Lori Cheek really is good at breaking the ice.
I’d never met Cheek prior to Thursday night’s app launch at the Brooklyn Brewery, and I don’t exactly stand out at a tech event (white guy, brown hair, gingham shirt, jeans and boat shoes). Nonetheless, as I approached the door, Cheek somehow recognized me and said, “Hey, Tyler! Come on in, it’s great to see you!”
The app she created is called Cheekd. That’s how she did that.
It uses Bluetooth to match you up with people with whom you cross paths. You might be at the gym, or walking down the street, or at an app launch, but if you are in the vicinity of someone else with the app, you will both receive notifications asking whether or not you’d like to “Get Cheeky” with the other person. If both of you say yes, a chat window opens, and you can take it from there.
“Online dating is still online dating,” Cheek said in an interview at the event, noting that her app allows people to connect IRL. “Even those GPS apps are still like shopping for shoes on the internet.”
“I want this to be the next generation of dating,” she added.
Cheek makes a strong first impression as well. Tall and thin, she wears her bright blonde hair cropped closely on the sides and the rest up over the top of her head in a bouffant, coupled with bright red lipstick and a number of feathers woven into the back of her haircut. Cheek moved to the city 20 years ago after graduating from her home state’s college, the University of Kentucky. She worked in architecture and sales, but the last few years have been devoted to her startup. She lives in the Lower East Side, or as she calls it, the Lori Cheek’s Side.
Her first attempt at Cheekd was as a card game of sorts. Users could hand cards to strangers with pickup lines on them and a code the stranger could enter online to see who their admirer was. The cards didn’t do well, and she was approaching the end of her runway when she was chosen to be on an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank.
“I’ve never been more nervous in my life,” she recalled. “I wanted to drink a bottle of bourbon, but I already have this southern accent.”
The sharks did not go for the idea, but viewers did. Cheek said she 3,000 emails and notes expressing interest and support in the project, including a new angel investor. Since then, she’s taken the cards and made them digital, with Cheekd.
“Were you on an episode of Shark Tank?” a woman passing by our interview asks Cheek, who engages and points the woman to the open bar in the brewery.
Another man passes by, “I think I got cheeky with you,” he says.
“You should!” Cheek replies. And then she’s off to work the room.
Three of the night’s attendees, Antonio, Keegan, and Alana were sitting at one of the picnic benches in the brewery, trying to figure out how to work the app.
“It’s a cool idea. I would use it if I’m going out to the club to meet someone,” Antonio said. “If they don’t message you back, you know they ignored you, though. On Tinder, you could be like, ‘Oh they didn’t see it,’ or, ‘They’ll look at it later,’ or, ‘They deleted the app.’” The next generation of dating.
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