Online dating has grown exponentially over the past few years, and so have the risks. Former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Quinn Early and Rebecca Isner, a woman he met through an online dating site, co-founded Stroovy, an app designed to help dating site users rate the people they meet online. Family, friends and ex-dates can review dating site users on Stroovy, informing others about the person's positive and negative qualities and, Early says, making online dating safer. He discussed the new app with Gambit.
How did you come up with the idea for this app?
Actually my partner Rebecca Isner came up with the idea. She’s the type of person that reviews everything. For example, when her sons were in college, she would go on ratemyprofessor.com and research to find the best professor who would fit their needs, or if she’s going to a restaurant, then she’s going to see which one has five stars. We spend more time researching toasters than we do researching whom we’re going to spend time with.
[jump] Rebecca was in a relationship for 20 years, and once she got out of that relationship, she decided to try online dating. She met some really nice people, but she also had some really bad experiences. So she thought to herself, "Why can’t there be some place where you can research to find that person?" and that’s how she came up with the idea for Stroovy. [She] and I also met through online dating, and it was the same situation for me. I had gotten out of a 23-year relationship, [Rebecca and I] dated briefly, and she brought up this idea to me. I said to her, "We’re going to be business partners even if we don’t date."
Do you know someone who had a dangerous online dating experience?
Just in terms of speaking to Rebecca, I know she had a couple of experiences that were really bad and dangerous. She met this gentleman; it was going pretty well and they went on about three dates. After dinner on their fourth date, they went back to his place. He had decided that it was time for them to have sex and she wanted to slow it down a little bit, but he forced himself on her, and she had to fight the guy off. Fortunately, she got away from him.
Another time, she was talking to this guy and one day, she was leaving work after a long day and the guy was waiting for her by her car, almost in the darkness - and she was startled. She had no idea how he found her. I guess he had researched where she worked and found out that there were only a couple of women in that position at that place and found her.
Just to give you a few stats: one in 10 sexual predators date online, so that’s roughly about 74,000 sexual predators looking for their next victim, and also 80 percent of online daters lie on their profiles. With women it’s more things like age and body type, and with men, it’s things like marital status or criminal background - and also height.
Why do you think an app like this is important?
Right now, there’s no regulation for online dating; it can be a great tool. Fifteen percent of Americans tried it last year, so roughly about 45 million, but it’s kind of the Wild West right now.
I think it’s important to have a place where you can go authenticate before you date. If you’re talking to someone, you can go on Stroovy and research all the dating apps they are on and that person will come up on our database. You can see what people have said about them. So, basically it’s just an authentication process.
Each user has points on the app. What are they for?
Right now, we have free membership for all of our users, but once our payment wall goes up, then what will happen is those points will give you free time on the app. We are also going to put in more advanced features, so again those points will help you toward those things, like free time and advanced features.
How long will the app remain free?
Probably till the end of the year. We’re thinking six months.
After reviewing the app, it seems it's geared mostly toward helping women with online dating, or is it geared toward all genders?
I’m a martial arts instructor and I’ve worked (on self-defense training) with women’s group for years, so that’s why I was attracted to [Stroovy], because it’s all about safety and knowing who you are going to meet. But what we found during our research is that the trend these days is that men are beginning to get assaulted also. I saw a story not too long ago, where a man met a woman on a dating site and they went out for dinner. Afterwards, she invited him back to her place. When he got there, her boyfriend and his friends were waiting for them and they assaulted they guy. They beat him up, tased him and took all of his stuff. We’re seeing more of that going on.
Our target demographic right now is women because with online dating, wherever the women are, the men will go. The safety aspect is absolutely for the women, but it also applies to the men as well.
Which dating apps are linked on Stroovy?
Any online dating app. This is for all people who online date, no matter what online dating app they are on.
Is this app for people of all sexual orientations?
We have a segment of the LGBTQ community that is on the app, but we are going to re-skin the app for the LGBTQ community, so that will be coming soon. The reason is because not a lot of people want to be outed.
Is that going to be a separate app or will it be within Stroovy?
It'll be within Stroovy. It’ll be separate but the same.
A lot of younger people, teenagers especially, don’t know the dangers of online dating. Are you trying to reach out to them?
Yes, absolutely. This app is all about the education and knowledge of who you’re going to meet. I think with teenagers, they are willing to meet anybody, anytime and anywhere. That’s a mistake. We have an education piece, if you look at "Hot Topics" within the app, there is a blog section and it’s very informative. We are going to do a segment on the younger people ... teenagers and people in their early 20s. Our main demographic is people from the ages of 27 through 55, and the reason is because they are the ones who are looking for a relationship.
How did you come up with the name for this app?
We were sitting around as a company ... trying to decide what should we call this, and as we were talking , I was doodling and I was drawing the male and female symbols and they look like two Os next to each other. I just wrote Stroovy next to it and I said, "That's it." ... It doesn’t necessarily mean anything; it’s just a positive-sounding word.
What are your hopes for the future of this app?
My hope is that we improve the state of online dating by helping people authenticate before they date. Currently there is no community within online dating, so our goal is to build a community where people can go for all things online dating, so before they begin dating someone they’ll know that person is Stroovy-approved.