Find a Date with ‘Jess Meet Ken’
If you’re a guy looking for love this Valentine’s Day, you’ve got some options: Try and snag a girl with a tank of gas, flip through Tinder, or work your online dating profile until you score a date. But your best bet might be trying to hook up with a girl willing to help you find your match. The new Boston-based dating site Jess, Meet Ken, which launched late last month, is flipping the online dating concept on its head by putting all of the control of making and finding dates in the hands of women.
The concept is simple, particularly if you’re had a mother, aunt, or other Yenta that’s tried to set you up. Women log onto the site through Facebook and select the men in their lives that they love—just not that way. They answer 10 questions about the guy—How is his relationship with his mother? Is he good looking? What does he do?—then fill out a short profile saying why he’s a catch. Men have to do little beyond agreeing to take part. The ladies take it from there, and message each other when they find a guy that might be of interest.
“If a single woman finds a man that she’s interested in meeting or getting to know, she gets in touch with the woman that posted the guy,” the site’s CEO and cofounder, Ken Deckinger explains (and yes, he is the Ken who gave the site its name). “All the guys are vouched for and recommended by another woman.” He says that on typical dating sites, women are bombarded with emails from guys, making it really hard to cut through the noise and find a suitable match. There’s a trust level there, too, as girls can be more honest with each other about what’s attractive about the guy. Women using the site must pay to interact with the other posters, but if they upload a guy themselves then access is free. You also don’t need to be single to post a guy (so yes, you can post your son, moms everywhere).
Ken says he knows that this type of dating works: It’s how he met his wife. In the early aughts, the BC business school grad had moved to New York and launched a speed dating company called HurryDate with his friend and current cofounder Adele Tongish. The pair had achieved some sizable success; before they sold the company to Spark Networks (of JDate and Christian Mingle fame) they were hosting 150 events a month in 45 cities in three countries. But Ken actually met his wife, Jess, after Adele posted his profile on a now-defunct dating site, adding a goofy photo and a quick write-up about why he was fabulous. When Jess spotted Ken’s profile and asked Adele for more info, Adele immediately spotted a match. She forwarded Ken Jess’s note with the subject line: “Holy S#*% it’s Your Wife.” He says 20 minutes into their first date they knew they were going to get married.
That was back in 2003. In the years since, he and Jess have told their story hundreds of times, and he says the response from women has always been dramatic: They love the idea of the site and would be bummed to learn it no longer existed. So in the past year, when Ken and Jess decided to relocate to Boston, it seemed a fitting time to revisit the idea. “Conceptually it’s the same, but technology-wise, it’s very different,” he says. “We’re doing things on our site that just weren’t possible and didn’t exist at the time, like leveraging Facebook and other cool technology that we’re putting in place that is making our site better than what existed before.”
The results have been promising as they’ve been getting a solid 25- to 35-year-old demographic of people who are looking for more than a hookup: “Hopefully what we’re building is a deeper, more qualitative experience,” he says. Right now, they’re going to keep the authority in the hands of women until they master the concept. So it’s only a matter of time before your resident Yenta finds it.