A brand spanking new dating app, aptly titled DragonFruit, launched on Tuesday with hopes of turning the geek world on its head
DragonFruit is a dating app by geeks for geeks. Founded in May 2015 by Orie Enav in New York, the idea for the project started with a couple of friends — some who had been single for a long time — who would meet up over drinks and board games and commiserate about not finding dates.
They wanted something for people like them. They were into Star Wars, video games, and other interests that put them outside the mainstream of the dating field.
Enav, a lawyer and overall make-things-happen kind of businessman who was sick of the rat race in the soul crushing legal job market, was looking for a new project and decided to throw down the gauntlet by taking on this challenge.
Coming from the community, Enav understands that the geek label encompasses a very big tent, and not every geek will fit with a geek of a different stripe.
In looking to provide the best matches possible, DragonFruit goes a step beyond the more basic profile questions like “this user is a 27-year-old male looking for female” or just their location.
Upon signing up, the user is asked to define three of their “geekdoms,” which are the kinds of geeky categories that interest them most. They try to give users insight into other people’s minds by using the categories and identifiers to give context and make better matches.
“Geekdom is where it all happens,” he explains, adding that, “There’s new stuff every day that we just couldn’t have anticipated, even though they preprogrammed many of them. We don’t decide how people connect. It’s the program that matches people with the things that they love, on a very personal level.”
Their system is smart enough to understand what kind of groupings match with what in the universe around the intended subject.
For instance, if someone puts down that they identify with Batman, then DragonFruit will know to connect that person with the rest of the Batman world, whether it be with other characters like Harley Quinn, Robin, DC comics, etc.
Even while they have identified and set up a large number of categories on their own, Enav tells Geektime that the vast majority of geekdoms are user generated. When a user suggests a new geekdom, Enav and his team will go into deep research mode in order to include all of the elements of that universe in the hope that it will help future users to find their place in the app’s ecosystem. He says that they have somewhere between 60,000 to 80,000 data points encompassing the world of geeks.
The idea for DragonFruit came out of Enav’s realization that the more standard dating services like OK Cupid, Tinder, and others were not quite suited for him and his friends.
Enav says that he wanted to build an app where geeks could be themselves, noting DragonFruit’s advantage of, “Knowing that everyone you are talking to has signed up for a geek dating site. You don’t have to pretend that you’re something that you’re not. You’re not going to find yourself talking to someone who doesn’t understand why you are so passionate in talking about something that the wider world doesn’t value.”
Engaging with the geek community
Having already done their soft launch back in October, the service now has roughly a thousand users, mostly in the big U.S. cities. Up to this point they have mostly focused on generating content to build their user base, writing a blog with dating advice for geeky relationships.
They have also turned to geeky events like comic book and sci-fi conventions. Enav says that he is going to PAX East in Boston next week, and then going to Awesome Con in DC in June with hopes of getting the word out.
One of the best events that he says they did was in teaming up with a group in NY called Sexy Nerds that does parties for that crowd. From that one event, he thinks that they picked up 140 users, which signified a bump of 20% in users at the time.
DragonFruit puts a premium on making their platform very open for all. While the initial signup process lets people set their defaults regarding their gender and what they are looking for, Enav says that once the user starts to search, all those settings go out the window, adding that, “People can define themselves and what they’re looking for at any given moment.”
He notes that the app can also be used for finding friends, though while he has seen users trying this aspect of the app, he says that it has been popular mostly among the girls.
Enav tells Geektime that their gender ratio fluctuates, hovering around the 70% men to 30% women mark. While he says that they hope to improve this breakdown, he notes that it is actually a lot better than what he had previously expected.
Within their own team, he says that they are working towards gender parity, adding that they see it as, “Very important in a dating app to have a healthy gender perspective.”
This belief carries over to some of the efforts aimed at limiting harassment. In addition to a strict policy and enforcement against bad practices, Enav and his team decided against a photo sharing feature since it left open too wide a door for abuse. If you have any doubt about this problem, ask any girl who uses Tinder how many unsolicited dick pics she gets a week.
When it comes down to the quality of the users and level of choice available, he says that, “A social app like this relies on the size of its users. The more users we can attract, the better it will be. Of course there are always problems and we’re always tweaking.”
Users who tried signing up outside of the U.S. had problems with the zip code requirement, an issue that Enav says will be fixed with the mobile app’s use of a GPS locating feature. Still, this is something that users who are looking to join from their desktop should keep in mind.
Down the line, DragonFruit plans on adding a number of paid features to help support the business. Some ideas that have popped up are things like a virtual assistant for managing the profile and optimizing messages and photos, and using statistics and expert input to help people along. Then there is a geekdar for finding people with the same interests at specific places like conventions.
His philosophy is something that he would enjoy using. “I don’t want the annoyance of the way that other apps limit the users, cutting them off,” he says, explaining that any added features would not cut off access to the core features. “If I ask you to pay, it’s because it’s something we worked really hard on and gain value.”
In the meantime, the team is looking to ramp up their user base and work out some of the issues that come along with any kind of social app, both on the technical and social sides.
Is the juice worth the squeeze?
After showing off DragonFruit to a single geek, who in turn did some asking around with her female geeky friends, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with a lot of excitement about the potential to meet the people that they are actually interested in dating.
While I don’t believe that specifically similar interests should be the basis for every relationship — a partner isn’t a checklist of attributes — I think that this is a great place for a lot of folks to start. I like the idea that people can skip past much of the awkwardness, time wasting, and frustration, honing in on a pool of people who will actually understand the context of how geeks view the world.
Featured Image Credit: DragonFruit PR