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BUSINESS PROFILE: At 2dates2.com, your friends are the benefit

If I had a dollar for every awkward first date I’ve been on, I could retire tomorrow. Comfortably.

Margie-date-nights long ago became a topic of excitement among my friends - because each encounter always seems to be worse than the one before. There was the time my date got so plastered that I needed to cab home. There have been more than a couple happy hours or meals where within minutes; I questioned whether I could slit my wrists with a dull butter knife fake a seizure in order to avoid having to continue to endure painful, pre-scripted small talk. There was even that one time where I went on a first-date with someone who turned out to be 10 years older and 20 pounds heavier than I was led to believe.

I’m sure there are countless people who have their own unique opinions about first dates, but in my mind? I tend to dread them more than I look forward to them. Especially when it’s with someone I have yet to meet face to face.

Fortunately, times are changing and technology is finally catching up. Enter 2dates2.com.

The website’s founder is Aaron Grosskopf. Never in a million years did he imagine he’d have business interests that would span into the world of online dating. At the same time, though, he realized that there was an entire market of people out there that might have a marked interest in finding a way to make that “awkward first date” more comfortable.

“I’m a private chef by day,” Grosskopf said. “But after a first-date experience I had with one particular girl I found myself jumping into the entrepreneurial world. We met at a place in Little Italy and she was nervous, even after we’d had a couple drinks. A friend of hers happened to ‘randomly’ pop in, and my date immediately loosened up. We wound up having a really great time.”

That, he said, is when the proverbial light bulb turned on.

“I’d started joking around that maybe I should call one of my friends and we could turn it into a double date and a couple days later I realized I may have come onto something,” Grosskopf said. “I then began talking with my buddies, saying that ‘hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was a website where people could go to find group dates. Eventually it turned into a more serious idea.”

2dates2.com takes online dating to the next level and has merged the concept with a number of social media aspects. Members can chat, instant message, email, post events, videos and even mp3 files. They can vote in the “hot or not” category or post questions for others and answer ones already posted.

“It’s completely interactive,” Grosskopf said. “You can post on your wall or on someone else’s; you can put messages in the ‘shout out’ box. We wanted to find fun, light ways to keep people on the website which could also help tie them into people they might be interested in meeting.”

And of course, there is the added bonus of group-dating option.

“People can either sign up with friends or they can search and request to be added to groups that already exist,” he said. “If you don’t have a wingman, you can browse for one.”

Signing up on 2dates2.com is fast and easy and there is no cost to create a profile. Free profiles, however, have limits as to the numbers of photos and videos that can be posted. Those who opt for the paid-upgrade, though, will allow members to up those limits.

Grosskopf said he’s so certain that people will love 2dates2.com that he’s going to auto-upgrade anyone who signs up by clicking through a link or banner advertisement found on San Diego Gay & Lesbian News (SDGLN.com). Those interested will need to act fast because this one-of-a-kind offer expires on April 30.

“I have been on more dating websites than I can count,” he said. “What makes 2dates2.com unique, in addition to the group dating dynamic, is that we’re keeping it local to Southern California. There are countless new websites popping up all the time that boast one to two million users but they’re all over the world. Here you’re only going to connect with people who live in or close to San Diego.”

For more information on group dating or to sign up now, visit 2dates2.com.