From Nick Barron. Follow him on Twitter @nbarron; email him at nick[AT]borderstan.com.
There are things DC does without thinking (Presidential motorcades, snowstorm hysteria), but last night a slice of the city did something that doesn’t come natural to the Capital: Throw a tech startup launch party.
The event, to kick-off DC-based Hinge’s iPhone app launch, generated 1,900 RSVPs on its Facebook page.
Judging by the crowd, most who said they would show did, filling up the 12th floor of the brand-new startup incubator/co-working space/startup training ground called 1776, headed by entrepreneur and former Startup DC chair Evan Burfield.
Hinge is a dating app that uses your Facebook friends and their friends to pair you up with someone to date.
You could only attend the party one of two ways: If one of the organizers, like Hinge co-founders Justin McLeod and Bennett Richardson, invited you, or if someone who was invited brought you along.
Attendees entered 1776’s 15th Street-facing doors, checked in by iPhones and iPads and taken on an elevator ride to the building’s 12th floor.
Off the elevator you hear the thumping music. To your right is the coat check, straight ahead is the step and repeat (think backdrop for Oscar photos, but with Hinge’s logo), and to your left, filling the largely open space, is a mass of people obscured by darkness, save for the random laser beam or other whirling club lighting.
“I think the open space made it (event) unique,” attendee Sasha Horne said. “Because the venue is still under construction it was reminiscent of a Bushwick warehouse party.”
Most importantly for a majority of attendees, the open bar, arranged as a square, sat in the middle of the space. As the night tore on, people mingled, drank and danced, enjoying the free booze brought forth by the launch of an iPhone app.
“We were overwhelmed by everyone’s support, and we even spotted some friends of friends connecting at the party,” Richardson said.
And for those not worried about sleep or responsibility, an after party commenced around midnight at The Huxley.
It’s the kind of event now ho-hum in Silicon Valley, but that DC doesn’t do.
We celebrate campaigns, snow days or Fridays, but in these parts we don’t drink to technology. We don’t acknowledge the launch or milestones of companies funded by venture capitalists.
Last night part of DC did just that, however.
And today many who were there might be wishing Hinge could help them not only find a date, but cure a hangover.
Do you trust your friends to proactively hook you up with someone you should meet?
With Hinge, you don’t have to.
A Facebook application that, in the words of founder and Borderstan resident Justin McLeod, “helps you privately meet dates within your social network.”
McLeod’s inspiration for Hinge came after Facebook friending a girl he thought was a good match for him, and with whom he shared a business school class. He discovered they shared common Facebook friends, none of whom had connected the dots and introduced McLeod and his classmate to each other.
It’s the use of Facebook’s social graph, the social network’s web of members, to connect friends of friends for dating that’s the goal of Hinge.
“We learn your tastes by you rating and answering questions about your current Facebook friends, then we search through your friends of friends to suggest your most compatible matches,” McLeod said.
Hinge isn’t online dating, though. It’s a game, and you can play whether you’re single or not.
“Taken folks can play as matchmakers and help improve their friends’ matches,” McLeod said.
After graduating from Harvard Business School, and meeting a girl his friends should have introduced him to, McLeod started working on Hinge. He mapped out the app, hired developers to build a prototype, and raised money last winter.
Hinge now has three full-time staff, McLeod, his co-founder Bennett Richardson and a lead engineer, AJ Bonhomme.
“We take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” McLeod said.
Team Hinge works out of The Fort, a startup accelerator in downtown DC.
Hinge is a player in DC’s much talked about tech startup scene, a community that’s more supportive than cutthroat.
“Everyone in DC wants everyone else in DC to succeed, and most fellow founders are always ready to do you a favor whenever you need a hand,” McLeod said.
Not much unlike, perhaps, Hinge lending a hand in helping you find a date.