Mr. or Ms. Right may be just a text message away

Michael Robinson

What: IceBreaker, based in Bellevue, with offices in Beijing.

Who: Michael Robinson, 41, co-founder and CEO.

Mission: Help people connect via easy-to-use mobile social software.

Employees: Just over 40. "We are growing fast," Robinson said. "I think we hired another four people in Beijing this week."

How it works: "Crush or Flush" is the
flagship application. Members submit a profile, including picture, age,
gender and orientation (who or what they are looking to meet), along
with various "tags" to describe their personality and preferences.
Another member sees this and selects them as a "crush." If the feeling
is mutual they begin communicating, usually through text messaging. If
they decline, the contact is "flushed."

Why it works: "A lot of people are looking for new friends," Robinson said.

Love and money: The company, not
profitable so far, is operating with $7.2 million in venture funding.
It will be free for the foreseeable future and expects to raise money
through advertising and transactions.

Is it safe?: The company screens all new
members and requires them to tie membership to a single working phone
number. So while they may use an online alias, everything connects to
the real world at some point. This increases accountability and makes
it possible to report aberrant behavior.

Fun facts: Robinson said 250,000 people
signed up during the service’s first six months. Of these, 59 percent
are women. The states with the highest "crush percentage": Virginia,
Texas, New York, Oklahoma and Nevada. Washington is No. 37.

Level playing field: While a traditionally
attractive person might draw a high "crush" volume, Robinson denies the
service is an extension of high school; where the cute and popular
people get all the breaks. "For every X there is a Y," he said. "There
is a breadth of what is considered attractive."

— Charles Bermant

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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