Potential FounderDaters must answer a series of questions about their skills and experiences, and they must provide references. Alter is determined to keep it small and selective. For a February round in San Francisco, they accepted just 55 of 500 applicants.
Currently, accepted applicants pay a one-time fee of about $50. Alter says that FounderDating, which counts Charles River among its sponsors, is working on the quality of its network right now and will focus on monetizing later on.
While it is still quite young, the service is seeing results. Alter believes nearly a dozen companies have been created by members, including Hegarty’s and Leyden’s latest effort, Signature Labs, which offers a shopping app.
Leyden, who found out about FounderDating on Twitter, thought the service would be a good way to find a partner who had the business savvy he lacked as a programmer. At the time, he was working as a contract employee for a company based in Germany and trying to build iPhone apps on the side.
Hegarty, meanwhile, was hoping to find someone technically minded to help him found a new venture. A former member of Microsoft’s corporate strategy group, he was running a service called Hollrr that let people share product recommendations with friends. It was initially successful but soon “fell off a cliff,” Hegarty says—a failure he attributed to working with programmers based in Poland while he was in San Francisco.
Hegarty and Leyden started out by talking about mobile apps that focused on social interaction and product recommendations. In the summer of 2010 this grew into their first product, a mobile app called SnapDragon, which included entertainment and digital comics that a user could gain access to by “checking in” to everyday products with an iPhone.
Featuring a pink dragon that made fun of users, SnapDragon didn’t last. But it did lead to an introduction with a big Bay Area retailer (the guys won’t say who), which led to the development of their new project, Signature.
Based in San Francisco, Signature Labs released its first iPhone app, called Signature, in November. Signature acts as a personal shopping assistant, allowing consumers to see new merchandise at participating stores, add items to a wish list, and send messages to specific salespeople. A corresponding app for stores gives sales associates access to customer wish lists and other information, and alerts them if a Signature shopper checks in at the store.
Signature Labs has snagged funding from investors including venture capital firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson and NEA, and its retail partners include Neiman Marcus department stores and jeans retailer 7 for All Mankind.
Both Hegarty and Leyden speak positively about the FounderDating experience, saying one of the good things about it is that it lets you start fresh with someone totally new. “There’s definitely a lot of benefit of not having any baggage from previous friendship or family relationships,” Leyden says.
They’ve kept in touch with a number of people from their initial event, even hiring a designer they were introduced to through someone connected to the FounderDating network.