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

7/27/10Follow @wroush

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successful relationship,” Nagaraj says, “This is the first time in history where we can boil that down to hard numbers, because enough of the happy couples’ lives are spent online that we can put together a rich picture.”

To use a simplified example: Triangulate might notice that for straight couples where the man likes the movie Gladiator, it’s often the case that the woman likes Dirty Dancing. So the next time Wings comes across a single guy who likes Gladiator, it will recommend a single woman who likes Dirty Dancing, or movies like it. That’s not too different from the way Match.com or eHarmony work—except that when it comes to movies, Wings draws the information from the users’ actual Netflix profiles, rather than from lists of movies people say they like.

Nagaraj says the seed that grew into Wings was planted years ago, when he was a consultant at Bain & Company and had to spend long hours waiting in airports. “I’d be sitting there with my manager in a terminal, and we’d play this game of guessing who people were by the way they walk,” he says. “Often, people can be described by what they do more accurately than by what they say about themselves. That was the genesis of Triangulate.”

After finishing his Harvard MBA, Nagaraj and his fellow Harvard graduates David Chen and Matt Weisinger decided to see if they could build a business around the idea of aggregating objective information about behavior. They considered several application areas, but “dating was the first vertical that resonated with us,” says Nagaraj. “It’s a billion-dollar industry with 4 million people paying monthly fees. Yet there has been no real innovation since Match.com launched in 1995 and then eHarmony in 2000. That’s 10 years with no innovation except for changing the questionnaires.”

Nagaraj says Triangulate chose Facebook as the environment for a dating app in part because 40 percent of its half-billion users are single. But there were other obvious factors too. “When I look at a social media service, I try to understand first whether it could be an interesting data source for us, and the other lens is whether it could be a distribution platform,” he says. “For the moment, Facebook is by far the best data source and the best distribution platform.”

In the Wings app—which starts out free but requires payments in the form of virtual coins for certain types of interactions, such as sending a message to a potential match—users are asked during the signup process to let Triangulate connect with their various social media accounts, including Twitter, Netflix, Foursquare, and (soon) Pandora and Blippy. (Nagaraj says Triangulate is starting out with the services that have the most up-to-date application programming interfaces, or APIs, allowing information be extracted from their databases.) Of course, users already have Facebook profiles by definition, which gives Wings access to even more information, not to mention photos.

Once users have answered a few questions about their age and location, and their basic preferences in a potential date, Wings scours its member database for potential matches. As of yesterday there were only about 40,000 Wings users, so matches can be sparse, depending on … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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