4910

Lauren Kay

CEO of Dating Ring. Very little person with very big ideas and an even bigger cat.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 09, 2015

Discussion

4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
Hey all! My name's Lauren. I'm one of the founders of Dating Ring, an online matchmaking service which was featured during the last season of the podcast, StartUp. When I'm not working, I'm most likely to be found with my tripod cat, watching Gilmore Girls reruns. Ask me anything!
234457
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Please can you we see a picture of your cat? (we are big fans of cats at Product Hunt 😸)
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@ems_hodge 100x yes :) Here's Legs, the tripod: instagram.com/legsthecat and here's Smelly Cat: http://imgur.com/s7hT6yT
254861
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Previously, you were the founder of Smartsitting, a babysitting and nanny agency. You probably have really unique insight into bringing up a great generation of kids, given your exposure to so many different kids from many different families. (1) How can we better nurture the future generation of kids? In other words, what can we do to be better parents (I'm not a parent yet, but I'm collecting data now in case it happens one day ;-)) (2) What did you learn about kids during your four + years running Smartsitting that you didn't know before you started?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@melissajoykong I'm not a parent as well - so I'm sure any mom or dad out there would have better insight. But I do love kids, so here goes! 1) I'm a firm believer in raising kids who are excited about following their passions, and not focusing too hard on grades / competing. Kids develop anxiety at such young ages; it's crazy! Whenever I'm with kids or tutoring or what not, I'm always trying to work on lowering their already way too high anxiety. I think there's a lot out there on how to be a 'better' parent that often is meant to guilt parents (especially moms) into thinking they're not doing a good enough job. As long as you don't rely on TV / computers as constant babysitters, pay attention to your kids when you're having family time, and are able to use positive reinforcement .. I think you're off to a good start. And I'm obviously a big supporter of nannies. Being anti-nanny to me seems to mean you're anti-working mom. The parents don't have to be around all of the time - I'm a huge advocate of 'it takes a village'. 2) I definitely didn't realize how insanely smart and mature NYC kids were. They're just mini adults who occasionally still believe in fairies. Also, all of the kids I met through SmartSitting were incredibly well behaved, which I was not expecting. (My brothers and I were nutcases and very difficult for babysitters.)
254861
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi @laurenikay! Great to have you here. The dating world has changed drastically in a very short period of time, largely due to the emergence and popularity of online dating sites/apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Match. In some ways, the concept behind "Dating Ring" is meant to make dating more personal again. So a few questions for you: (1) How do you effectively scale a human matchmaking service (and is big scale even a company goal)? (2) What do you think meeting a potential partner through being connected by a stranger (i.e. professional matchmaker) adds or detracts from two new people getting to know one another?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
Hey @melissajoykong! Thanks so much for having me. 1) I was just thinking of this question in the shower the other day, as investors asked us the same question many times (and as they ask many other companies). There are a lot of things I had a lot of conviction about early on with Dating Ring, that I was proven wrong on. But one of my earliest convictions was that the human side can scale -- and as we've grown, this has still proven to not be a problem (that said, we haven't grown to *that* big of a userbase, so I could still very much be proven wrong). Basically, we developed a really structured process for our matchmakers, and although we've worked with over 20, that side of the company has never been the difficult side. The really big problem for us has been actually having scale to deal with. When you have so many amazing free apps out there, most people simply don't want to pay for dating, and while our matchmakers can scale, they can't scale for free. 2) I think it adds to the meeting - it adds a bit of 'magic' that regular online dating lacks. People often look for reasons we've matched them, (sometimes far beyond what we could have known). It's a nice, old-school, romantic way to meet that I think people really enjoy. But of course, I'm biased!
15008
Michael Dijkstra@cyclia · Delivering moments, building websites.
You wrote: "When you have so many amazing free apps out there, most people simply don't want to pay for dating,". Does this make your target market the 'harddateble's'? The guys and girls on who Tinder and similar apps just didn't work out?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@cyclia Ha, I get where you're coming from, but that doesn't end up being the case. Sure, some people who use us are those that have a difficult time dating. But then we have the other end of the spectrum - those who could line up 10 dates a day, but want our help sending them only the very best. A lot of people who have the hardest time with online dating apps are those that are traditionally seen as the most 'dateable', but who have a hard time finding a) time to date and b) people they actually want to give up the time to go out with. But I think overall, there's still a lot of people - regardless of how difficult of a time they're having - who prefer using free apps. And since many of these apps are really great, and are backed by tons of funding and super smart people, it can be tough to compete, and rely on revenue to drive growth, as opposed to funding.
8319
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
specifically my q's are 1) what's NOT on the show? 2) how was that experience fitting your life into a show? 3) do you feel more understood or less? I'd imagine less. but tell us everything!
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@eriktorenberg 1) Oh, so much stuff :) A lot of the really positive stuff was left out (not juicy enough?) I think a lot of people now think Emma & I spend all of our time crying and stressing out. But really, the majority of our time at Dating Ring has been amazing. We just ended up recording at a pretty stressful time (and when we went 'back in time' we also focused on the stressful bits). But we also recorded probably thousands of hours of tape that were never used. 2) Oh, it was odd! They could have chosen to portray our story in an infinite number of ways. So it was fascinating listening every week - we heard the episode maybe an hour before it was released, and generally had very little idea of what would be in it. Generally, the story lines made sense, but if we were the ones to tell the story, it would have certainly been different. 3) I definitely feel understood more, in certain areas. But I think regardless of what they told, I'd feel like - oh, you left out this and this and this. They definitely left out all of my jokes. Emma got some great ones in there, but also, Emma's much funnier than I am. But I had a really, really great joke about a door that they cut out of the last episode, so that was truly sad for everyone, everywhere. The main thing is that the convo with my mom was one of the best convos I've had with her, and I couldn't have been happier to have had the opportunity to record and share that. I love my mom! Also, I have some StartUp PTSD - any time I'm having a really serious convo, my first thought is - should I record this?
8319
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
can you talk more about the transition from a VC bankable expectations to what people call (sometimes derogatorily, which is misguided) a lifestyle business? What should people know about it, what companies should do it, etc
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@eriktorenberg Only have a few mins left (time flew!) but will give this my best shot. I think first, the founders have to be honest with each other and themselves about what they really want. Some people are thrilled to run a lifestyle business - to get to take some time off, to maybe have a more reasonable 40 hour workweek (or under!), to not have the constant stress of fundraising. But other people don't want that kind of lifestyle - maybe for ego, maybe due to boredom, maybe because they want to be able to impact more people with their product. And if so, that's okay as well. But I think you have to recognize where you're at, and know that if you're lifestyle, you're not going to be able to move as fast, and you're going to have to be a lot more conservative with money.
327063
Summers McKay@summersmckay · CEO, Summers Love Company
@laurenikay Hi Lauren! I am interested to know how you have developed the methodology to create a new service. Do you work with relationship experts, psychologists, anyone else with that skill set? Those of us in the love business are often instinctually talented at making matches, but investors often ask about credentials. What do you advise?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
Hey @summersmckay! I studied everything I could get my hands on re love and relationships when I was in college. But for the service, we mostly learned as we went, by talking to users. When it comes to investors and providing credentials - that's a really tough one, and a question we got a lot. I think that matchmaking is often not a great fit for investors, but that's not a bad thing. It can just be a square peg in round hole sort of deal, which I learned the hard way. But if you're really trying to sell investors, you simply have to frame the story in their language. Sure, many of us are instinctually talented at matching, but there are often common threads that can make the story more compelling. For us, it was that many of our matchmakers had background in matchmaking, psychology, sales, etc. Or, show them your success metrics, and let them speak for themselves (but don't even get me started on success metrics in matching ..) Best of luck!
327063
Summers McKay@summersmckay · CEO, Summers Love Company
@laurenikay Love it! We are in the sex life enhancing relationship space and have been home cooking our products for years, but every single investor wants to know if we've got a therapist or a doctor on board. I am like you in that I have spent decades researching love, sex, intimacy and relationships and surround myself with folks who do the same. We LOVE being in the love space and have recently decided to go no holds barred forward with our strategy and let investors catch up when they can. You make a very good point about having a wider team of experts involved and to that end - we'd love for you to join our upcoming podcast on helping the world #MakeLoveMore. Congratulations on a great product hunt! #NoTrollsInLove ;-)
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
Thanks @summersmckay and definitely feel free to reach out to me to talk more :)
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
Thank you so much for having me Product Hunt - this was so fun!
68398
Nicki Friis@nickifriisw · Entrepreneur. Former Partner @ Ideanote.
@laurenikay Hey Lauren, why is focusing on customer experience a good idea - from your point of view?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@nickifriisw Hey Nicki - I think it's important to focus on customer experience for so many reasons, but first and foremost - to make sure you're building something people actually want. Unless you're really clued in to customer experience (best way to do so is by doing a lot of customer service) - you can end up wasting months, or years, building the wrong features, or the entirely wrong product. I learned this many times over with both of my companies. Hope this helps!
254861
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Given all of the clients you've worked with and stories you've heard so far, what "ingredients" do you believe are absolutely critical for a relationship to last (and be healthy)?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@melissajoykong Great question - this is something I've been studying for years, both for the company and for my personal life! The biggest thing I've learned is that you can't just expect a relationship to be great, just because two people click, and have chemistry. The honeymoon period inevitably will end, and you need to really put work into a relationship in order for it to grow and stay healthy. My very unromantic motto is that love is *not* all you need. You need to be aware of the other persons's needs, their love style, and to always be communicating. I do a lot of corny late night positive affirmations, and I make sure to ask my partner at least twice a week if I'm doing anything that bothers him (knowing me, I probably am), and what I can do better. I think it's also great to start this type of work from the beginning of your relationship, so you have a nice healthy foundation to work off of.
254861
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
@laurenikay So, so true. I did this crazy, fun trip in 2013 where I traveled around the country to interview 100 of the best couples I could find with my friend Nate (https://www.kickstarter.com/proj...). I'm writing a book about what I learned during that trip, but one of the biggest things that popped among some of the couples I met who had relationships I deeply admired was this incredible sense of intentionality and priority. The marriage was viewed as being #1, and both people put in 100% (vs. the common 50-50 concept). A relationship where both partners are deeply intentional about helping nourish the other person's spirit is breathtaking to watch. I worry that online dating isn't helping cultivate this quality (a propensity toward being highly intentional in love) in us because it deepens the challenge of having *too much* choice. I think it sometimes runs the risk of perpetuating a "grass is greener" mentality, which is why what you're doing with Dating Ring is important—adding human touch back into what is meant to be a very intimate and personal process.
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@melissajoykong Thanks and I would love to see this book, it sounds awesome. And totally agree re grass is greener. After running Dating Ring, I've learned that dating is harder than I ever thought, and so I remind my partner every day how grateful I am that he puts up with me.
203988
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What's one thing people get wrong when it comes to finding a good match?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@russfrushtick I think the most common thing people get wrong is that they are too picky, in the wrong ways. People are overwhelmed with options online, and so naturally, they start putting in some filters to help narrow the search. But I think often these filters are ones that people don't employ in offline life - or that they shouldn't. For instance, the most common one is women who only want guys who are at least 5'10, or at least 6'. What this does is limit an already limited dating pool, and to the most in demand guys - which can be a really frustrating and disheartening experience. So a big piece of advice for ladies is to be open to shorter guys! They can still be taller than you, but if you're 5'6, be open to guys who are 5'7 or 5'8! I think finding the best partner is more important than finding a partner who towers over you when you're in heels .. but then again, I'm 5'.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@laurenikay Hey Lauren - where do you think the big leaps and bounds are in the future of online dating?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@bentossell I think a big one is making the experience more seamless and less time consuming - that could be through more intelligently choosing who to show people (so they're not swiping through 1000s of profiles just to get 1 match), coordinating the date / making sure they actually meet up, or other means. Although we haven't proven the model at Dating Ring, I still think there's a possibility that there will be a very large, customer service-heavy company. People now have all of the tools at their hands to meet people, but the biggest blocker for many people (especially those who haven't dated in many years) is just knowing where to start, and getting coaching and advice.
8319
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Lauren! What was it like to be on Gilmet's Startup show? I know that's a whole essay waiting to be written.....I got time!
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@eriktorenberg Haha, definitely an entire essay that I need to write at some point. Getting to be on StartUp was a huge honor, and all of the producers were amazing. That said, the 6 months we recorded were some of the most anxiety inducing months of my life. I was really happy with all of the episodes, and the feedback we got was overwhelmingly positive. But nonetheless, every week that we recorded, I was convinced I was going to look like a horrible person and an idiot. The experience was really helpful for the business, in terms of new users, and for Emma & me - we still quote the CEO Whisperer in everyday conversations. I don't think we would have ever had the opportunity to speak with him if it weren't for StartUp.
25634
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@laurenikay how are things going with Dating Ring? Any major updates since s2 of StartUp? Any cool updates in the pipeline?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@alexcartaz Things have been going well, but it's still challenging. We were able to save enough money thanks to growth from StartUp that we're not worried about having to shut our doors any time soon (which was a constant worry before StartUp). But, we are still very much a lifestyle company, facing many daily challenges (mainly how to have a tech product when we can't afford a FT engineer, how to acquire new users post-StartUp, how to make people happy even though it's a dating product). Biggest update is that we're launching DC next week, but otherwise, you're pretty up to date :)
234457
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Lauren, what has been the biggest challenge for you in setting up the business? How have you overcome these challenges?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@ems_hodge The biggest challenge was getting our technical product up, since I had 0 experience in tech before Dating Ring. Our initial beta grew pretty fast, and poor Emma (plus the rest of our team) was stuck doing manual labor that we hadn't automated. We were able to overcome this when we brought on Craig, who built the product, but also taught me a ton about product management and how to work with engineers (as did Katie, our first CTO, who was an amazing teacher).
25634
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@laurenikay in season 2 of Gimlet, you explained some insight in how how you make matches and how to improve the QA / match rate. Now that additional time has elapsed, do you have any new or additional insights into match making? Have the initial matches lasted? Is the match rate increasing? As a single person who has never tried Dating Ring (not in a major city), online dating still feels very broken, but I believe in the potential of a better solution!
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@alexcartaz Well first, (slightly off topic) soo many people wrote in after I spoke about rating users. I think the biggest misconception there was that the ratings seemed more subjective and granular than they actually are. Most users fall within the 4-7 range, and are matched within 1 point (so a 5 is matched with 4s-6s). So rarely is this 'rating' actually doing anything very controversial. Phew, got that off my chest. In terms of insights .. I can't think of anything life changing that I've realized since this summer. Dateonomics did finally come out, which is an awesome book that discusses the gender imbalance. I've learned a whole lot about the economics of dating since starting Dating Ring. Initially I also thought it was that the algorithms were broken, but then I learned that it was more a function of 1) does the site have enough users (Maureen O'Connor had a good piece on this recently), 2) what is the gender imbalance like for your age / demographic and 3) the people themselves (are they making 'smart' dating decisions. Our match rate has definitely been increasing - a lot of couples came out of the woodwork once our product reached the 9 month mark (the main product was launched only a year ago). So at first it seemed that we weren't succeeding, but then I realized that most people aren't going to realize they're couples (or heaven forbid, make it official) if they've only been dating for a few weeks. We also added a big feature during StartUp (Explore) that allows matches to teach us their type / pre-approve other daters, so that's doubled our match success rate, which has been awesome.
151696
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Are there certain cities that have more success with using Dating Ring than others?
4910
Lauren Kay@laurenikay · CEO, Dating Ring
@jacqvon The more users we have, the better our matches are. So because we've been in NYC and SF the longest, I'd say people have slightly more success there.