worth exploring. But since I’d consciously avoided that to start, I had to ask myself some important questions: Do I even want to build a dating site? What makes me qualified to build one? Do I understand the space?
I had conversations with people who’d built businesses before. NYC is great for this. If you reach out to someone thoughtful and influential in the NYC tech community, they’ll make time for you. Shifting operations to WeWork Labs has been helpful as well.
I spoke to our users. We discussed how dating on 3degrees worked, and how the process was taking place in real life. I joined every dating site I could to understand their flow. My nights out were interviews. Market research at bars isn’t the worst thing in the world, and tipsy people aren’t as polite as sober ones – they’ll let you know how they really feel about the idea.
The online dating world is fascinating. For years, dating sites have been viewed as something people either needed or didn’t. Thankfully, that ridiculous sentiment is changing. But that doesn’t mean the products can look the same they did before the Facebook / Twitter / mobile revolutions.
There’s room for a product targeted towards people who have grown up inside the walls of social media. This is the group of people who don’t “need” a dating site, and may not be on one now. Maybe the majority of their friends are in a relationship, or they work long hours, or they recently moved to a new city, or they just got out of a relationship. Whatever the reason, they’re single and are interested in meeting new people. It’s a great position to be in.
My gut, and my conversations, made it clear that if there was something casual, cheap, enjoyable, mobile, and low risk - that got people offline and out dating quickly – it would be popular. Leveraging social graphs built on Facebook the past ~7 years is a no brainer, but how exactly to interface is far from straightforward.
In the midst of all this research, a funny thing happened - I got passionate about the idea. Real passionate. 3degrees was alluring because it would make people happier. Find Your Lobster could do the same thing - but to a whole new degree. Playing basketball with friends made me happy, but my girlfriend made me something beyond that. I would now have the opportunity to provide that second feeling for people.
So in the end, what qualified me to make this site? Nothing and everything. I’ve got an opportunity to connect people and make them happier, and I know what I have to do to build a great product. I’m confident hard work will take care of the rest.
“95% of everything in life is just showing up” – Dad Quote #3
I tried to keep this blog free of random references, but I liked the idea of FYL during the Homeland credits so much I had to include it.
Simple, simple, simple. I hate to come back to another thing my Dad says, but it’s too relevant to ignore: 95% of everything in life is just showing up.
My goal for Find Your Lobster is to remove every potential reason anyone could have for not showing up.
Don’t want to be on a dating site? It’s confidential until you match, no one will know if you don’t want him or her to.
Think people on dating sites are creeps? Don’t contact anyone before you’ve spoken to a mutual friend about the potential match. They can’t contact you unless you’re interested.
Nervous about the initial connection or that first date? We suggest awesome, local first dates that other users have enjoyed. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a start.
Don’t want to spend your time thinking up witty profile responses and playing the wink, poke, nudge game? You don’t have to. Setups a breeze – you’ll see your first match 30 seconds after you download the app.
Don’t like the feeling of being on a dating site? We’ve got a lobster logo that dresses up in top hats with flowers in his claws. ‘Nuff said.
The product itself isn’t anything mind blowing. It’s not even the most novel idea I’ve heard today (that would be Brad Pitt + Zombies). The devil is truly in the details. We want you to be able to complete the FYL experience while you’re in line at Starbucks. Or during the unreasonably long Homeland opening credits (we all remember what happened last week - get to Abu Nazir!).
I’m really excited for this product, as is everyone involved. I can’t wait to launch and make people happier. I’ve truly enjoyed the process of building something, getting feedback, tweaking it, and building something new. I’m upset that my first product didn’t garner the results I’d hoped, but I’m thrilled at the opportunity this second iteration provides.
I just wish I’d listened to my Dad a bit sooner…
Sign up here before 12/15 to keep the site (premium versions to come) free for life. NYC and iPhone to start, we’ll spread to other cities and platforms based on request.
Got an opinion on the product? Want to be on the team? Knicks/Yanks/UNC/Giants fan? Brian@findyourlobster.com is good, @Dato22 is better. Love to hear from you.