Big news, people: Video dating is out (was it really ever in?), and hooking up with a little help from dot.com central is easy, not that scary, and fun. Irma Zandl of New York City marketing consulting firm The Zandl Group sees a rosy future for modern-day matchmaking. "If a service has really good word-of-mouth about the quality of its match-ups, I think [consumers]--especially guys--will pay a great deal of money," she says. "Think of all the money they waste on useless dates! This would be very economical." Welcome to 2000.
Rutgers University's National Marriage Project last July found marriage rates are at an all-time low. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the number of women living solo doubled between 1970 and 1996, while the number of loner men tripled. It's pretty obvious society needs some love.
E-introduction services like Winkat.com start where chat-room flirtations leave off. Launched last May with $12,000 by Justin Willow, 28, Chris Lindland, 27, and Nicholas Nicholas, 27 (l. to r.), this San Francisco venture offers a "second chance" with that hot thing you saw at Denny's. If he/she also knows about the service, or if you have their e-mail address, you can have Winkat notify them regarding your crush. The company expects profitability soon but currently pays dues with page view revenues and an exclusive partnership with online storage company i-drive.com.
"As more people become accustomed to finding information online, they'll [come to expect] things like this," says Nicholas, who found love within a week of thinking up the idea (purely coincidental). "Being uncomfortable approaching another person is nothing new. What is new is that there are solutions to the awkwardness."