In my continuing effort to scour the globe for new internet ventures, I present you SubMate, a pal finding service for commuters. Submate is still under wraps and apparently based in NYC though they have ambitions of offering the service in “9 countries and 20 cities.” One of the co-founders is Laurent Kretz. SubMate was supposed to beta test this summer in NYC or Paris but that hasn’t materialized yet. Whether the slippage is due to the unnamed big competitor unveiling a related service in their home market or the typical delays that plague startups is unknown.
In a nutshell, SubMate allows users to create profiles and enter their travel routes and use that information to find others to befriend on (or off) their commutes. The matching can be done algorithmically or by browsing profiles. They founders pride themselves on having a rich feature set and social networking to differentiate SubMate from original dating services, including the emerging related category of “missed connections” sites.
Let’s jump into positioning issues since a beta isn’t available to demo and marketing is most interesting anyway.
What is this animal? Essentially SubMate exploits an arbitrary context for people to connect. Many services do this creatively:
It's Just Lunch - Lunch dating
It's Just Coffee - Coffee dating
Dinner at 8 - Group Dinner dating
Table for Six - Group Dinner dating
HurryDate - Group Speed dating
DogMeet - Dog dating / networking
MeetUp - Group interest networking
Craigslist - Missed connections (regret dating)
terevoire - Missed connections
Dilelui - Missed connections on commute
SubMate joins the list of contextual angles. Will it fly? Yes, but how high? Commuting is an interesting angle on matchmaking. I don’t see it working well for busy commuters in or near the city center who have to rush to work and fight mobs of people on the train. Those are terrible conditions under which to socialize. (Extemporaneous socializing – or flirting – is not the same as planned.) Just coordinating a time to meet on the same commute is a hassle when getting to work on time is a challenge. (Meeting after work for the reverse commute is more practical.) People who travel long distances on scheduled trains (and hopefully find seats) might find scheduled companionship practical, say those who take the RER in Paris or the Metro North or LIRR in NYC.
Who would want companionship? Singles. Any fresh angle for dating is welcome. Unfortunately, as I’ve explained, this seems practical only for people taking RER or LIRR-type commuter rail and those people are usually married. (Families move to the suburbs.) So professionals with common interests? Wall Street bankers commuting to NYC from Westchester on Metro North? Maybe. I think people on a regular commute learn their neighbors and co-workers and have that companionship if wanted. For most, commuting is private time to check their BlackBerry, read the Wall Street Journal or Les Échos -- or sleep. Perhaps just as some people are introverts and others are extroverts, some will welcome the opportunity to talk to a kindred spirit. However, do people want to meet the same sex one on one for common interests? Group meeting avoids "gayness." Premeditated one on one has a high awkwardness threshold to overcome. I think optimistically, with proper marketing and positioning issues ironed out, that SubMate could be successful on the order of dogmeet.net, modest niche profits on a modest investment.
The revenue model is secret so far and they plan to patent that as well as the business model. I find it hard to imagine a revenue model that hasn’t been implemented yet. The HotOrNot pay for messaging model seems natural here. If it’s gonna be something complicated and patentable, eg some form of auctioning, it would probably be too complicated for the users too. But then again, it could be elegantly simple. Let’s wait and see.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2006 and is filed under dating, social networking.
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