Daily Marauder



“Bisexuality doubles your chances of a date on a Saturday night.” –Woody Allen

Blackbox Republic, a private network for dating and friendships, launched today with a focus on “keepin’ it real” with regards to sexual orientation and relationship style. With hundreds of online dating sites, I hardly saw the need for yet another. I sat down, via phone, with CEO Sam Lawrence to try and figure out what this new site brings to the dating table.

About a year and a half ago, co-founders April Donato and Sam Lawrence packed an RV for a 17-hour drive from Portland, OR to Burning Man in the Nevada desert. That’s one hell of a long time in a vehicle with someone. Left without their digital devices to distract them, they resolved to participate in that time-honored tradition of speaking to each other. They began to chat about relationships from friendships to dating. From mass-market social networks like Facebook, to straight up online dating sites like Match.com, they didn’t feel like there was an outlet that represented what they were looking for in an online meeting place.

Hence, Blackbox Republic came to fruition, aided by $1M in angel funding. In essence, the site allows users to prescribe who they are and what they are looking for with a degree of gay [cough] [cough]…gray. Common American perception leads us to believe that each of us is either gay or straight. Delve a little deeper and you will find that sexual orientation comes in all sorts of flavors. Sam exploded my brain a bit trying to break this all down for me.

From hetero to gay, there are 5 different possibilities. Users provide their selections using Kayak-like sliders on their profile pages. Sam and I discussed one particular example, which clarified the situation for me.

While testing the product out in focus groups across the country, he met a man who, for the most part, identified himself as gay. That said, he did like to have a relationship with a woman from time to time. Typically, this is a choice that is not respected within the gay community and therefore was something that he did not share with most people. On the flip side of the orientation equation, if he were to mention the possibility of dating women to his parents, they would have him mentally married with children in minutes.

His slider would therefore be somewhere between gay and bi. Frankly, these identifications of orientation, status, partners, etc fuel my entire interest in the site. Sam adds, “The only choices before now were advertising-focused public spotlights like Facebook, or online personals sites built around chemistry tests and splintered by race, sexual orientation or religion. We are aiming for something radically different. If Facebook and Match.com had a hot love child it would be Blackbox Republic.” A hot love child that could potentially be halfway between hetero and bi.

Not only does Blackbox allow you the tools to more accurately identify yourself, it provides a walled-in garden so that you could hopefully feel more comfortable sharing these things. The site is subscription-based, intended to weed out the riff raff. A basic subscription starts at $5/month and travels up the scale to $49 depending on features and the number of people joining together. I mean, what better way to get your threesome all using the same social network? In addition, users are verified by the community using a voucher system.

Here’s where I am a bit confused. When I asked Sam the purpose of Blackbox from friendship-based to dating, he responded that the site is intended to provide a place for people to be real with each other. Conversations on the site range from friendship to dating with leads to some confusion on what I would be using the site for. While I may share what orientation I am to potential partners, I wouldn’t necessarily want all friends to know. In addition, the prioritization of orientation on the site leads me to believe that the site is focused on the LGBT community, which after speaking with Sam is certainly not the case. It is true that online dating sites are somewhat splintered by race, religion, etc but that is because those individuals choose to associate with their particular groups, be it the Jewish community on J-date or the black community on blacksingles.com. The site is well designed and easy to use but I still don’t need another online dating site…and that in my mind, is exactly what this is.

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I am gay a real gay man but I could go with a woman no problem but why would I want to find out about how much gay is inside me and how much straightness….


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