These 14 Startup Ideas Made The Cut For WashU Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce $50K Top Prize

Team Name: Pool

University: Washington University

BIG IndeaBounce 2023 finalist

Concept: Pool is a mobile dating app that reinvents online dating as a social activity for singles to get help from their friends.

Challenge: Dating apps are a mess. They have become a cesspit of blurry selfies, shirtless pictures, and countless photos of guys holding up fish. You swipe and swipe and when you finally find someone interesting, their profile is often incomplete. And the worst part? You have to go it alone with no one to help you.

Solution: Pool reinvents online dating as a social activity for singles to get help from their friends. Single users invite friends to act as “Lifeguards”, who swipe to create a curated “Pool” of potential matches. Singles choose from people hand-picked by those they love, because who knows you better than your best friends? And Pool requires more profile information than other dating apps, promoting authenticity- after all, you can’t BS the BFF. Including friends leads to better matches than swiping on your own or relying on AI or survey questions, because you can’t distill friendship into an algorithm.

The Market: 49M Americans used a dating app in 2021 and the industry grows 27% each year. Typical dating apps only target single people looking to date, but unlike competitors, Pool doubles the potential market by allowing friends and family, whether single or in a relationship, to help find matches for single users. Our competitor Hinge prides themselves on being “the app designed to be deleted” once you find a match. Pool is the app designed to be kept forever, since single users that find a partner can still use the app as a Lifeguard to find matches for others. Our business model organically encourages growth and retention.

Competition: Pool’s main competition comes from the three largest dating apps in the US – Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. These apps have had almost ten years to address users’ pain points but only remain popular because they’re convenient, not because they’re as effective as they could be. Not only does Pool solve our competitor’s biggest problems, but our value prop cannot be copied. These apps are well-established as services that only single people should be using. In fact, Hinge even announced a ‘swiping for friends’ aspect to their app in 2017, but never found a way to effectively implement it.

Value Creation: Pool creates value through a freemium model. Our premium option costs $10 per month, removes ads, and offers additional features. The free option drives revenue with both singles and Lifeguards from the placement of advertisements. Unlike competitors, this business model encourages users to still pay after finding a match. We anticipate a 96% gross margin and around $9 million in profit by Year 1. As we grow, we will continue investing in product development and customer research as we fine-tune our product experience.

The Team: Sarah Lands Ramrup – Washington University in St. Louis, current MBA student (Spring 2023) Becky Brosch – Washington University in St. Louis, current MBA student (Fall 2023)

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.