A New Take on Online Dating: “Jess Meet Ken”

Once upon a time, Ken’s best friend, Adele, created a witty and honest profile on a [now defunct dating] site…Jessica, a pretty, funny, smart girl lookin’ for love, had just created a profile for her co-worker, Jared. Jessica spotted Ken’s profile and reached out to Adele to find out his deal. Adele knew Jess was perfect for Ken the moment she got her very first email. In fact, she immediately forwarded it to Ken with the subject, “Holy $#!& it’s your wife!” True story. (Click here to read the whole, real email chain!) Needless to say, Adele was right. They got married four years later and now have a happy family including three beautiful little girls.

Ken, Jess and Adele (along with someone in charge of tech & development) have just launched the first Beta stage of their new site “JESS, MEET KEN,” where women can post ads on behalf of their great single guy friends and/or post ads for themselves (those that do so now during Beta1 will receive a free subscription once Beta2 launches in the near future, when they’ll start matching people and making introductions). We asked Ken Deckinger — whom we knew way back from his days as founder of HurryDate  — a few questions about his new endeavor:

So JESS, MEET KEN is still in pre-launch mode – when do you think you’ll launch?

We’re doing it this way so that we can really understand what our users want in our product and also so that we start to build a userbase of men and women before turning on all of the features (an online dating site is only as good as its users so we want to come out of the gates with fabulous people).  We’re not exactly sure when that will happen and won’t really be able to set a date until we get a bit more data. We don’t anticipate it being too far out because we’re way ahead of where we thought we’d be by now.  Either way, the site’s open for women to post themselves and guys now – if they do, they get a first look for free once we go to Beta2.

How is JESS, MEET KEN different from the site you and Jess met on? 

That was a site that allowed users to post on behalf of other people. It was not a traditional dating site.  It existed and was eventually sunsetted out of existence – we don’t know why (although we have theories).  Ours is conceptually similar but very different technology wise – FB and other social functionality that we’ve implemented to make our product rock didn’t even exist at the time so the technology and approach is very different.

Today, there are a lot of sites and apps that introduce you to friends of friends via Facebook. Some are good, some are not. But I don’t think that introducing friends of friends to each other via FB solves the real problems found in online dating.  It’s certainly a big step in the right direction but a strategy that has many holes, and raises new questions, in my opinion.

What was the name of the site you met on?

We don’t tell anyone that. 😉

How do you ensure that the people posting guys are women and not, say, the men themselves in disguise? And why have users sign in solely through Facebook (rather than giving the option of signing up with traditional email and password)…Or did we just answer our first question ourselves?

The first reason is to help ensure that men and women aren’t gaming the system, that men are men and women are women.  The second reason though is to ensure that people are who they say they are – for the safety of our users.  Third would be because it makes our on boarding process simpler for the user.  We are immediately able to get the basic information about a person without having to ask them for it.  It’s a much better user experience because profile creation has fewer steps than a traditional online dating site.

And finally, traditional online dating sites are plagued with scammers, the biggest being the 419 Scam, “Hi, I’m a rich man. My uncle is holding my $15 million. If you can give me $1000 to release the funds, I will give you half the money when I get it.”Facebook plays a big role in helping us address that issue.  Right off the bat we can cut out a significant portion of the scammer noise.  We then have other mechanisms (did I just say “mechanisms”?) to catch people that slip through the cracks.

You give people the option of changing their age – why?

Ha! Great question!  So, that option is there not so people can change their age but rather because in some cases, we’re unable to get a person’s age from their FB profile. Privacy settings allow a FB user to tell us if they want us to have it or not.  So, in the cases where we don’t have a woman’s (or their guy’s) age we give them the option to select it, because we need to know age.  The ability for any user to change their age is actually a bug that we’re fixing right now — it’s just one of those silly beta bugs that we’re correcting.

When someone posts a guy, do they need to get their permission first? 

We ask women to ensure that the guy they are posting knows he is being posted. It’s up to our users to make sure the guy knows.

And how much work will it be for the a woman who posts a guy – do they have to go through all the interested parties themselves first, responding to their questions? Seems like a big commitment for someone who may not even be single herself.

We deliberately made the user experience very simple and straight forward, keeping in mind that in many cases a woman will be making a time investment for someone else, not just herself.  It’s a pretty painless process. FB helps a lot with this.  We’re not a simple as a quick flick like Tinder – we believe that our users want a little more color around who they are meeting.  On the other end of the spectrum though, we’re much more straight forward and have fewer hoops to create a profile than say a Match.com. It’s really pretty quick and easy.

So this is just for heterosexuals right? Or could a woman post an add looking for another woman or could a woman post an ad for her gay female friend?

Right now it’s only heterosexual.  We’re doing only heterosexual because we want to be laser focused on one market segment coming out of the gates.   We have gay/lesbian on our radar and have discussed rolling it out but we’d only do it once we’ve mastered the model with the “Girl post guy” heterosexual market first.

Is it weird to run a site about dating when you are so far removed from that world (now that you’re married with three kids)?

Ha!  Another great question!  Weird – No.  Different than when we started HurryDate and were 100% single – Yes.   It’s not weird because we absolutely love what we’re doing. It comes natural to us to meet great people and introduce them to each other – so we love it.  And I love the technology side of the business – It’s so much fun to build the product that we’re building.  The big difference is that I’m now focused on providing an amazing service whereas before I was also interested in checking out the product. 😉  I no longer use the product that I sell.

Have you ever worked with your spouse before? Do you worry about not getting enough quality time apart now?

I haven’t but since we’re not really working together in an official capacity (Jess has a pretty cool full time job so she’s mostly on the periphery offering advice and guidance), I’m not worried about getting enough QT apart.  The time that we do spend together on Jess, Meet Ken is usually very engaging and exciting to us because we love to talk about it so much.  It brings us closer together because we’re so passionate about it.

Ladies, post your own ad or an ad on behalf of a great single guy friend before the second Beta stage of JESS, MEET KEN launches in order to get your free subscription.