In the strange world of modern love, millennials are constantly searching for new ways to connect and interact with one another through the comfort of their smartphones. Dating apps, such as Tinder, Bumble and Happn, responded by allowing users to browse prospective love interests by the dozens with the ease of a single swipe. Now that there’s an estimated 50 million users just on Tinder, singles are looking for ways to filter their results and match with people who share mutual interests, friends and lifestyles.
Introducing Meet Me Outside, the brainchild of co-founder Rob Hand. With his background in fitness training and outside pursuits, Hand wanted a tool he could use to find a romantic interest that shared his appreciation for living an active lifestyle. Hand’s personal experiences coupled with the business-oriented, technological approach belonging to his long-time best friend and college roommate, Harry DiLeo, led to the creation of this specialized dating app. Users are given an opportunity every day to match with a specific number of prospective interests. Once they match, they can chat and plan an active day together at a local venue. With the goals of reducing stress and awkwardness often associated with first dates while increasing comfort and connection, Hand also provides users with streamlined recommendations for date ideas.
These two Massachusetts entrepreneurs are making huge strides in the tech world with their recent CNN and Boston Magazine reviews. Keep reading to hear Hand’s take on Boston, the future of Meet Me Outside, his love for the environment and what he thinks about the local dating scene.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background, like where you’re from and when you came to Boston.
I grew up in Millbury, Massachusetts, which is just outside of Worcester. I went to school in Millbury and then I went to college at Roger Williams which is in Bristol, Rhode Island. Then, from there, I actually studied environmental science in college. I moved to Boston right after that, started working at an environmental company, did some sales, some desk work and realized I wanted to do something a little outside of that. I’ve always had a passion for fitness and the outdoors; that’s what got me into environmental science. I ended up being a fitness instructor for the company I was working for. So that was cool, I was a corporate fitness instructor for the people that worked there. And then, well my buddy, who’s actually my cofounder, and my best friend growing up, we went to college together, Harry. He has a background in business and was investing in and advising some start-ups. We kind of came up with an idea to start our own app, and I really wanted to change my career path so I kept coming home with new ideas and dishing them to Harry. Eventually, we came up with Meet Me Outside, the dating app to pair people together that have the same lifestyles and interests. I took it a step farther by actually suggesting an activity for them to do then we went out and raised money to start that endeavor.
2. How has the community here in Boston helped you to achieve your goals?
Well, Boston–for us–just kind of made sense. It’s a young city, it’s a very active city, I mean you can see everybody is just constantly running up and down the streets. (Laughs). There are a lot of gyms in the area, there’s just a lot to do outside even though it’s crazy in the winter. There’s plenty to do in this area. You can get the city feel. I’ve always loved Boston because you can be in the city but it’s not overwhelming and you can quickly get outside the city to get out into nature or explore things outside the city and just re-energize yourself into the world again. Boston’s cool because we’ve got a lot of young talent in the area too because of all the students that are here. There’s a lot of tech companies coming up and it’s exciting to see. The city’s really building itself up into a new powerhouse for tech and start-ups because all this talent that’s here, they’re finally finding jobs in this area. A lot of them used to go to Silicon Valley, they go to school here then they leave and go to Silicon Valley or somewhere else, but now you can see a lot of people are starting to stick around. Businesses and neighborhoods are becoming more open to the start-up lifestyle, and are really catering to those communities whether it’s with new restaurants, and again with these gyms popping up in the area that are all to suit that lifestyle of people on the go. And people want to be in the city, have convenience. It’s exciting to see, it’s a cool place to be right now.
“I’m constantly on the go, I’m driving (Uber) to make some
money, I’m working non-stop on Meet Me Outside. It’s been a
lot of fun. We don’t have too much time to sit down and rest
but it doesn’t feel like work to me. I get to work with my friends
and I get to work on something I’m passionate about.”
3. I understand that Meet Me Outside tries to connect people to local venues and destinations. How does the app do that? What are your favorite local recommendations?
The app works similar to Hinge or Coffee Meets Bagel where we give you a set number of people every single day that you can potentially match with. We give you seven people a day. If the people, the two users, mutually like one another, they can chat, and in that chat there’s another MeetMeOutside button. That button shows you local activities that are based on both party’s interests and their location. So you’ll be able to do things like hiking trails, running trails or local businesses as well that rent kayaks or maybe it’s a rock climbing gym. For me, I’m a big hiker. I recently got into some indoor rock climbing. Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville is amazing, that place is really cool. When I was a personal trainer, (I did) more of a bootcamp style. I still have an affinity for bootcamps and high-intensity workouts. Anything that the November Project does is really interesting and fun for me, too.
4. How is Boston’s dating scene unique?
It’s funny ‘cause it seems like a small town every once in awhile because it’s not the size of New York. People, I think, come to Boston expecting this big city feel but you kind of get this small town feel, which is nice. Not everyone likes it, but I think the people that date here–they know they’re not too far off from a certain number of connections to actually knowing somebody else that might be outside of their immediate friends. I think that’s kind of cool, I think a lot of people will meet on dating apps and find out they do have mutual friends through colleges or anything like that. I just think there’s a lot of opportunity for people whether they’re young and in college or they’re graduating college, post-grad, whatever it might be. The community and young professionals–they’re going out and meeting people and I think it’s a really convenient place to be single.
5. What is the one thing you are most passionate about?
I have a lot of things I’m passionate about but outside of the tech and start-up world, I’m passionate about just the world in general. I just love exploring new things, new cultures, and especially for environmental purposes. I’ve always been into the outdoors and nature. I think maybe down the road once we build up our following we’re definitely going to have events. I’d love to, and I am super passionate about everything having to do with protecting and preserving the environment so I’d love to eventually hold events for singles that’d get them to meet each other and raise money for environmental awareness. I think that would be one of my longterm goals. But yeah, that’s something I’m really passionate about, just conserving and immersing into our green space and Boston is definitely starting to do that. We are at the cutting edge of environmental awareness for cities. So if I had to pick, that’s definitely up there.
6. Talk about somebody who has had the most influence in your life.
If I had to pick I would say my parents, but my dad especially. He works in construction. Actually, both my parents, they got married really young and had my sister and myself really young. I’ve never met anyone that works harder than those two. My dad is the one who got me really into fitness and exploring the outdoors. He used to kinda just kick me and my sister out of the house and be like “hey, don’t come back until it’s dark.” (Laughs) The stories of him growing up always captured my imagination and got me to try the things I’m really interested in and go full force at whatever I’m going to do. Just live with a purpose. That’s how they raised us, just pick something you really wanna do and put all your energy into and see what comes out the other end. If it’s a success then it’s a success, you’re really the only one who’s gonna be able to say it’s a success or not. No one else will be able to judge you. Both of my parents definitely, definitely still influence me today.
7. What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
It’s wild to me to think that we just started this a little over a year ago. The app hasn’t even been on the app store for over a year, it’s actually only really been 6 months since we launched. To think that a year ago, when we started this whole thing and I had no idea how to build an app, that now we’re being featured on CNN just a couple weeks ago. I think that’s something I can be pretty proud about at this moment, but definitely keep pushing forward. We’re looking forward to bigger and better things.
8. If there was one thing you would want people to know about you, what would it be?
I think that I’m really just trying to build this because it was something I was looking for when I was single. I want people to know that we’re here to listen to their feedback on the product and I’m making this to sort of scratch my own itch for when I was single. I had always wanted to find a girlfriend that would be interested in going on hikes or exploring new places and that kind of thing and there wasn’t anything out there on the market. I’d love for people to know that we’re here to help them and that was our initial goal; to just create a product that people love and that they could meet like-minded individuals on.