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Friends with benefits: Social club Grouper sets up parties of 6 with each other and discounts

Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_site
The Grouper website Courtesy of Grouper
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_michael waxman
Michael Waxman Courtesy of Grouper
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_tom brown
Tom Brown  Courtesy of Grouper
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_logo
Courtesy of Grouper
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_site
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_michael waxman
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_tom brown
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_grouper_Sept 2012_logo

Yet again, Austin is chosen as a tertiary launching pad behind New York City and San Francisco for a startup targeted towards tech-savvy, social young professionals. In the past year Austin was introduced to GrubWithUs (a small-group dining club) and ParkMe (real-time parking info); now, we meet Grouper, “a social club that sets up drinks between two groups of friends.”

On first glance, Grouper appears as dating site in disguise — one that takes the pressure off of one-on-one interactions by allowing the accompaniment of wingmen. Upon further inspection, you’ll see Grouper is ecouraged to be used as a way to meet several likeminded people at once.

You don’t have to fall in love (in fact, better if you and your friend aren’t fighting for the attention of the babe across the table), but you might find someone to go rock climbing, movie-watching or lecture-listening with, all while benefitting from pre-negotiated bar prices.

"We're trying to re-create the way that people meet organically, in casual social settings or through friends," Michael Waxman, founder of the site, told The Huffington Post.

We had a few more nagging questions about the Grouper concept and got ahold of Waxman to shed some more light on the social club that he hopes will take Austin by storm.

CultureMap: How does Grouper make a profit?

Michael Waxman: Grouper makes money the old fashion way — by charging people for our product. Members pay a fee of $20 for each Grouper, which covers the matching, a reservation at a cool bar, and a first round of drinks.

CM: I read that "Grouper uses a combination of algorithms and human matchmakers to pair two groupa —3 guys and 3 girls — and a proprietary logistical engine to handle the scheduling and reservations." Can you expand upon the role of the human matchmakers in each date?

MW: That's right. We've found the human element to be an important factor in our matching. With Grouper, there's someone there to listen to and interpret feedback. And we actively use that to make each experience better. The algorithm adds another layer to the matching process, allowing our team to measure the compatibility of a match through more quantitative means.

CM: Do you see as more of a dating experiment or social experiment? I see it's "3 guys meet 3 girls." Can two gay groups meet up, for example?

MW: Our members use Grouper for a variety of reasons, i.e. to make new friends, to network, to date, etc, so it's more of a way to introduce awesome people to other like-minded people than anything else [we don't like labels].  We do host gay groups as well, since we want to get everyone out meeting new people!

CM: What Austin businesses have you gotten on board? I understand that you negotiate a deal with businesses for users, was that an easy concept for you to pitch/them to support?

MW: We work with a variety of venues in Austin, including Firehouse Lounge, Lanai Rooftop Lounge, Trifecta on 3rd, Dive Bar and Lounge, and Fado's, to name a few, and luckily, the concept of introducing groups of six outgoing and adventurous young professionals to our partner bar and lounges on a regular basis is a pretty good deal!

CM: How did you decide Austin, a much smaller town as far as population goes, was a good next step for Grouper? Have you had any tests here?

MW: Austin was a natural progression for Grouper from New York, San Francisco, and D.C., because of its great nightlife scene and abundance of fun, young professionals.

CM: Any cool success stories you've heard from users?

MW: Where to begin? Many of our members are dating people they through Grouper (including our founder, Michael), lots of people have become friends, and everything in between. We’ve heard some great stories... People go out with each other afterwards for the whole night, do karaoke together, drive across state lines together, join each other’s volleyball teams, go to concerts together, everything you can imagine. One thing that’s pretty much guaranteed on a Grouper is that you’ll get a great story out of it.

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