It’s a chicken-egg problem for startups who take the DIY approach: How to demonstrate growth to investors while severely bootstrapped until funding comes through. Los Angeles-based At The Pool was approached by several local accelerators, but decided to go out on its own, two weeks ago launching a mashup of dating site Match.com with group networking portal Meetup. At The Pool released its mobile optimized site today.
Founder Alex Capecelatro says an iPhone and Android app can’t happen until At The Pool closes funding and gets the cash to hire a full-time mobile developer. For the past month, Capecelatro has met with eight of the leading VC firms from DFJ to NEA, plus a half dozen angels. Six angels have promised $50,000 contingent on a $250,000 raise from lead investor.
“They love the idea, but they want to see traction and a promise that users are going to stay on the site,” says Capecelatro. “That’s the tricky part.”
Using a matching algorithm similar to dating sites, users provide info about their lifestyle and At The Pool suggests like-minded, nearby people with whom to hang out. The site has had hundreds of sign ups each week since its launch. Users are already meeting matches in major cities, but a solo sign up in say, Dubai, can for now only receive matches who live in a nearby country. Capecelatro’s goal is to grow to 500,000 users over next six months.
“It’s like a Groupon daily deal, but it’s someone new, each day, that we think you should meet,” says Capecelatro.
A “pool” is a group connected by a shared activity or interest, from entrepreneurship to modern art. Capecelatro’s team has created many pools based on previously established Meetup groups or reoccurring Facebook events. The most popular pools so far include Silicon Beach, LA Triathlon and Digital LA.
The focus on one-on-one relationships through existing communities is what Capecelatro thinks differentiates At The Pool from Meetup or apps such as Highlight and Glancee, which he says have a “creep factor.” Recently launched app Gather is trying to eliminate that problem by connecting friends and friends of friends.
“We join groups to meet other people in the group, but no technology shows us who they are,” says Capecelatro, adding two members of a triathlete pool were recently matched up and started training together based on where they live and similar schedules.
The new mobile site has only two functions, the ability to browse a profile or chat with a match, a conscious choice says Capecelatro to make it simple for people to meet up. Check out the beta version of At The Pool using the invite code “pando.”