Monday, February 4, 2008

The Offline Factor…OneKeyAway

One of the reoccurring themes arising out of last week’s discussions in Miami was the idea that the strongest, most valuable social networks are those that are born out of offline contact. Players like LinkedIn and A Small World are certainly leveraging this aspect but I thought I would peek across the hall to see what was cooking in the online dating world…

I had an interesting discussion with Edwin Duterte, the President and Founder of OneKeyAway about his business model and how the offline factor plays a major role in his business.

OneKeyAway is a social platform used to draw upscale singles to attend local parties. What makes the business interesting is that it’s a spin off on the "Lock & Key" dating game where some party goers are given locks and other are given keys. The idea being that you have to find the right match and hope that a) there’s an attraction, and b) you have anything in common.

OneKeyAway users sign up to the site and fill out a questionnaire designed by psychologists to analyze critical personality traits that under normal circumstances would take a long time to gather from another individual. The results from the tests are then scored and uploaded to a device the size of a car key. When members arrive at the party, they are given their key and from there, the technology takes over.

Using infrared technology, once a couple starts to mingle and find some attraction, they are able to zap each other to get a reading on their chemistry. This reminds me a bit of the early Palm beaming that went on to upload contact data from other Palm toters. The difference here is that there's an algorithm baked into the "beam" that provides a synergy score. Results are displayed much like a battery life on a cell phone. The strength of the signal reveals the compatibility.

The online registration process allows party goers to get a sense of who will be attending. Some statistical data on what kinds of professionals will be attending are given as well as the gender ratio.

Edwin stressed the importance of offline networking and how the use of a social networking application online should be seen as an enhancement, not the basis of the business.

OneKeyAway generates revenue through admissions. Parties draw anywhere between 100 to 200 singles. Cover charges are between $25 and $35 per person.

If people want to connect after the party, they are hooked up through the platform. For added safety, the extra layer of vigilance provided from the venue operators quickly sorts out under aged individuals.

It occurred to me how efficient this little dating engine was at drawing highly localized members to join. With rich data on the attendees, it offers sharp sponsorship opportunities and of course, some decent exposure for the venues participating.

At first glance, it looks like a fun stand alone business to operate. Looking a bit further down the line, with all the niche interest sites cropping up, I can see its attraction to a long list of vertical interests. Swap this pure play dating model out for niched events and you've got a interesting kick at the can for local-social across different verticals.

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