As soon as local startup CarrotDating.com unleashed its first PR tornado yesterday, San Francisco media wags entered an arms race to see who could come up with the best joke about disrupting the prostitution industry.
CarrotDating.com provided a gold mine's worth of material.
The bribe-a-date site and app gives desperate suitors a platform to ply their date with jewelry, concert tickets, artisanal food, expensive drip coffee, spa treatments, cake, and even a tank of gas. It's yet another attempt to apply an ancient trope -- that of the practical gold digger -- to an ascendant tech economy.
In San Francisco, of course, that inspires a lot of cruel jokes. Like, "I may be pricing you out of the neighborhood, but if you go out with me, I'll buy you enough gas to get to Oakland."
Many commentators have pointed out that CarrotDating.com certainly isn't the first start-up to enshrine the idea of mercenary romance. In fact, it turns out the site is part of a growth industry. A whole bevy of other startups -- SeekingArrangment.com, WhatsYourPrice.com, SugarDaddyforMe.com, the "online dating auction" SeekingMillionaire.com -- have all blossomed around this seemingly archaic concept.
The list goes on. And on.
And it turns out some of these ventures can still wring an old-fashioned fairy tale out of an uncomfortably utilitarian form of modern romance. CarrotDate.com founder Brandon Wade describes himself as a "never-been-kissed" MIT grad who entered the online dating business at his mother's behest, and ultimately found love.
And now his userbase exceeds 120,000 members, with 800 first-date offers accepted in San Francisco. Thus far, 27 tanks of gas have been exchanged.