Dates set up by Ohlala end the same: with the man paying the woman for her time.
Wait, what? You'd be forgiven to think the dating service sounds too similar to an escort service, but Ohlala CEO and co-founder Pia Poppenreiter says the monetary exchange is actually all about creating a connection and getting men and women to meet in person as quickly as possible.
“People have become overwhelmed by the time and difficulty it takes to get an actual date online,” Poppenreiter says. “Tired of the friction caused by superficial platforms that claim to offer an avenue for instant connections, we’ve focused Ohlala on creating true instant dates, making offline encounters happen quickly.”
Ohlala currently only allows women to collect. Men still have to do most of the work, as they’re responsible for listing the details of a proposed date, what they’re looking for and the amount they're willing to pay per hour.
With the option to remain anonymous until indicating interest, women have 21 minutes to respond. Once a connection is made, the "couple" has four hours to negotiate pay or other details and go on the date.
The co-founder says that by raising the stakes, allowing users to make intentions clear and adding a time limit, it makes the dating game clear and instantaneous. There are a few rules involved, too. For example, users have to be at least 21 and can get kicked off the service if they receive a certain number of complaints and warnings.
The concept might not be too far fetched, as Ohlala recently raised $1.7 million. The app has already arranged 25,000 paid dates in just six months after launching in Berlin and later Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Cologne and Dusseldorf. Though it’s difficult to confirm how much the hourly rate for dates are since they're confirmed privately, listings offer anywhere from 200 to 250 euros. Ohlala made its debut in the U.S. with a launch in New York on Feb. 4.
“The way the concept is right now it really fits the demand of a busy lifestyle and we find New York City to be the perfect place to test our product,” Poppenreiter says.
For now, the app doesn’t support payments online, so transactions have to be made in person. However, Poppenreiter says her team is working on a version that would include the capability along with a fee.
Transactions included or not, Poppenreiter believes what happens on the date is a private matter, which is why the company strives to protect the integrity of its users.
So far, Poppenreiter says there hasn’t been any incidents or reports relating to Ohlala in its existing markets. The company hopes to keep things that way as it continuously works to update security and add more features, such as phone and user verification, online payment options, date review/feedback and possibly even turning the tables to allow women to offer dates and men make the selections.
Poppenreiter's interest in this particular market stems from a curiosity in the online dating culture after listening to a number of complaints regarding a lack of actual follow through on the part of potentials daters. Her last project, Pepper, was an app that was specifically created to connect users to erotic entertainers. Because of a number of issues regarding the interface, that venture didn’t catch on.
Ohlala isn’t the only paid dating service in the U.S. A few online options span from sites such as HiDine (a dating service for foodies) and WhatsYourPrice.com, which promises men that they’ll “Go on More Dates With Beautiful Women … by simply using your wallet.”
The big difference is these sites don’t mind being deemed a “Sugar Daddy” service.
But common sense has never been a driving force in the game of dating and love. So who knows? Breaking it down to dollars and cents may help even the playing field. At the very least, you might get “Ohlalucky.”Related: HowAboutWe's Founders Redefine Online Dating -- And What It Means to Be a CEO