Cheekd: Close Encounters Of The Loved Kind

We are told time and again that it’s a busy world. There’s no time for everything! We only interact in a digital realm! Meals are taken intravenously while we hang-glide into our 37-hour-a-day jobs while checking our packed schedules with our robot secretaries! The glossy magazines spend upward of 3,000 words telling us it is so and still don’t understand irony. What most people tend to worry about is that is in this ever-shrinking and increasingly polluted world we are losing our appetites for love, romance and sex.

As we cram into packed trains and subways, slouch around in choking traffic and bang our heads against office walls, some of us will be the first to admit we need a little help. There’s speed-dating, sure… but… oh it’s just so passé and incredibly lame. It’s also about as relevant as VHS. And hey, weren’t you listening? We don’t have the time for it anymore!

So what’s the solution? We have all of the tools at our disposal already, it’s just a matter of how we use them. Or rather, how they’re presented to us. And that’s where Lori Cheek – founder of hyper-speed dating app Cheekd – steps in to save the day. Cheekd is love and romance for people on the move. Or indeed people who want to cut through the layers of bullshit that can mar those early flourishes and just get straight into the meat of the issue.

The aim of Cheekd is to make those fabled ‘missed connections’ obsolete. Lori wants to eradicate the dusty and creaking rush hour encounters columns that inhabit local newspapers and reek of desperation. She seeks to push aside Craigslist and its forever sinister version of the same format.

Cheekd uses a cross-platform low energy Bluetooth technology, which fosters hyper local engagement. The app connects people in real time, versus virtual time. Connections begin in person; Cheekd helps you take the next step and continue the conversation online. And with the newly-launched app picking up accolades such as Mobile Week 2015 NYC Champions as well as the Data of Love 2.0 Pitch event over the past few weeks.

In short, it ensures you never miss a connection. It works on the train, a plane, that hang-glider we mentioned before… anywhere. You’ll get a notification if someone who meets your criteria is within 30 feet of you. If you’re near a potential spark, Cheekd makes sure you know about it. It’s the perfect app for those of us slogging our guts out in the ultra-urban areas; where buildings crowd out natural light and the streets are not paved with gold exactly, but it’s certainly yellow. Best to just leave it alone.

Like love and romance, Cheekd began its life differently to how it looks today. Even despite the usual teething problems and back-to-the-drawing-board early days, the first version of Cheekd was still declared “the next generation of online dating” by the New York Times.

“In February of 2008, I was out to dinner with an architectural colleague,” says Lori. “He’d spotted an attractive woman at a nearby table and scribbled, “Want to have dinner?” on the back of his business card and slipped it to her as we were leaving the restaurant. He left with a date. I left with an idea.”

Cheekd: Close Encounters Of The Loved Kind
Lori Cheek – Founder and CEO of Cheekd.

After over two years of brainstorming of how to remove the business out of the business card, Lori launched Cheekd. Sporting pickup lines such as ‘act natural, we can get awkward later’ and ‘I’m hitting on you,’ Cheekd – a deck of privacy protected dating cards – introduced a personal approach to online dating by moving the initial encounter offline with a smooth physical introduction.

“While the physical cards worked anywhere in the world and were a perfect way to break the ice, we found a few barriers; the main one being that our users were still quite intimidated to walk up and slip a card to a total stranger. Looking into alternative ways we could change the platform, we discovered a way to make these encounters much easier and less intimidating via our newly launched Bluetooth enabled mobile solution.”

Cheekd also suffered the ignominy of a public dressing down on ABC’s Shark Tank. It could have been a bite too far and had the propensity to send Lori and Cheekd to the murky depths of the Failed Startup Graveyard, but like anybody who wants to make their way in this life, Lori is made of sterner and smarter stuff.

And so Lori – who strongly admires the perseverance and bright, laissez-faire attitude of the tycoon Richard Branson (“I’ve got high hopes of partnering up with Virgin Airlines to help Cheekd users join each other’s Mile High Clubs”) – grabbed the wheel, changed course and came up with what she now deems a “heat-seeking missile app”.

With one in five relationships beginning online it’s not only a crowded world but a crowded marketplace too. Dating apps are big and getting bigger so getting your product out there can be a task at best. Lori is – unsurprisingly – confident that Cheekd’s unique mode of engagement will see it pull ahead of the pack.

“While most dating apps have their users completely engaged on the app and flipping relentlessly through online profiles, Cheekd will alert you to “look up” and pay attention what could be the love of your life potentially standing right in front of you.”

… and they’re not waiting for the people to come to them either. Cheekd are taking the show on the road and terraforming the perfect conditions in which they can thrive. It’s that tired old model of speed dating that has been taken, throttled by the neck and given a new lease of life.

“We’ve started hosting happy hours around NYC where attendees must have the app downloaded for entry, which also includes a free cocktail. Connections on the app are immediate once inside the event so it’s been very exciting to watch the ice breaking app doing its magic for everyone before they’ve even had a chance to spot each other.”

With Cheekd’s official launch taking place on August 6th at The Brooklyn Brewery, New York – it’s a three-hour open bar, people! – the building of Cheekd’s core userbase begins imminently. For the never-say-die entrepreneur who left architecture to cease building structures and instead build relationships it’s been a long and at-times rocky road, but Lori’s belief in the age-old American Dream stands firm.

“Building this business has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve taken a major risk (both financially & mentally) and surrendered my career in architecture & design, but my heart and mind are in this project every waking moment.

“I’ve never been more dedicated to anything. Despite the occasional overwhelming stress, it’s been loads of fun. I feel like I’m living the American Dream—I’ve given birth to an invention. I’ve gone from 15 years of helping others build their dreams to a life finally dedicated to building my own. It’s the most rewarding feeling.”

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