As part of a romantic couple, consider how many times you’ve had the following conversation.
You: What do you want to do this weekend?
Your partner: Um, I don’t know. I can’t think of anything new, so why don’t we just go to our favorite restaurant, the one we went to last Friday?
And so it goes. Every weekend is the same. And while it’s not terrible to frequent the same places, you and your partner secretly crave little date variety.
Pius Uzamere and Becky Cruze found themselves in this exact situation a little more than a year ago. After starting a relationship in mid-2010, they struggled to find new and exciting date activities. That is until a few months later when Uzamere, 28, surprised Cruze, 24, by creating a computer program that did the searching for them. The idea took hold and in January the couple quit their jobs to turn the site into a business for the public, called BeCouply.
I first learned of BeCouply while watching CNN’s Nov. 13 broadcast of Black in America, a program that showcased technology founders participating in a nine-week program in Mountain View, Calif., with the NewME Accelerator, an incubator for minority-led startups. Uzamere and Cruze both appeared on the show and, in the end, were some of the only participating founders to secure financing.
So how’s it going? Interested to find out, I called them up.
Q: Could you tell me a little about your backgrounds?
Uzamere: I grew up in New Castle, Pa., and went to MIT for computer science. I was very involved and was the student body president while there. After graduation, I moved down to Washington, D.C., and worked for a federal consulting firm. After two years, I left to start my own consulting business.
Cruze: I’m originally from the Phoenix, Ariz., area. I went to George Washington University for political communication and graduated in three years. After college, I ended up working as a paralegal in a small law firm. I met Pius while we were both working in D.C.
Q: What is the function of BeCouply?
Uzamere: BeCouply helps couples have epic social lives. Our focus is to help couples discover new dating spots; capture special moments by labeling photos with geo-location, dates and context; and connect couple friends to make it easier to plan double dates, for example.
Q: Is BeCouply nationwide?
Cruze: We are focusing our beta launch on San Francisco and will follow up with Washington D.C. Then, we will move to a nationwide model.
Q: How are you able to gather all of this data for fun date ideas?
Uzamere: Right now, Becky is our first line of content. She’s done a phenomenal job coming up with date ideas and good copy and content around them. We are combining her work with local data through APIs and data sources on the web. We want to start with cities we know really well, so we can use personal experiences of being a couple living in those cities. Then we will expand.
Q: How are you able to fund this project?
Uzamere: Well, we worked with personal savings from January through the end of the NewME Accelerator program, and then we were able to secure two investors. Mitch Kapor of Kapor Capital is one of them. He was a mentor for the program and would check in every few weeks with the group. We got to know him and him, us, and after the program we reached out to him. It made sense for his firm to invest.
We found our second investor through Angel List, a community where you can meet investors.
Q: When do you plan to launch?
Uzamere: We’ve learned not to give out launch dates. The site will launch when we are ready and we are hoping that is very soon. We already have thousands of people on a waiting list to join. We will start with our core circle here in San Francisco, do some tweaks and then open it up to people on the waiting list.
Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the startup phase?
Cruze: I haven’t had a lot of people outside of Pius who really understand what it means to do a startup or what it means to be an entrepreneur. I have a great group of friends in general, but don’t have a lot of folks that understand what it’s like and that has been a challenge.
Uzamere: It is fundamentally a stressful experience. It’s one thing to go to a job every day and know you will get a paycheck. It’s another thing to go off on your own and start something from scratch. There’s something very exhilarating about it, but it is also hard. We don’t want to do something just a little bit better than the competition, we want to do it 10 times better than anyone else. Maintaining focus and cutting out anything extraneous is a challenge.
Q: What does the future hold for BeCouply?
Uzamere: We would like to be as ubiquitous among couples as Facebook is among college students. We are in it for the long term.
Q: What advice can you give budding entrepreneurs?
Uzamere: I recommend moving to the Valley [Silicon Valley] if you are in the consumer Internet space. I also recommend being all-in—it is something people pick up on. It would have been easy for us to do other things and limp along part-time, but if we’d done that we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Cruze: If you are trying to raise capital, you are asking an investor to take a risk on you. If you haven’t demonstrated that you can take a risk on yourself by going all-in, as Pius said, it is hard to convince the investor.
Uzamere: Find a community, even if it is online. If you are a programmer or tech startup founder, I recommend Hacker News. By just reading that, you can learn a lot about the industry. I also recommend getting involved with Angel List; it’s a great resource.