Non-traditional dating site Grouper launches in Denver today

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Grouper, which launches in Denver today, is the latest social networking site that aims to connect people with similar interests in a possibly romantic way. But Grouper founder and CEO Michael Waxman insists it's not a traditional dating site; this "social club" tries to keep the Internet part of the scenario to a minimum, by eliminating tedious questionaires and focusing on bringing together groups of friends for a night out known as a "Grouper."

Waxman spoke with Westword about the site's launch in the Denver market, and why having your friends along for a first date can make all the difference when getting to know a potential new partner.

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Westword: When you sign on to Grouper, how does it work?

Michael Waxman: It's really simple: you sign up through Facebook, and we use pretty much just that information to match you. We look at your age, where you work, where you went to school, location, gender, sexual orientation, all of that stuff. Then we ask you a few simple questions that we have found matter to some, but not all, people -- but it takes thirty seconds to fill out.

Because we're not a dating site, we don't give you a questionaire to fill out for five hours. That's not what we're about. Our whole attitude is, we want to get you offline and actually hanging out with these people as quickly as possible. So we try to think of our website as kind of getting all of that out of your way so you can actually meet people.

We match you to a guy or girl and you pick a date and each grab two friends and everyone pays a small fee upfront, which covers the first round of drinks. That way, it ensures that people show up and if it's really not going well, because the first round is already paid for, you can politely excuse yourself and walk away. There's no awkward bill fumbling to deal with.

Then you meet the other group, and it's totally on you. We follow up the next morning with a quick note to ask how it went. We'll take your feedback into account for your next match and you can go on as many Groupers as you like.

Denver's Grouper launches today -- why did you choose to launch here?

We've launched in quite a few cities -- there are seventeen cities in all. As recently as a year ago, it was only in New York. But we've been slowly going to other cities and, frankly, we're a little late to get to Denver because we get a lot of inbound requests of people asking about it.

I'm really excited about Denver. It's also been fun to see, as we started to expand outside of New York, the local character and flavor of our member base in each place. You know the stereotypes like, everyone who works in San Francisco works at a tech company and everyone in New York is in fashion and finance. So it's been fun and interesting to see how people really kind of represent where they're from. It changes the flavor of the Groupers they go on and the bars that are there.

What is it about this particular model that you think works or makes it different from other online dating sites?

The two big things for me are that it's not online, and it's not dating; we have an emphasis on getting people to meet in person. We think that's what life is all about, anyway -- not endlessly messaging back and forth or browsing photos. Even if you know the person, first dates one-on-one can be really awkward and uncomfortable. So our second big thing is, it's not a date, it's just you and your two friends and someone else and their two friends.

If there's no chemistry, you can still have a great time. If there's really hilariously no chemistry, you have a great story that you can share with your friends who you're already out with. But then, it also happens to be kind of the way most people end up meeting their boyfriends and girlfriends, anyway. So we like to think that, in that way, it's so much better than a dating site, in part because it's not -- if that makes sense.

Continue reading for more on Grouper -- and details on how to sign up early.

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Name of the site sounds terrible....Grope that a good name for a dating site?

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