“Are you seeing anyone?”
It was a question Matt Homann was tired of answering.
Homann, a 1986 graduate of Highland High School, said he never realized just how much others judge a person based upon their relationship status — or lack thereof — until after he divorced.
“I felt pressure from my family to start dating again,” he said.
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It all came to a head when his family asked him, “Should we set an extra plate at the Thanksgiving table?”
That’s when he had the idea. What if people could have a girlfriend to bring home to mom on their phone? The concept for the Invisible Girlfriend app was born. Through the app, subscribers could create a believable girlfriend/boyfriend, complete with photos and back story, and have a way for people to meet their new significant other in cyberspace.
The relationship between Homann and his app was slow-burning at first. (It was a decade ago that he purchased the Internet domain.) But in the last few years, it has caught fire.
Homann first took his proposal to the November 2013 St. Louis Start-up Weekend “just for a laugh,” he recalled. Event organizers thought it would be good for some laughs, too — all the way to the bank. He won.
Homann soon found himself with four professional developers, two designers and a handful of business and social media experts ready and willing to turn his idea into a product within days.
“It went from, ‘Let’s have some fun. Let’s make everyone laugh,’ to, ‘We have the making and talent to build something that works,’” he said.
Homann himself no longer needs the service the app provides. (He lives in St. Louis’ Central West End with his wife, Jessica, and daughter, Grace.)
But many other people do. Since he launched Invisible Girlfriend and its companion, Invisible Boyfriend, in January, 80,000 people have created profiles. Another 8,000 people have posted their selfies, which Invisible Girlfriend/Boyfriend subscribers can use to pretend as being their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” And, as the app as evolves, more people are signing up.
“(The app) is still is a beta mode for us,” Homann said. “We are still trying to learn our customers.”
Some of the features on the site include a fill-in-the-blank template for how you met your “girlfriend.” Also, you can text your Invisible Girlfriend, and she will text you back.
The idea has gained a lot of publicity. Homann has been on both the Today Show and Good Morning America to talk about it.
Homann said that Invisible Girlfriend/Boyfriend is just one of the many so-called “quirky ideas” he has developed in recent years. An attorney, Homann authors a legal blog, “The (non) Billable Hour,” where he shares innovative ways for lawyers and other professionals serve clients better.
Homann is also chief executive officer of Kendeo in St. Louis, a company that “builds visual tools and facilitates meetings and designs creative workshops that help people think, meet and learn together.”
Later this summer, Homann is also planning to open “Filament,” a brain-storming, creative-meeting space in downtown St. Louis.
“I have a natural knack for creating methods that help really smart people think, meet and learn together better,” he said.