Couple Fire Opens Lovey-Dovey Social Site (Yes, for Valentine’s Day)

2/14/12Follow @curtwoodward

Even with a ton of digital tools at your disposal, it’s still a little difficult to get all mushy online. Texts, instant messenger conversations, and e-mails are private, but pretty fleeting, while more lasting things—tweets, Facebook posts—tend to be out in the open.

Google Plus has made limited sharing a bit easier with its concept of limited “circles” of people. Much talked-about startup Path is betting that it can build a separate service that is limited to close friends and family.

Seattle startup Couple Fire is also hoping to make a dent in the market by setting up private social spaces online just for couples, whether they’re separated by long distances or just need a little patch of the Web to pass lovey stuff back and forth.

“My parents, I always tease them because they have a box full of love letters,” Couple Fire co-founder and CEO Emily Marshall says. “And I was thinking, where are ours? They’re all over the place. They’re everywhere.”

And, wouldn’t you know it, the startup is opening its service up to public users on Valentine’s Day.

I first ran across Couple Fire last year at a Northwest Entrepreneur Network pitch event (it was under a different name then).

My knee-jerk doubts about yet another social network were tempered by the fact that the founders built the service because they both were in separate long-distance relationships. They’d also done some interesting market research by working with local couples separated by military deployments.

But that was really just the start. Marshall says that in the past year or so, as they’ve refined the product, she and co-founder Kiran Gollu decided not to limit the membership to just couples in long-distance relationships, since they were hearing more lobbying from regular couples to let them in on the action.

They also recently redesigned the user side to make it into a bulletin-board type of interface, similar to recently ascendant consumer link-building site Pinterest. That was a move to make the whole thing simpler and nicer to look at, Marshall says.

“Originally I think we tried to do too much. We picked 10 features that we had to have, and had statistics backing up why we should do every single one of them,” she says. “But ultimately, you’ve got to put it together in a beautiful package. So we simplified our product tremendously, and I’m actually so happy with it.”

They also responded to user research by making items shareable, whether to other users on Couple Fire or out through regular social channels like Facebook (you can log in with Facebook too). “People really did want an aspect of community,” Marshall says. “A lot of the couples with one left behind, [that person] was really lonely. So they wanted to see what other couples were doing, what date ideas they had, and ways to start conversations.”

The business model for Couple Fire is to sell sponsored offers or featured content to reach the user base they’re trying to collect—so a bridal store, for instance, could find a way to reach people planning their weddings.

That’s all down the road. For now, Couple Fire is trying to attract users and get a crowd together.

“Every military wife I talk to, they can’t wait,” Marshall says. “They’re like, ‘When can we have this?’”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • R. Jones

    Cute story. When did Xconomy give up on reporting the news of Seattle Biotechnology? Here is a Valentines Day story.

    Micheal French CEO of Marina Biotech, Valentines Day 2012: “I want to thank them (Cequent, acquired in 2010) for their efforts and wish them all well in their future endeavors.”

    MDRNA and Cequent merged to form Marina Biotech in 2010.

    Ironically, French on April Fools Day, 2010: “We are very excited to bring to MDRNA the unparalleled expertise and commitment of the Cequent team.”

    Dumped on Valentines Day.

    • http://on.fb.me/curtwoodward Curt Woodward

      Howdy R. – we’ve not given up at all. Luke’s just been on vacation, which I think is still allowed :)
      He’ll be back soon, which is great, since I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about! If there’s a good story afoot, shoot a tip to our other star biotech writer Arlene Weintraub via aweintraub@xconomy.com – please!

  • R. Jones

    “since I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about!”

    Marina Biotech Announces Closure of Cambridge Site and Consolidation of R&D Operations in Bothell, WA

    Google Marina Biotech Cequent. Check Biospace each morning.

    I have all kinds of journalistic research ideas. :)

    This is an important story. A local biotech company appears to be saving up for a hail mary pass.

    • http://on.fb.me/curtwoodward Curt Woodward

      Thanks R! Luke’s back today, so the biotech coverage can commence at full strength.

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