18-24 year-olds go crazy for online ?speed-dating? phenomenon

“The site isn’t pink. There are no love hearts scattered on the homepage. This is not a dating site,” says Berkowski. “It’s just a place where people can meet, become friends and socialise.” Berkowski was inspired to launch Woo Me after the runaway success of speed-dating in the UK. “It’s so efficient,” he says. “You get 30 girls and 30 guys in one room. Some will fancy each other. It’s just so easy.” But he shied away from doing a straight online version because of the heavy, “I’m looking for a life partner” perception of online dating.  “Online dating’s still stigmatised,” he says. “All those people going, ‘I’m single and I really want to find someone.’ I wanted to use the speed-dating model to help people meet each other. Without the rest of it.” The site has been live for three months. And already Woome.com has garnered a following of some 200,000 users. The service is free, for now, but the management team is working out how best to commercialise the site. “We’ve already introduced a credit system,” says Berkowski. “It’s just that at the moment credits are free. Soon we’ll introduce premium services that you will have to pay for.” Despite the lack of revenue model, Woome has attracted some big-name support. Its first round of funding amounted to some £1.5m from the likes of Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Mangrove Capital, and angel investor Klaus Hommels. So here’s how it works. Users sign up to the site, craft a profile, create “sessions” – group activites where other members can opt in and chat about anything from the Arctic Monkeys to their weekend’s shenanigans – and use video and audio to simulate a real-life speed-dating, with each member of a chat group given two minutes of one-on-one time with the other people in the “room”. “Our unique visitors are doubling every month,” says Berkowski. “It’s taken on a life of its own. We’ve seen people dancing in sessions, playing Guitar Hero… We’re introducing a Youtube-style option to record sessions and make them public.” The site’s target demographic is the highly sophisticated, tech-savvy 18-24 year-olds. People who are comfortable online and want to meet new people and share friends. Woome.com has become so addictive to some of these users that they volunteer as “interns” on the site, moderating sessions 24 hours a day. Ultimately, the site is all about fun. “It’s just a great way to waste time,” says Berkowski.

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