The founders of a new Hartford-based social media site called ChirpMe.com say it has attracted more than 2,000 users since it launched Jan. 1.
Brothers Jon and Josh Viner, who grew up in West Hartford and Avon, started planning the site in September. Their idea: to match people based on the restaurants they like.
In collaboration with Josh’s college friend Brendan Rogers and three others, they developed ChirpMe not only to match people up based on their dining preferences, but to provide an incentive to go out with their matches.
“There are … sites where you can meet someone online, but there is a premium fee and they don’t match you on anything real,” Jon Viner, 25, said. “There needs to be a better way to meet people, a more natural way.”
About a dozen restaurants are on board so far, offering coupons, or “chirp-ons” on the site for users matched up with each other based on common restaurant interests, including Hartford restaurants Bin 228, Churrascaria Braza, Dish Bar & Grill, Trumbull Kitchen and Vito’s by the Park. The Hartford and Canton locations of are also included, as well as West Hartford restaurants , , and Uncorked: The Wine Tasting Bistro. is also on ChirpMe.
“We’re matching people up based on restaurants that people want to go to anyway,” Viner said. “So, why not share that experience with someone else in town? That takes the pressure off the [online] profile.”
Entrepreneurial drive has long been a trait that the Viners shared. Growing up, they experimented with ideas for businesses from Jon’s basketball camp for area teenagers to Josh’s landscaping company. Josh Viner and Rogers studied business together and running a business together is a dream they both have had since freshman year.
“We always wanted to start a business together,” Rogers, 23, said.
With ChirpMe, they hope to give both subscribers and restaurants value. Users receive the “chirp-ons” when they are matched with someone else, giving them the option to eat out together. The restaurants initiate the matches, and users can view each other’s profiles, communicate through messages and “chirps,” and answer pre-generated questions sent by other users, such as “If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?”
A lot of the discounts on ChirpMe are “deals for two,” geared toward date night. But Josh Viner, 23, said that the site is open to anybody. In addition to the restaurant coupons, ChirpMe offers “side deals” for businesses like hair salons, spas and gyms that users might go to before going out to dinner.
“We’re bringing [businesses] customers … that are likely to return,” Jon Viner said.
The service is free for the current restaurants on ChirpMe that offer coupons, but businesses that join ChirpMe from here on out will be charged for posting “chirp-ons,” creating advertising revenue for the start-up.
There is no user fee, but ChirpMe requires a Facebook account to sign in every time, pulling basic info and photographs, once approved, from the subscribers’ Facebook profiles to double as a ChirpMe profile. Site privacy settings allow users to control what information and photos are visible and who can see profiles.
The ChirpMe team is seeking a backer and the Viners and Rogers are in negotiations with some Connecticut businesses, though they declined to comment which ones.
“It’s going well,” Jon Viner said. “We have to figure out who’s the right fit.”
They want to keep their business in Connecticut for now, mostly concentrated on the Greater Hartford area, but eventually are interested in expanding to bigger cities like New York or Chicago.