Every few months, I hear about another startup trying to get people to hook up with others nearby using their mobile phones. This has an immense boil the ocean problem. What are the chances that two compatible people might meet each other by using this service while sitting in nearby coffee shops? Let's see.
Let's assume you're single, signed up with this service, and in a coffee shop. Let's also assume the best possible location: some young, hip area of Manhattan full of coffee shops. (This is a huge assumption whose incorrectness would be enough, alone, to kill this idea. But we can temporarily assume that you only need your service to work in major dense cities full of upper-class young singles and coffee shops.)
You're probably willing to walk about 10 blocks for a casual meetup, and maybe the other person will walk the same distance to meet you. How many coffee shops are in a 20-block radius? Well, that's a lot. Given real-world constraints, I'm willing to accept a very generous maximum of 300 coffee shops.
This city is very enthusiastic about caffeine. They'd have to be, I guess, to have 300 coffee shops in such a small area. So how many people are sitting in each coffee shop? How about 20? That seems pretty high to me, but I'll be generous. That would give you approximately 6,000 people who might be available within your radius.
For random people sitting in a coffee shop, what are the chances that:
That's pretty damning. But that's not all.
The matchup service is likely to send you out to find other people who don't match your qualifications, because they can't measure all of them, especially whether the person is attractive or interesting. The best they could do is show you a picture, but anyone who has ever met an internet person in real life knows that anyone can come up with one picture in which they look attractive. And you're still on your own for deciding whether the person is interesting to you.
The probability that they'll meet all of the objective criteria is only 1 in 60,000, giving you a 10% chance that the service will match you up with someone well enough that you'd want to walk over and meet them, but there's only a 5% chance that they'll be a good match. So you can only expect 1 in 20 people you meet to be moderately worthwhile. Again, this is all assuming the absolute best circumstances.
That's not too bad. But when the average customer needs to meet 19 "appearance-challenged" or insanely dull (or just insane) people before they find someone moderately acceptable, how many people are going to stick with your service long enough to have any success?
Observant readers should notice that I left out a critical probability factor:
This drops the probability of a satisfactory match to 1 in 24,000,000 per person, or 0.025% of the 6,000 people available to you. You'd still be sent to prospective matches approximately 10% of the time, but you'd need to meet 300 people on average before you encountered a mutually acceptable match. Note that this isn't guaranteed to be a great match - just acceptable.
Are people loyal enough to a matchup service that they'd sit through 299 awful, awkward encounters before finding someone who they might date for a few months?
I wouldn't bet a company on it.