How I Was Nearly Seduced by Grouper, the Biggest Sham in Online Dating (Updated)

Illustration for article titled How I Was Nearly Seduced by Grouper, the Biggest Sham in Online Dating (Updated)

A month ago, I was approached by Jerry Guo, ostensible Silicon Alley wunderkind who'd turned $400 in transit money into Grouper, a profitable dating startup. He guaranteed me a great time with "3 real girls." Update: Guo apologizes (sorta)

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The whole site's a lie.

I was interested in the idea of a group date, even as a funny diversion. It's a bizarre idea: a three-on-three blind date. So sure, why not? It'd go horribly, of course—but it'd be something to write about, and a novel take on online dating, for a change. So I gave Jerry a "Sure, why not" response, and assumed the rest would be smooth from there.

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Besides, it sounded kind of fascinating! At least in the way Jerry described it:

We have a 2:1 girl:guy ratio right now and it's pretty much the only app I can think of where after 1 min of work (giving us your FB credentials) you can meet 3 real girls and where we've done all the work, include setting up reservations at an awesome lounge. Also some really cool tech on the backend in terms of matching / logistics.

Girls! Cool tech! Logistics! Facebook integration! This was some next level cyberlove shit, and I wanted to peek behind the curtain. I asked Jerry for more information on what he called a "(very sophisticated) logistical engine," and he sent me some images of their back end.

There was no algorithm. No sophisticated logistics engine. Just a list of names.

Next to them was the income they'd listed for themselves, along with other, extremely mundane information. Grouper is the equivalent of picking six names out of a hat, and hoping they all bone. Oh, and of course, Jerry's making $20 a head for everyone hoping for triple date action. The cost to him? However much time it takes to pick three girls for three guys, and Google a bar for them to meet at. This is a low-rent operation. While I was figuring this out, I was receiving incessant calls from Jerry, still hoping I'd go out on a fake date I knew was cobbled together from the heap of half baked internet schlock. Multiple calls, every day.

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We eventually went on the date. The somewhat-ominously referred to "girls" Jerry kept promising us materialized, and we basically immediately scared them off. The whole thing lasted less than 10 minutes.

So it's no surprise he's been called out as a fraud. It's not the first time, after all. And it's no surprise he's abandoning Grouper already. His site is an empty husk. I've talked to the people at Match.com—they employ entire teams to try to predict who'll spark some lusty winks with a stranger. There's serious science put into these serious dating sites. Grouper, on the other hand, is a charlatan's Russian roulette—only the gun's against your head. The worst case scenario, that you're out $20 and a few hours of your life, isn't so bad. But in the meantime, Jerry's foisted himself upon the tech scene as a pioneer, innovator, and matchmaker. He's none of these things—just a lazy fake who's horny for attention, and access to your Facebook account.

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Update: Jerry Guo's posted an apology on his Tumblr, BetaBeat reports, though not for running a shitty website. Rather, he's fessing up to pretending to be a journalist in order to gain insider knowledge from another social network so that he could make said shitty website. At least he's on the righteous path to expiation.

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DISCUSSION

michael229-old
michael229

Michael, CEO and Founder of Grouper here.

Sam - We set you up on an actual Grouper (of which we've done over 200). You, without warning, arrived with cameras and a fourth person then told the girls you were going to use their real identities in your piece. They promptly stormed out, immediately called us to complain about this (and that you were disrespectful to boot), and demanded a refund (which we of course granted them).

We never showed you our matching process or logistics engine (we gave you a single screen shot of one admin dashboard - off the record).

This is irresponsible journalism.

Also, I would kindly request an apology to the three poor girls (who were actual members who we never met) whose night you ruined.

If anyone has any more questions about Grouper I'd be more than happy to answer them.

- Michael

michael@joingrouper.com