Ohlala, with its quirky almost French-sounding name, blends everything you normally see in a dating app with the twist that men are paying women for the dates. And starting tonight at 6:21 PM Eastern, New Yorkers can start using it.
The original Ohlala has been up and running in Germany since August 2015, starting in Berlin and expanding to Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Cologne, and Dusseldorf. In Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, and Hamberg, Ohlala has facilitated over 25,000 of what it calls, insistently, “paid dates.” Founder and CEO Pia Poppenreiter told me that the version in Germany was analyzed closely and that the one launching in the States is basically “a new product” with the goal of making connections even faster.
Ohlala works by allowing male users to create profiles and fill out paid date requests, which include duration (30 minutes, an hour, etc.) and budget. The person must be looking for a date within four hours of placing the request. All active female users see the request, and they have 21 minutes to respond. It’s only after a woman chooses to respond that the requester can see their profile and chat with the woman. Where, Poppenreiter, says the two can finalize the terms of the, er, date.
And lest you think an app that only lets men pay for women seems politically incorrect, Poppenreiter said that Ohlala has many plans for expansion. “We’re looking at L.A. right now,” she told me. Ohlala is also thinking about making a version for women to pay men as well as a version for the gay community.
Of course, laws surrounding paid interactions between adults are different in Germany and the United States. Poppenreiter said that Ohlala has made sure to stay on the right side of the law, “The difference from Germany and New York City is that we’re really actively telling our users that we are not and we cannot promote any illegal activity,” she said. “Illegal activity” in the case of an app that lets a man pay for time with a woman being “prostitution.”
“We’re already seeing that [people] want to put us in the escort corner,” Poppenreiter continued. “So obviously we will not tolerate any illegal activity. And we have the right to notify our users when we find any activity going on and obviously we’ll ban them from the app.” The active campaign on the part of Ohlala is probably the result of the local American lawyers the company consulted when it began plans to launch.
Ohlala would really like people not to focus on the “paid” part of this equation but on the “instant” part. Ohlala wants people to be able to have paid hook ups as quickly as possible. The transition between meeting on the app and in real life has been engineered and re-engineered to try to reach the goal of “instant.” Whether “instant” is fast enough for New Yorkers remains to be seen.
Images courtesy of Ohlala