Grouvly, at first glance, looks every inch like a stereotypical dating site: Homepage with a photo of good-looking men and women? Check. Men and women are laughing and enjoying themselves over drinks? Check. Site has a tagline that includes the words “hook up”, “make new friends” or the like? Check, definitely.
But that’s where a visitor to the site would be wrong, because Grouvly, in actual fact, calls itself a “social club”. In an interview with co-founder and CEO Camilo Paredes, he explained that despite being aware that members are using the site for dating purposes, Grouvly wants to stay away from the stigma associated with dating sites and apps.
Instead, Grouvly invites members to bring along two friends to their meetup (or what they call “a Grouvly”), where they’ll meet with another group of three friends. The two groups are selected by the Grouvly team, and are chosen based on information from members’ Facebook profiles (users must register on the site via Facebook before they can attend meetups).
Grouvly locations are also decided upon by the team. This is because, as Camilo explains, “Our value proposition is not only about meeting/connecting with new people in the real world, but it’s also about venue discovery…if things go wrong, you’re still with your friends and it will be a good laugh.”
Camilo, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur in the tech industry, shared how the idea for Grouvly came about. He was backpacking in Asia for five months, he says, when he noticed a unique opportunity in the region’s markets. The dating scene in Asia, in particular, had a fair number of problems, at least to Camilo:
- People are consumed by their mobile phones — in countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea, groups of friends in bars are not talking to each other, and are instead glued to their mobiles.
- The dating scene is outdated and doesn’t solve the real problem: swiping, browsing and messaging keeps people online and makes it extremely hard for one to arrange a meetup with quality people in the real world.
- Asians in general are more timid and they have a hard time meeting new people.
To help, Camilo decided to start Grouvly. It was first launched in Hong Kong in January 2015, and as of last month, has made its way to Singapore’s shores.
According to Camilo, Grouvly has benefitted not only their members; the team has also gained a member through the site, after Camilo made a hire on a Grouvly he attended.
He’s also heard quite the range of stories about members’ experiences: some users, he shared, moved together after meeting for the first time. Others became good friends, while in a somewhat NSFW turn, he revealed that he once got a call from their venue partners, “saying that two participants were having sex in the toilets while on a Grouvly.”
Grouvly seems like a promising enough idea: it’s different enough to pique my interest, and the fact that members can bring along friends — a comforting thought, especially for those who’re more shy — is likely to encourage sign ups.
That said, I can’t help but feel slightly creeped out by the tagline on their site — “You & 2 friends. Meet another group of 3. For a drink and beyond” — but maybe that’s just me.
Overall, I’d say that Grouvly is a pretty interesting addition to the local social scene. With a bit of luck — the site is still largely seen as a dating site, and the stigma associated with those is present among some groups of Singaporeans — and as word gets out, us shy Singaporeans might just get in on the social club fun.
Grouvly is currently fundraising, and plans to expand to new cities in Asia. Plans to launch a mobile app is also in the works.