The other day I noticed that my girlfriend had posted to her Facebook wall about trying to “unlock Berlin” as a city on some dating website. Wondering why she was trying to access a dating website, when she’s meant to be dating me, I took a look at the website, FounderDating.
The concept sounds good – a matching website for entrepreneurs in the Internet startup space, with tight control on who gets to join and an emphasis on at least 50% engineers, presumably so it doesn’t get flooded with those annoying MBA-types with their ideas and “I just need a coder” attitude. Or as they put it:
Seems good. I’m looking for a technical co-founder, so I applied.
As part of the application process I had to link my account to LinkedIn and invite other people to recommend me as worthy for acceptance to this network. OK, that’s fine. Getting people to recommend me makes sense, and obviously they want to spread their brand to good entrepreneurial people, so win-win.
At this stage I was told that the more people I invite the more chance I have of getting accepted to FounderDating. Hmmm, ok, that got my “slightly dodgy” radar twitching, but nothing too bad. I have over 500 contacts on LinkedIn, so how many should I invite to be sure I get in? I thought maybe 10 would be a good number, but in the end I could not be bothered scrolling through 500 contacts so I picked the first three of my entrepreneurial contacts, who I thought might be happy to endorse me.
A week later I get an email from FounderDating – my Application is incomplete. Oh. Really? I open the email to be told that 2 of my 3 contacts had not endorsed me yet, and that FounderDating “can’t continue to review your application without their response”
Hmmm. That seems to be a bit of a conflict. FounderDating tell me to invite as many people to vouch for me as possible, yet my application can’t proceed unless every single one of them replies. So If I had invited 10 people I would have more chance of getting in, but then logically less chance of all of them completing the application.
I tweeted them pointing out that this didn’t make much sense, but they thought I was just confused:
Well anyway, I decided to send a email to my two outstanding contacts. One of them replied saying they had tried but were unable to access the website. He’s a busy guy, so I didn’t want to push the matter any more seeing as he’d already tried twice. In fact my email to my second contact bounced. I had no way of knowing this as the original request was sent by pasting their email in to FounderDating directly – not by a message via LinkedIn, which might have made more sense. A message through LinkedIn later and she had managed to sign in and vouch for me.
Well, 2 out of 3 endorsed me (at least I hope they did!) – I guess that means I will never get in… shame.
Things got more interesting when I got an email from my girlfriend, saying she’d just got a strange email about FounderDating “from” a friend of hers:
I’m starting my next entrepreneurial project and looking for the right people to do it with. So, I’m applying to join FounderDating – a handpicked network of entrepreneurs. As part of the application process, I need people to vouch (aka act as a reference) for me. I’m hoping you can do this for me as they won’t look at applications without it. It’s quick, just click this link
This is a really important part of the process, so thanks for your help,
The problem being that she knew her friend would never have sent an email like that.
Oh, so FounderDating have been sending this email in my name to my contacts? That’s definitely not cool. As far as I can remember I was not told that my contacts would be sent reminders and I definitely never got a chance to review this text that they sent on my behalf. The worst thing is that they have written it to really sound personal – “Hey Anne”.
I’m protective of my network. I was probably a bit blasé about giving an unknown service access to my contacts in the first place, so I apologise to those people that I have now inadvertently hassled.
I love good viral mechanisms. They can really make a great company. One of my favourite’s is Fab.com‘s, which I have… *ahem* studied in great detail. I’ve been pushing TransferWise loads recently and have got a few people signed up (if I get 2 more I get £50!). I also managed to get £15 of free bets from my friends at TradeChase the other day just by sharing my bets to Facebook (but they’ve removed their normal referral link! Guys – bring it back!).
Most importantly the company with the viral mechanism needs to respect the trust that you have put in them by allowing them access to your network. I’m sure FounderDating haven’t been malicious in their viral intentions. It’s just bad implementation. In fact it’s probably working well – I see loads of tweets about them, although I’m not the only one who is unhappy with their endorsing system.
I would like to be able to log-in and change the settings or something, but I don’t seem to even be able to log-in and when I use their “forgot password” link, I don’t receive anything.
Hopefully FounderDating will take this criticism well and change their system ASAP. And hopefully I get in soon too and find a nice technical co-founder for Satago.net.