In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the world was grappling with lockdowns and social distancing, one man took it upon himself to create meaningful connections. Ian, the founder of DateNight, embarked on a journey that would not only change his life but also the lives of thousands worldwide. This is the story of how DateNight was born, grew, and made a lasting impact.
Ian's arrival into the world of dating began when he co-founded a Facebook group called "CoronaCrush - creating Jewish couples in quarantine" with a group of friends. He began by inviting people into the group and encouraging them to post flattering bios of their single friends within the group. What started as a small initiative in Israel quickly expanded to New York City and then started to grow globally. Newspapers and social media outlets soon reached out to him, driven by curiosity about the emerging virtual community.
Within a month the CoronaCrush Facebook group had over 10,000 members. Ian saw the potential and realized that more could be done to bring people together.
Ian took the initiative to run a speed dating event within the group, marking the birth of DateNight. The first event was an online speed dating session conducted on Zoom. Ian managed the event manually using Google Forms and a Python script to match participants. The demand was incredible, with thousands of people expressing interest within a short period.
But how did Ian have the background to undertake such an endeavor?
DateNight wasn't officially registered as a company until a year later. In the initial months, Ian focused on building the platform and organizing events, driven by the noble intention of helping people meet each other. The events were entirely free, and Ian hosted around 30 of them before considering monetization.
After eight months of running events for free, Ian faced the challenge of a significant number of no-shows. Nervous about charging people and seeming selfish, he devised a solution: deposits. Additionally, he allowed participants to donate money at the end of events, which started generating revenue. It was then that Ian realized DateNight had the potential to be a business.
Partnerships played a crucial role in DateNight's growth. Collaborations with organizations like Chabad houses, Jewish universities, and other Jewish and Israeli organizations expanded DateNight's reach beyond its initial boundaries.
Running Zoom dating events came with its set of challenges, especially for a self-made programmer like Ian. He had to learn to build a platform from scratch and create a website and algorithm. Staying awake across different time zones and making last-minute modifications was not uncommon.
Scaling issues occasionally cropped up but were quickly resolved for subsequent events. The positive feedback after each event, stories of couples forming, and people finding friends during a lonely time drove Ian to continue and improve.
When Ian talks about DateNight, his passion shines through. He is proud of the impact his project had during COVID-19, helping thousands of people combat loneliness and connect with others.
As for the future, the vision is really about helping people have healthier and more successful relationships. The goal is to educate people on how to thrive in relationships, extending DateNight's mission beyond virtual speed dating.
Fun fact: Ian is not just a virtual matchmaker; he's also a skilled chess player, having won the world championship of bughouse. To his friends and family, Ian is an admirable figure they can't help but be proud of.
DateNight’s journey from CoronaCrush to where it is now is a testament to what one person's passion and determination can achieve in even the most challenging of times.