New York Startup: Cheek’d Brings Back The Actual Calling Card For Romance

New York startup Cheek’d is bridging the online dating world with old school real world romance and bringing back the physical calling card. In an time where everyone knows the now infamous line:

“Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, here’s my number, call me maybe”

Lori Cheek and her innovative startup are bringing back traditional calling cards for people to hand out to people while at the gym, the club, the bar, a restaurant or even walking down the street. From the calling card the person given the card can engage with the person who handed out the card via the web portal.

The explosive hit by female pop sensation Carly Rae Jepsen actually brings back memories for the parents of the teeny boppers listening to the song ever so loudly in the car. In fact, even in my 30’s I remember jotting my number down on a piece of paper and giving it to a cute girl or two at the ice rink in the 8th grade.

Sure back then all we could do was leave a phone number. Now through Cheek’d you can create a profile online and point people to it via the Cheek’d card.  Some singles have resorted to having their facebook profile links on their business card or personal cards. Some even jot their Facebook profile down on that slip of paper they hand to a potential love interest. We all know that Facebook may not be the place we want someone we’re interested in to check us out.

Cheek is actually an architect by trade and now she’s designing new architecture for the dating space. Check out our interview with her below:

What is Cheek’d? 

Cheek’d bridges the gap between online dating and real-world romance by providing members with physical cards that they can use to entice people from the real world to flirt with them in the virtual world. It’s the 2.0 version of “Call Me.”

In layman’s terms, how does it work?

Whether it’s in a bar, at the gym or at the dog park, Cheek’d users can express their interest in someone by coyly handing them a small black card that contains a cheeky phrase such as “act natural. we can get awkward later.” or “i just put all my drinks on your tab.”  The recipient is invited to go online to check out your profile and decide whether he or she would like to make contact with you through the Cheek’d internal messaging service (personal information and privacy are protected).

It’s like online dating, but backwards.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

*Lori Cheek, Founder and CEO of Cheek’d. Prior to launching Cheek’d, Lori worked in architecture, furniture and design for 15 years for companies such as Christian Dior, Vitra & Karkula. Trained as an architect, Lori began her career with multiple project management roles in New York City focusing on architectural interiors. She holds a BA degree in Architecture from the University of Kentucky.

*Locke Raper, Co-Founder and COO of Cheek’d. Locke has 15 years of experience in business development and strategy in the US, Europe and Latin America for media and technology companies, including Turner Broadcasting, CNN and Immediately prior to Cheek’d, Locke served as Vice President of Business Development at Air America Media. He holds a BA with Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an International MBA from the MIBS Program at the University of South Carolina.

Where are you based?

New York City

What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?

New York’s startup scene is clearly booming. My calendar is filled with tech and startup networking events. The New York Tech Meetup has over 26K members and sells out the 900 seat auditorium in minutes. There’s a great support system in the entrepreneur community and the density of New York’s Media, Fashion and Arts Industries offer startups a broad array of resources to depend on for influence and innovation.  It seems like every other conversation I overhear these days is about someone’s “next big thing.”

How did you come up with the idea for Cheek’d?

Nearly four years ago, I was out to dinner with a friend & architectural colleague and I had excused myself from the table.  When I returned, my handsome dinner date had scribbled on the back of his business card, “want to have dinner?”  As we were leaving the restaurant, he slid that card to an attractive woman at a nearby table.  {{{{{LIGHTBULB}}}}}  It had happened to me a thousand times during my NYC commute—spotting that intriguing stranger on a train, in a café, crossing the street, at baggage claim, etc. and nearly 999 of them got away.  Handing a business card could have been one answer, but I was entranced by the mysterious gesture of handing it to the object of your affection and removing the personal details included on a typical business card, which is simply too much information to hand to a total stranger.  A person’s name on a card, alone, could potentially lead you to their front door.

My solution to the problem would apply a personal approach to online dating by moving the initial encounter offline with a smooth physical introduction.  In May of 2010, I launched—my solution to the 999 missed opportunities I’d personally experienced.  Shortly after launch, the New York Times proclaimed, “Move over,” and coined Cheek’d as “the next generation of online dating.”

How did you come up with the name?

Growing up with the last name Cheek was kind of a pain in the butt (excuse the pun) “cheeks,” but it finally came in handy.  For weeks, I was racking my brain about the verb that was going to finish the statement, “you’ve been _________.” and then one day it hit me in the head.  You’ve been “Cheek’d!”

What problem does Cheek’d solve?

Despite the soaring popularity of online dating, there’s one inherent flaw: You never really know whom (or what) you’re going to get. Cheek’d introduces real-life spontaneity to online dating and the cards offer a real purpose and advantage to other online dating sites and expand a subscriber’s dating opportunities beyond the pool of people registered with an online dating service.  By bringing the social aspect back into dating and moving it from your computer to your everyday life, Cheek’d is giving it’s members an opportunity to leverage technology without completely depending on it, while promoting a safe and playful interaction in the physical world at a time when virtual interaction is growing and online privacy is scarce.

What’s your secret sauce?

I think my personal approach, passion and dedication mixed with my relentless conviction that failure is not an option has been the recipe that’s kept me afloat.

What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?

The biggest dilemma so far has been the decision to continue bootstrapping instead of seeking funding.  It’s definitely been a struggle, but my gut tells me I’ll be successful without it because I know exactly who I’m investing in— “ME.”

What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?

My biggest Startup Challenge would be overcoming doubt. Building Cheek’d has been a very lengthy marathon.  After coming up with the idea, I risked everything I had and knew– I spent my entire savings account and left my 15-year career in design & architecture.  I’m no longer building structures; I’m now building relationships and it’s the most powerful decision I’ve ever made.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

Cliché or not… Steve Jobs—Innovation + Insanity= Inspiring.

What’s next for Cheek’d?

We just signed on a developer to create the mobile Cheek’d experience where users can “flick” a virtual Cheek’d card to an intriguing stranger they spot nearby, which will officially launch at SXSW Interactive 2013.  In addition, we plan on upgrading our shopping cart so that users can purchase coded clothing, pins, stickers and more that will lead to your Cheek’d Profile online.


Check out Cheek’d here

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