Alexandra Chong came up with the idea for Lulu during a post-Valentine's Day brunch, when she found herself telling her girlfriends about a date who, while he wasn't for her, "might be perfect for someone else." Now she sees the app, described as a "Yelp for boys," as a way to recommend guys rather than trashing them.
Lulu lets women (and only women) create "reviews" of men they know. Rather than writing anything they want, though, they're confined to a series of questions and drop-down list of qualities expressed as hashtags, like #CheaperThanABigMac, #DudeCanCook, or #HotCar. This keeps women from posting too much personal information about men, or insults worse than, say, #Boring. "Lulu has to remain light-hearted and not cruel," says Chong.
That sets it apart from sites like Don't Date Him Girl, which is primarily geared toward warning women away from cheating or otherwise objectionable men. Chong says Lulu is "a place you can talk about the good and the bad," but adds that the majority of reviews so far are positive.
She also says the app could be a force for good: "Should a guy not do well in a particular category, then they can change their behavior." She's also noticed men bragging about their good Lulu reviews on Twitter. And men can remove themselves if they don't like what they see.
Lulu has 75,000 downloads so far, and it's already come in for some criticism — BuzzFeed FWD's Katie Heaney was less than impressed with its "emphasis on retro, sex-stereotypic ideas about what is and isn't desirable in a guy." Chong, who studied in London, says the site is like Marmite: "people either love it or they hate it."
Chong is focusing on building Lulu's user base among college students right now, but says the company, which just got a $2.5 million round of funding, might expand into the dating market. She's exploring whether Lulu will partner with other dating sites or develop a dating channel of its own. Meanwhile, ideas for gaming the system are already coming in: