How many times have you researched a person on Facebook, Google and consulted friends and family before going out on a first date? I will admit that I always do my due diligence. (But don't we all?)
A new app called Lulu aims to do the work for you by allowing its ladies-only users to secretly rate their male friends, lovers and ex-boyfriends on its online database of men.
"Women love to share, they love to exchange information, and they love to have their experiences validated by both their friends and girls they don't necessarily know,” said Chief Executive Alexandra Chong, who came up with the idea over a six-hour brunch with girlfriends. Chong had the aha moment as girl talk changed from relationship tips to gynecological inquiries.
"There is all this powerful information and a huge opportunity that no one is doing much with,” Chong said, who cofounded Lulu with her friend Alison Schwartz. “Now it’s time to build products for women, by women."
When women download Lulu, (users must be at least 18 to access the app), it syncs with their Facebook accounts to verify that they’re female (or at least checked the “female” box when setting up their Facebook account) and of age. Men who try to log in to Lulu will be blocked. Lulu then trawls your Facebook friend list and singles out the men — meaning an old high school friend or a random colleague from the office might appear beside a total stranger.
Once in the app, you can read anonymous reviews posted by other Lulu users and add your own ratings and create a Lulu profile for a male by choosing a photo and adding his name to the database. The app asks you to identify your relationship with a guy in order to review him. The percentage of those reviews that are actually real and independently written, though, is impossible to know.
The scores, which are pulled from questionnaires, are based on a 10-point scale that factors in qualities such as a man's bedroom skills, work ethic, appearance, humor, manners and commitment, using various pre-written hashtags. There is no free open text. You rate a man's best and worst qualities, which can be as innocuous as #Doesn'tAskQuestions or #OneOfTheGoodOnes.
The app also shows relationship status, age and where he went to school, if the information is available on Facebook. Using location data, men in their area will also show up in women’s Lulu feeds.
Although users are anonymous (your name is never attached to the review) and activities are kept off Facebook, users can share profiles and searchable hashtags with other women on Lulu.
The founders say the app is not just for rating ex-boyfriends; some celebrities have already been reviewed by the ladies in their lives. Who knew Cameron Winklevoss, the 31-year-old millionaire entrepreneur who claims he and his twin brother invented Facebook, had a rating of 7 out of 10?
Lulu isn’t a free-for-all, however. Males can tell their sides or remove their profiles from Lulu through a separate app the founders created for the men called LuluDude.
“Lulu is definitely not a place just for guy-bashing,” Schwartz said. The founders say Lulu is not a forum for vindictive ex-girlfriends to divulge deep, dark secrets, or talk trash. Instead a majority of the reviews are positive. "Lulu Reviews put the emphasis on collective wisdom," Schwartz said.
Guys can manage and edit their profiles, which are visible on Lulu, add profile pictures and use hashtags (listed in blue to distinguish from the pink ones added by women), to describe their best and worst qualities and their turn-ons and turn-offs or delete their account altogether.
Still, some men have criticized Lulu for objectifying them. Arguments for and against the app are abundant. A few comments from around the Web:
"The textual equivalent of leaking your ex’s naked pics to the Internet."
"Creepy, non-consensual and harassing."
"Just an app for something that girls do anyway."
“We know that the element of controversy about Lulu is that it simply hasn’t been done before. We’re taking something we do all the time and we’re taking technology to better harness it and make it more mainstream and available for women to share knowledge together everywhere," Chong said.
The free iOS and Android app is close to hitting a million downloads in the coming weeks, according to its founders. In addition, Lulu has seen 2 million reviews since its beta launch in January.
Chong said her vision for Lulu was to create a discreet, private space for women to discuss other subjects such as beauty and health.
“As we grow and expand into a place for female collective wisdom, the opportunities for monetization will present themselves over time,” she said.
Chong originally raised $1 million in 2011, and secured an additional $2.5 million in seed financing in 2012.
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