If you’ve heard of Grouper, you already know what’s coming. Inspired by the online matchmaking service, Penn now has its very own social start-up to link like-minded students, and its name is just as punny as you would expect. With the tagline “Expand your circles,” it seems that rather than acting as a dating site, GrouPenn just wants you to make new friends. Think that sounds peculiar/desperate/pathetic? Remember the last time you made a new friend, then get back to us.
Obviously, we have Wharton to thank for GrouPenn: students Maxine Winston, Rebecca Yip, Rob Dearborn, Shannon Mangini, and Yaw Oteng-Agipong launched the start-up as part of their Entrepreneurship course. The system is essentially the same as Grouper’s: a group of three—of either single or mixed gender—fills out a questionnaire, pays $20 via PayPal, and waits to get matched with another group. GrouPenn will then set them up at a bar, restaurant, or “other cool spots around Center City and West Philadelphia.” UPenn’s Under the Button has already approved of it, most likely because some strange entity called SaladWorks comes into play.
GrouPenn consulted “experts,” otherwise known as psych grad students, to develop methods with which to match groups together (disadvantaged and underpaid grad students to the rescue once again). The questionnaire that groups fill out includes prompts like “If your group were an animal, which would it be and why?” Remind you of any pre-orientation ice breaker exercises? Groups are also asked to self-identify from a list of descriptors including “nerds,” “jocks,” “stoners,” “hipsters,” “sceney,” “rural,” “urban,” “fratty,” etc. Are spirit animals and broad social categories the pathway to true friendship? Only time and post-meet-up Instagrams can tell.
But credit where credit is due: the makers of GrouPenn have hit upon the cold, hard truth that the last friends most of us made were from freshman year orientation. Another truth: we’re all aggressively against expanding our friend circles, choosing to enact yet another round of drinking wine in a dorm room with three other people rather than venture out into the terrifying world of new social interactions. So here’s to GrouPenn, and to people making new friends. Who cares if we need $20 and the Internet to manage it?
If you’ve gone on a GrouPenn meet-up, email us at email@example.com.