Betabeat Investigates

Playing the Mystery Startup Guessing Game: Which New York App Wants to ‘End Loneliness’?

An exercise in 10 clues.
grouper michael waxman Playing the Mystery Startup Guessing Game: Which New York App Wants to End Loneliness?

Mr. Waxman. (Photo: Twitter)

Would you answer this mysteriously vague job listing? “Hackers seek hackers in NYC for absurdly fun + challenging startup” is the title of this ad for a Y Combinator startup that claims to already be funded by “some of the best investors in the world” and is now seeking “social hackers.” The ad, a repeat of a listing posted back in April, is at the top of the Hacker News forum.

Clues:

1. The startup is in the winter 2012 batch of Y Combinator.

2. “We’re leading the online-to-offline revolution.”

3. “We’re relatively far along”

4. “We make money. We’re a real business, not a charity.”

5. “Both of the co-founders are technical and have previous startup experience (including at other YC startups and an app that scaled to billions of impressions per month).”

6. “We’re in New York, but if you’re not we can chat about getting you here to the greatest city on earth.”

7. “We’re all frequent users of our product, as it should be”

8. “Our ultimate goal is to end loneliness and to create some amazing stories along the way.”

9. “Users have already created thousands of these stories (offline) through our product.”

10. “We were fortunate enough to go to good schools (like MIT, Princeton, and Yale)”

Who could it be? 

Very few of the current batch of YC startups have anything to do with the offline world: There are two crowdfunding platforms, a slew of ec0mmerce something-or-others, several content platforms, a dose of cloud computing and a few “entertainment” plays. “Communications” is also a popular category. Flutter and Sonalight are hands-free thingies. TiKl, which sounded potentially social, is a walkie-talkie app.

Sources suggested one candidate might be Grouper, which calls itself a “social club.” Grouper is a New York-based startup that sets people up on group dates based on their Facebook profiles. (You may remember Grouper’s original cofounder Jerry Guo, who resigned after Betabeat revealed him to be a serial fabricator.)

Since then, Grouper’s star has risen all the way to Paul Graham’s graces. Grouper emphasizes it’s for people who want to get online to get offline. It’s been up and running since September. It costs $20 to go on a Grouper outing. Cofounders Michael Waxman and Tom Brown are both engineers; Mr. Waxman went to Yale and Mr. Brown went to MIT. They’re in New York. Mr. Waxman found a girlfriend using the app. Plus, the wording in the April posting is similar to the wording on Grouper’s similarly details-bereft jobs page: “Send us your Github profile and/or Dribbble profile at social.hackers.nyc@gmail.com” vs. “Amazing hackers and designers please send your Github and/or Dribbble URL’s to jobs@joingrouper.com.”

Further evidence? The listing, like Grouper’s public statements, makes no mention of dating. “We never even like to use the ‘d’ word,” Mr. Waxman told Tech Cocktail. Hey, “absurdly fun + challenging startup” does sound better than “Facebook dating app.”

Mr. Waxman declined to confirm or deny via Twitter.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com