You are getting this email because you signed up on Dinner Club. I wanted to write to tell you a little bit about me, the project, what you can expect from it and the support I need from you guys to be able to run it successfully.
Before we continue. I need one more thing from you. It’s hard to understand someone’s vibe if I haven’t met them before and the most scalable way to do this is through a 1-min selfie video introducing yourself and telling me why you are signing up on Dinner Club. As with the other data you’ve shared with me thus far, this video will not be publicly shared anywhere. This field has been added on the form as an afterthought, so those of you who haven’t uploaded this yet can go back and do so now. You will be eligible to earn social credit (including the joining bonus of 15 points) only after this step.
Firstly, I want to first introduce myself…
and I’ll do this Dinner Club style.
Name: Priyanka Bharadwaj
Age: 33 yrs
Location: Bangalore, India
Bio: I am a relationship coach and a marriage market strategist. I run Marriage Broker Auntie. I spend my time thinking about love, dating, relationships and the markets on which these are traded.
Weird things about me: Although I’m only 33, I’ve been married for a decade. I knew my husband virtually for 2 years before I met him for the first time. So, may it’s not that much of a surprise that I am running this virtual blind dating project.
How Dinner Club started.
Over 7 years ago, I caught the matchmaking bug when I set up two friends who ended up dating and then getting married. I started connecting more people within my network which was a lot of fun, but really hard to scale. This also made curation harder, and then it was a vicious cycle. Remember, this was 2013 when Tinder and its look a-likes were just coming to India. When you could have an algorithm giving you infinite choice everyday, why bother with a human matchmaker, right?
I’d abandoned this initiative after a year until last week when I met someone (or not) on Lunchclub. That’s when it hit me that this was exactly like dating - I’d met people who only spoke about themselves, I’d met people who I’d interesting conversations with and I’d met people I’d want to meet again. So, as a spur of the moment decision, I put out this tweet…
Obviously, at the time, I didn’t think that hundreds of you will show an interest, and so clearly I am under-prepared for what I am about to do. But hey, if I can set up at least 3 dates (6 people) in the week of launch, and the dates aren’t too terrible, we should be good to continue the experiment, right?
What Dinner Club is about.
Dinner Club is about introducing spontaneity, and maybe a bit of serendipity in life. It’s like meeting someone you didn’t expect to meet at a friend’s party and then having a great conversation with them without any expectations. Does this mean you will meet the love of your life here? I don’t know. There are no guarantees in life, and I am not about to make an exception.
At the very core, there are two things this club is based on:
It’s important that every member trusts the club to be a safe space. Honesty is the basis of all relationships. I will take utmost care to the extent possible to ensure that I’ve vetted people for apparent trustworthiness and genuineness before I set two people up on a date. I don’t mind if this means that each person is set up on a date no more than once a month, but I’m not in any rush. I trust that you understand what this means and trust that you will act responsibly.
Kindness is under-rated. A little kindness can go a long way. Being open is being kind. Allowing another person a chance to talk is kind. Turning up when you are supposed to is kind. I trust that every member of the club feels like they can afford a bit of kindness to others.
What’s in it for me?
At the most carnal level, the cheap thrill I get out of introducing two people who’d be glad I introduced them.
This is my chance to heal from a bad break up and make it right. As I said, I never did a “post-mortem” of my project from 7 years ago. Of course there were tonnes of lessons learnt, but I’ve never really tried to check if those lessons learnt were the right ones. Could we have gotten dating all wrong with the internet? Is it possible to “feel” anything virtually? Does friction, choice or control influence the way we perceive dating? I have too many unanswered questions that I am seeking answers for through this project.
What’s in it for you?
A chance to be a part of an experiment that’s not been done before (I think?). After all, if you are reading this, you are a beta user.
Given your busy lives, it’s not always easy to meet new people. While dating apps have greatly helped with discovery, getting to a face to face conversation involves a lot of work - swipe all day, pray for a match, hope for conversations to move outside of an app before you could potentially meet face to face. By signing up on Dinner club, you’ll be outsourcing most of that work to me and all you have to do is “meet” your date, have a good time and see what comes off of that introduction.
As with all experiments, I’ve chosen a small target group (professionals) which is essentially an extension of my own network (3-4 degrees apart). The reason I’ve chosen this group is because I’ve access to it and helps preserve trust (to some extent).
How this will work
You signed up here by providing some basic details. I’ll learn about you through:
The sign up form (feel free to keep it as detailed as possible)
Your Linkedin profile which will help me understand and verify your professional background (working/ student/on a career break)
Your social links will add another layer of diversity in learning about you
Your selfie video which will help me understand your vibe and also, help verify that you are who you say you are
Once you’ve completed this step, your social credit account will be opened on Dinner Club and your joining bonus of 15 points will be added.
Broadly, I will try and introduce you to people who are roughly in the same age group as you unless you’ve expressed a preference otherwise. I’ll also try to match you based on your intention of being on Dinner Club, so you’ve something to break the ice. With a few hundred people, I can’t afford the luxury of matching within the same city always, but I’ll try. However, I want to remind you that this is a virtual dating project, which means, in principle, your location doesn’t matter. And come on, who’s going out now anyway?
Beyond this, the final matching process is fluid. It’s random, it’s intuition based. I’ll be relying on my 7 years of experience talking to people about who they like and who they don’t. I am fully aware that I’ve picked the toughest group to work with. Each and every one of you is super interesting and has very particular preferences, so more often than not, there will be fewer matches than expected. This project is likely going to work best when all parties are as open as possible about the outcomes.
3. The Blind Date
If and when I have a match, I will send you an email with a line about why I am setting you up and a video call link so you can meet your match at a time that is pre-destined. I am yet to figure out the technology to set this up, and if you’ve ideas, I am open to hearing them. No personal details will be shared at this point.
Every time you go on a blind date, you use up 5 points from your social credit. Each date lasts 30 minutes. You are expected to come dressed up well for your date as if it were in person, and take the call from a place with good lighting (you should be facing the light. Avoid light in the background).
You are encouraged to bring a drink along as if you were really meeting someone for dinner. You are free to talk about whatever you want. You are also encouraged to get to know your date better. Through weekly newsletters, I’ll be providing you with tricks, tips and tools to help break the ice/ keep your blind dates interesting. You will also have the option of signing up for workshops or personalised pre-date pep talks, if you want.
I expect both parties to turn up no later than 5min after start of the date. You are free to leave any time after 5min if your date hasn’t turned up. You will receive an email 10min into your date checking on you to see if your date has turned up. If they haven’t, please respond to the email by letting me know. Anyone who is found ghosting is immediately removed from the club.
Now, not everyone gets to go on a date every week. There are several reasons for that - I may not have a match for you, I may not have the bandwidth just yet to orchestrate too many dates, When I am not setting you up on a date, you still get to enjoy other benefits of being in the club - attend group dinner parties (virtual of course) where we chat about the club, get to know each other better and hang out. I also plan on sending weekly newsletters to keep you company by sharing interesting titbits on what’s happening in the club and providing resources to make your dates more fun.
4. After the date
After the date, you are expected to rate each other on niceness, relevance and provide feedback on what went well and what didn’t. I’ll wait until you’ve provided feedback before I set you up on another date. This helps me learn better about your preferences and also helps me ensure that the club is always full of nice people. I understand that these ratings are subjective, but I expect everyone in this club to be responsible about rating. The niceness rating is added as points to your social credit.
If you really enjoyed a date, and you’d like to see them again, I’ll be happy to set you up with the same person again on a double opt-in basis. If not, life goes on. There will also be times when your date does not go as well as you expected. Despite your best attempt at being open, you may simply dislike having spent 30 minutes of your life on someone you didn’t connect with. This is when your feedback becomes important to help curate a better experience for you, and the rest of the club.
5. Social Credit
Dinner Club is currently an experimental project being run to test a bunch of hypotheses previously stated. The matchmaking problem is a little bit of a chicken and egg problem. Without sufficient number of suitable profiles, you can’t make good matches. Without good matches, you can’t bring in more people. So, we use the concept of social credit to grow, incentivise behaviour and add value to the club as this isn’t a funded venture.
Some of the ways in which you can earn credit are as follows:
By being nice on your dates
By inviting friends (of the opposite sex)
By getting friends (of the opposite sex from within the club) to vouch for your coolness through written testimonials
By volunteering to organise dinner parties (virtually) for members of the club
Currently, I’ve edited the form to include details of who referred you and who you’d like to refer to make it easier. If you came through a referral, or referred someone, please go back and edit your form to include these details. Lots of you are pouring in with suggestions on incentives as you sign up, and I want to be able to give every great idea a chance, which is why, I want to keep the incentives dynamic to aide the growth of the club.
6. Leaving Dinner Club
As sad as writing this section makes me, I understand the limitations of my project. I am one person trying to match hundreds of people amongst themselves with little use of technology. This is prone to a lot of slip ups despite my best planning. People may find their matches irrelevant and not have the patience to let me learn over time. I may not be able to match everyone causing frustration amongst eager users. All of this will lead to some undesired churn, but at this point of time, I can only say…
Give me three months, if I cannot give you what you expected of Dinner Club, I’ll write to you personally with an apology and an explanation for why I failed with your particular case.
If you just want to stop receiving this weekly newsletter, there’s an unsubscribe option right at the bottom. You can leave Dinner Club by sending me an email on email@example.com. Once you leave, your details will be removed from the database, and you will no longer be contacted by me unless you indicate a preference otherwise.
Now, just like you, I don’t want to go into this with a lot of expectations. I don’t expect this project to disrupt the dating industry or anything. But if it does, wouldn’t it be so cool that you and I were the first ones here? Ok no. I’m keeping it cashhh.
The project is going live on 25th June 2020 i.e. in 10 days. Between now and then, I will need to learn a little bit about everyone who’s signed up, find matches, set up infrastructure to organize dates, collect feedback, tabulate and maintain social credits, organise newsletters and a million other things that I haven’t yet thought about yet.
For now, I am aiming to setup upto 3 dates on Thursday (25th). For at least a month, I expect to be setting up no more than 3 dates a week every Thursday. Once I’ve a reasonable process in place, I will be able to increase the number of dates per week and offer other time slots.
When I find myself setting up 10 dates in a week, I will need more hands than I’ve got to run this grand experiment. So, in case you know someone with tech skills to help me build the infra or skills to help keep the community engaged, you should definitely make an intro. I could trade social credit for some help ;)
I am so excited to be launching this project, and I hope that you’re just as excited.
My door is always open for ideas and feedback. Do not hesitate to drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not have the resources or infrastructure to address it immediately, but I promise that I will find a way to address it later rather than never.
In case you want to upload your introduction video, here’s the link.
In the meantime, tell your friends!