Triangulate Raises $750K for “Data-Driven Dating” on Facebook

7/27/10Follow @wroush

If you’re at least a casual Internet user, there’s already lots of information about you laying around in semi-public databases. Twitter knows what types of people you follow. Netflix knows what movies and TV shows you like. Foursquare knows where you check in. Pandora knows what kinds of music you like. Facebook knows who your friends are, and how old they are, and whether they’re married or single. And so on.

What if there were an online dating service for singles that gauged their compatability with potential matches simply by pulling in all this existing information about their media preferences and social activities? That would save these singles all the hours that go into filling out exhaustive eHarmony-style questionnaires. And given people’s tendency to embellish or redact the truth when comes to self-descriptions, matches based on this kind of verifiable, real-world data might even be more successful.

Well, that’s the whole idea behind Wings, a Facebook dating app launched last month by Triangulate. The Palo Alto, CA, startup said today that it has raised $750,000 in seed funding to capitalize on this new form of Internet-era transparency, with Trinity Ventures, the Menlo Park, CA-based early stage venture investing firm, and Rick Thompson, the chairman of Mountain View, CA-based social gaming powerhouse Playdom, fronting the cash.

In another big boost, Facebook has selected Wings as a featured app in its applications dashboard. Being anointed in this way can have roughly the same effect on Facebook app signups as when Apple features a specific iPhone app in one of its TV commercials. The Wings app went into rotation on the application dashboard last night, and “we’ve already seen some of the results impact on our numbers, which we’ve been very happy about,” says Triangulate co-founder and CEO Sunil Nagaraj.

“Data-driven dating” is Nagaraj’s term for the basic concept behind Wings. And there’s no question that the app represents a geek’s take on dating. Befitting its name, Triangulate is reframing the search for love—probably the most unpredictable and anxiety-filled of all human obsessions—as a math problem.

The company postulates that the problem with dating today—the reason so few dates work out (and, as a not incidental side effect, that people keep shelling out more for dating help)—is that the parties have imperfect information. “The online dating world is incredibly inefficient, and that inefficiency is driven by a lack of transparency and a reliance on self-reported information,” Nagaraj says. “If I knew who you really were, and you knew who I really was, we could interact better. And now, for the first time in human history we are at a place where most of your life is documented.”

No longer is finding the right soul mate simply a matter of chance, flirting skills, or pheromones, Nagaraj says. It’s now a matter of crunching the numbers to gauge whether the similarities between your social media profile and your potential mate’s profile are, statistically speaking, the same types of similarities found among happy couples.

In essence, the Wings app matches people up based on its understanding of thousands of test couples who agreed to have their social media profiles mined by Triangulate. “We have studied enough happy couples that we feel confident that we understand the factors that are predictive of a … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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