Features, University News

Amorous alums play matchmakers

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Some Ivy League students may be single this Valentine’s Day, but they don’t have to be. Two dating websites started by alums in the past two years are helping Brown students and others find love. 

For those who hope to meet “people who value creativity, intellectual curiosity and drive” from dozens of cities around the world, IvyDate, a selective dating site co-founded by Beri Meric ’06, is here to help.

Membership to the site requires an extensive application, including questions about users’ favorite philosophers, things they like to spend money on and what they would do if they were president. If approved by IvyDate’s membership committee, users receive five matches per week, based on an algorithm that analyzes their preferences on location, age, religion and ethnicity, Meric said.

For students seeking love locally, Kai Huang ’11 and Arune Gulati ’11 have left their legacy on campus with Prospect and Meeting, a site on which users list their “prospects”­­ — people in whom they are romantically interested. If two people list each other as “prospects,” their names are exchanged­, prompting a “meeting.”

 

‘High-end’ dating

IvyDate now has more than 17,000 approved members internationally whose ages range from 18 to about 35. The site states that it is not exclusively for Ivy League alums, but rather is “the Ivy League of dating.” The membership committee seeks “intellectually curious, open-minded, interesting people,” Meric said.

The selection process is “similar to how Brown admits its students,” Meric said. The committee does not just look at credentials, but evaluates the applicant as a whole. They consider, “is this somebody that would make for a great relationship?” he said.

The idea for the site came out of Meric and his co-founder Philipp Triebel’s experiences at Harvard Business School, where they conducted a study on young professionals and dating.

“Accomplished individuals often have much less time for the bar scene,” Meric said. “We wanted to come up with an effective way for extraordinary people to connect with each other.”

After discovering there was a market for a site such as IvyDate, the business duo launched DateHarvard, a pilot project for what would evolve into IvyDate, in August 2010. The site catered to students and graduates of Harvard, but it accepted applications from members who attended other schools as well.

“The general feedback was that there was a high level demand for a premium approach to dating,” Meric said.

Meric and Triebel then embraced the “Ivy League heritage” to expand the site’s target audience, Meric said. IvyDate went live in February 2011 and started matching users last summer. The site currently accepts approximately 70 percent of its applicants. Meric said the high acceptance rate reflects the abundance of “compelling” profiles­ — a result of the word-of-mouth publicity in Ivy League circles.

Unlike other online dating sites, the site does not allow members to browse a database of profiles, a distinction Meric said is in place to protect their members’ privacy and make the experience “more meaningful.”

 

Crossroads of love

In 2010, Huang and Gulati created the dating site Prospect and Meeting for Brown students curious about their crushes.

Prospect and Meeting peaked at around 2,000 members, but has had stagnant growth since then, Huang said. Once he and the founders graduated, it became difficult to maintain the site.

Huang said he started Prospect and Meeting to encourage Brown students to make themselves more vulnerable.

Much of Huang’s personal motivation to create the site came from a desire to see if a romantic interest of his was also interested in him, he said. But he said he dropped off a love letter in her mailbox before the site was even fully running.

 

This modern love

While online dating sites are a new method of finding love, Meric said the goal of IvyDate is to use “technology to get back to an older way of connecting.”

“Just like old-fashioned matchmakers would connect individuals with each other, we like to think we do that in a more efficient way,” he said.

For Huang, dating sites such as Prospect and Meeting are all tools that college-aged individuals have to help find love in “our generation’s hookup culture.”

“I think people are still out there looking for the … real thing,” Huang said. “But everyone’s afraid to take the first step because suddenly you’re in a position of weakness.”

“You have to be vulnerable,” Huang added. “It’s you. It’s me. We’re at each other’s mercy.”

Huang said he would consider using a site such as IvyDate in the future, but for now, his responsibilities as a medical school student have kept him too busy for love.

“If I fall in love right now, it’s only going to be a distraction,” he said.

But some undergraduates express doubts about sites such as IvyDate. Elisa Glubok ’14 said the exclusivity of the site turned her off.

“I feel like I wouldn’t be attracted to someone who would be attracted to this idea,” Glubok said.

But Meric said he is confident that users of the site will be happy with their experiences, even if a romantic relationship does not result.

“If there’s chemistry, then it’s very likely that people meeting are going to hit it off,” he said. “Even if there isn’t chemistry, it’s a great way to meet new people.”