Orie Enav Talks Sci Fi with His Geek Dating App: DragonFruit
Have you ever wanted an app where you know from the start what nerdy thing the person was into before you even started talking?
Bigger than Tinder? A Geek Haven? A dessert for Dragons? What is DragonFruit!
DragonFruit is a dating app in which people are matched based upon their "geekdoms".
I met up with the entrepreneur, Orie Enav, which was not an easy thing to do. Even on this hot summers day, the founder of DragonFruit was on his phone with developers, engineers and loyal founding members celebrating the fixing of a glitch that was no less annoying than a fly buzzing by one’s ear. As we sat down with a cold ice tea, Orie gladly answered the questions that many of you have been wondering about:
GameSkinny: Where did you get the idea for DragonFruit?
Orie Enav: DragonFruit started as so many things do, with alcohol and board games. I would get together with my friends on Friday nights to play board games and talk about our lives. One of my friends was still single and one of them was recently single. We got to talking about their adventures in dating and how hard it was for them as “geeky people”. I encouraged them to use dating sites but nothing was happening. Eventually we got into a pattern where we would ask each other how dating was going, they would say it sucks, and I would agree, acknowledging that it’s really hard to be on dating apps and to be a geek, and into the stuff we are into. The conversations started to take a turn. Instead of complaining, we put our heads together to figure out what we do differently. That is how it DragonFruit started.
GS: How would you describe DragonFruit?
OE: It is a dating app and social tool for geeks. The app works exactly how you would expect it to except we put in a lot of interesting technology to link up people based upon their interests. We designed the whole thing from the ground up with the geek experience in mind. We tried to make it as geek friendly as possible, as open and accepting as possible, so everyone feels comfortable in the community.
GS: What separates DragonFruit from other dating apps?
OE: Two things: You are in a place where everyone understands what it means to be a geek. Everyone gets the level of passion you have for whatever you are into. It doesn’t have to be anything in particular, but just being a geek is where everyone is starting from. You can feel comfortable being yourself and being enthusiastic about the stuff you love and finding someone to share that with. On the other side, we have the technology. We created pretty an unusual algorithm based on people’s interests. We match people based upon what we call “geekdoms”. You tell the system what you are interested in and the algorithm works the computer, crunches the numbers, and finds you people who are not only interested in the same thing you are but things that are similar to your level of sophistication.
GS: How many geekdoms are there?
OE: We have in excess of tens of thousands of comprehensive geekdoms, categorized into what we call the “geekdex”.
GS: Is the geekdex like a Pokédex?
OE: We are very creative with naming. If there is a place to shoehorn in geek, we will! We try to get as deep as possible while staying as broad as possible so that anybody who is geeky feels welcomed. For us, the definition of geek is someone who is passionate about anything and whatever they can geek out about. Whatever they are passionate about we will find a way to put it on the list and link up to other people who have similar interests as they do.
GS: How did you come up with the name, DragonFruit?
OE: We were trying to think up a name that was a synthesis of geekiness and love and romance. Dragons are a classic fantasy trope and they are also awesome. It is an idea of power and fire as well as romance, you know, heroes and maidens and whatever configuration you please. In general, it is a geeky thing. On the other side, it is a fruit which is reminiscent of a sensory idea; the implication of sin with romance, sex and all these classical cultural things. In addition, obviously, we were looking for something that was easy to remember and spell. Put those two things together and you’ve got a thing that actually exists and works!
GS: What sparked your interest in dating apps?
OE: Mostly friends that were complaining so much about how it was difficult for them. Dating is an area in which geeks are left behind. We created the Internet and yet for some reason until we created DragonFuit there wasn’t a good platform for geeks to participate in that sphere. For me, it was moving to the U.S. I thought I was unusual for being a geek and was thought of as weird and that I couldn’t share my interests with people. I started going to conventions and met so many great people who were living a stereotype and stigma that was completely false. The idea of a geeky social network where people could show themselves off at their geeky best and really enjoy not only their own interests but share it with other people really appealed to me. It all fell into place.
GS: What is the stereotypical nerd?
OE: The stereotypical nerd is a very unflattering view of a docile guy who has an unhealthy obsession with one small thing, bad hygiene, socially awkward, unusually skinny or particularly paunchy, wears glasses , has acne and possesses all of these terrible qualities that society has taught us is wrong, absurd, offensive, and simply untrue. Apart from that, anyone who calls themselves a geek is a person with all of these nuances implies that normal world is inaccessible to geeks, all of which is also untrue. The vast majority of people that call themselves geeks are proud to be geeks. People who are passionate about whatever are so much more than what the world sees. A vast majority of people who I work with or have met at conventions have always been friendly, gregarious, excellent people. I am sure that there are geeky people out there that conform to the stereotype, just like there are other people out there that conform to any other stereotype. But, obviously, it’s unfair to judge the whole based upon the individual and the stereotypes that geeks carry around with them are pretty crippling and definitely something we aim to shatter.
GS: By the stereotypical nerd, do you mean someone like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons?
OE: Yeah, or you know “Revenge of the Nerds” or “Professor Frink” from The Simpsons, if we are on that. Ok, I guess Frink is the nerd and Comic Book Guy is the geek though I have never been entirely clear on the difference between the two terms.
GS: You say you relate to geeks. Would you describe yourself as a geek?
OE: Oh absolutely and just on my upbringing alone! I grew up watching Star Trek, The Outer Limits and other stuff with my dad while starting to decide for myself what it was and what media I wanted to consume, which was usually science fiction. I am a huge Battlestar Galactica fan. I grew up on the edge of the video game age, born at the right time to see the evolution of video games and really appreciate it. It probably started a lot earlier than I can remember because as the youngest of the family, my parents needed to distract the older sibling somehow while they dealt with me. In the baby room there was a Nintendo Entertainment System with one game and that was Mario. All I heard, day in and day out, was “do-do-doooo” [Mario theme] and that probably messed my head up a little bit. I have always been interested in this kinda stuff and I think other than passion there is a shared experience among the geeks who feel somewhat marginalized by being into stuff that other people necessarily don’t understand right away. So there is a type of cool high school person and those people; I am definitely one of those people and take solace in the things they are passionate about. It is a good way to know that you can have something you can enjoy consistently in a very comforting, escapism form, and something that all geeks share. I know I do.
GS: On your app, does one have to be a geek to be successful?
OE: I think geekiness helps. The definition of a geek, for us, is anyone with a passion. For example, if you consider yourself unhealthy and interested in coffee varieties, you would be a coffee geek, which is awesome and great. Go share that with somebody. Being a traditional, stereotypical, whatever you want to call it, geek, doesn’t really exist. That means you can define yourself however you want and, in this case, the starting point is what you’re into. I don’t think being a geek, whatever that may mean, is necessarily vital for success on DF but if you don’t have something that you really truly love, then you are not going to benefit from the system we have in place that connects people on that basis.
GS: How has DragonFruit changed since it's initial conception?
OE: There were a few things we wanted to do that we ended up not going for; for various reasons. One being our legal department’s concerns about, let’s say, copyright infringement. As time went on, I learned more about the psych of people; things that people don’t like or don’t want in this type of community. One of our top priorities is to take feedback and make sure everything we do is wanted by the community. We source our best ideas from people who say, "you know what would be cool," then we test it for feasibility. We see what we can do, not what we can’t do. I think another way our product has changed is guided in a different way. We anticipate the internet to be a horrifying place and consider that in terms of our harassment policies and user reporting to make sure DragonFruit is a safe space for everybody. In regards to safeguards, we obviously knew they had to be there and continue to develop as we go, taking into account how people behave in a real environment. All of this evolved into a pretty robust system and it really helps our users communicate with each other and feel they are doing so in a safe space.
GS: How has dating changed since the rise of the Internet?
OE: In some ways a lot and in some ways not at all. The successful ones are the nice looking and confident people that have been mitigated a little because you actually get to know more about that person than just the one liners they deliver to you at a bar, which is more shallow. The way that DF is trying to change things is that there is a greater connection than just, "here is a photo yes or no," and tech that allows us to do that. Dating used to fall into 2 categories, the first the random encounter at a bar where everyone is looking with or the intention of finding someone there and then; or on the other side of the spectrum, finding someone organically through work, hobbies, friends of friends, or family. At a basic level it hasn’t changed so much because of tech. What really has changed is that the field has expanded to people you originally would not meet. It also means that the people who aren’t good at the skills necessary for meeting someone at a bar have a additional advantage because we can communicate more through a dating profile than we could by walking up to somebody and saying hello.
GS: What do you see for the future of DragonFruit?
GS: Obviously we aim to grow and get more users. The thing about dating apps or social apps is that the more people who use it the better, because each user has more people to talk to and find someone who they are compatible with. We want to be using as much current technology as possible getting innovative and creative with the stuff available to us now that wasn’t out there even a few years ago. We want to be building features that people believe are legitimately helpful and we always want to be doing that with users in mind. We don’t want to be doing stuff for the fun of it. We want to keep an eye on what people are doing, what they want, and how we can improve it. DragonFruit is, and always will be, for geeks and by that I mean from every angle, like making things easier, having a more valuable experiences and improving the community.
There you have it! DragonFruit is a geek haven where nerds flourish. I would like to thank Orie for sharing some time to allow me to interview him.
You can check out the DragonFruit site for more info, and their Twitter feed for any news. DragonFruit is available at the Google Play Store and for iOS. Feedback is important to the team, so anything you want to talk to them about, email them.