Hub LA members Matt Stokke and Derek Davis are the founders of The First Text, a service that they liken to being your online “wingman.” They help curate online dating profiles and messages. While they’re the first to acknowledge that the concept is kind of strange, the idea for the company came from a (kind of hilarious) personal experience they had a few years ago. What’s different about Matt and Derek, though, is that these two millennials are starting the First Text as they hold down day jobs. At the Hub, they truly embody the spirit of offering their services and skills to form the relationships that will help accelerate their own enterprise. I sent them a few questions about their work and to no one’s surprise, they charmed my socks off. Matt and Derek are about to do a soft launch of The First Text and are currently offering their services for free. If you’re interested in taking advantage of that deal, fill out this form on their site.
Tell me about your day jobs!
MS: I am basically a freelance attorney right now working two different part time jobs in addition to The First Text. I act as general counsel for California Limited, a clothing company founded by a high school friend of mine where I handle everything from incorporation to copyright issues to business contracts to HR. I also work for my dad, a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, where I make appearances in court for him and his colleagues.
DD: In addition to The First Text, I am currently working in an international public accounting firm helping multinational organizations in IRS Audit Defense, movement of intellectual property abroad and global restructuring initiatives to help reduce their global effective tax rate. Lastly, I am a Hass Avocado farmer.
How’d you come up with your idea for The First Text?
MS: For most of my life, I had this idea that online dating was for socially awkward and antisocial people. That all changed when I went to law school and had minimal time to be in the scene and meet new people. After years of knocking it, I finally gave in and set up a profile after some pushing by my co-founder, Derek Davis, who had been online dating for years by then and was going out with a girl he met online (they’re still enjoying a relationship together). So I went through the motions: I set up my profile, searched for dates who piqued my interest, and messaged those people. Unlike Derek though, I found this process to be tedious, inconvenient, and a waste of time…time that could be spent studying more or writing music (I’ve played in many bands over the years). Eventually, I started going out with someone I didn’t even meet online – obviously, online dating wasn’t exactly working out for me! So, I deactivated my online dating profile.
When we later broke up, I was down in the dumps and considered trying online dating again, but was turned off by the prospect of going through the process for the second time. Being the good friend that Derek is, he offered to do it all for me – including the messaging. To my surprise, I started getting texts from girls I didn’t know asking me when we were going to “grab that drink together.” And so began the online dating chapter of my life and the conception of The First Text. Like Derek, I met my current girlfriend online…er, I guess Derek technically met her online for me, but I definitely went on that first date with her! And if you’re curious to know, yes I told her about how our date came about. She was a little shocked at first, but managed to laugh it off. She now fully supports our business idea because, well, she met ME because of it!
DD: Someone once told me that “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. In addition to helping Matt navigate through the obstacles of online dating, I have been messaging from several of my close friends and family friends who simply did not have time or experience to partake in online dating. When I came up with the concept of The First Text, I was thrilled by the idea that anyone could find success in a relationship; it only took a little help from a friend. At its core, The First Text is everyone’s online dating “wingman”.
How do both enterprises inform what you’re doing at Hub LA?
MS: My involvement in The First Text has forced me to interact with other HUB members about their online dating experience and their feedback to our services offerings, learn a wide swath of basic skills from coding to digital marketing, and conceive completely new business ideas with other members. My professional background has allowed me to offer legal counseling to other companies and help them navigate the complex web of business regulations, the business incorporation process, intellectual property, and corporate governance. I think it’s great to be able to give back to the HUB community as a small token for everything it has done for me. It is especially fulfilling because many of the people I help are now my friends, and I genuinely want their companies to succeed.
DD: My current daytime job and work at the Hub are on polar opposites sides (in terms of group culture and type of work). It has been very refreshing to be able to go to the Hub at night and explore new ideas and think about things that I would not originally place importance on. Networking at the Hub has also given me the opportunity to provide my knowledge on taxation to other small companies and people who are looking to grow their business which has in turn allowed me to hone in on my technical tax skills. I have been able to develop new tax technical expertise surrounding start-ups and this has allowed me to continue to build and develop on my existing skill set.
What opportunities through Hub LA have been helpful to you professionally and/or personally? I know you’ve been to a few office hours – what were those like? And you both are really engaged here socially. Tell me a little bit about how that social aspect has affected your time here and your work here.
MS: My law background and this company have turned out to be a very valuable combination for me at the HUB. Since I have no formal business background, the resources and network of support at the HUB is absolutely essential to my growth as both an entrepreneur and a lawyer. The HUB’s office hours and casual encounters with other members has completely rewired my brain, and I now think and approach projects in a much more effective and creative way. Being a member at the HUB really has been an education in itself. Unlike my three years of intensely structured and traditional legal education, the HUB’s work-life integration approach makes it possible to collaborate and share ideas with people from completely different career backgrounds. Sharing a communal workspace breaks down the old walls that separated people from different industries. As a new lawyer, I’ve noticed that the legal community on the whole tends to be very insular and avoids integrating too much with non-lawyers. Yet, as society becomes more complex due to technological advances, it is more relevant than ever to break down those industry walls and to collaborate and think together. I believe my time at the HUB will help me understand future clients in a deeper way and provide better legal counsel to them. Right now, Derek and I have formed a mini “collective” with a group of friends at the HUB where we barter our individual skills to accomplish certain tasks in our respective companies. Just the other day, I wrote out a legal plan of attack for one of the collective companies in exchange for tech support and a brief overview of coding. Then we all went out and grabbed beers together as friends.
DD: Coming from an accounting background, the Hub has been instrumental in allowing me to network with more computer and tech savy individuals. This has been an invaluable experience to me. Matt and I have been able to network with two other tech savy individuals and we have been able to create a strong bond of helping one another out with areas that need improvement.
Any best practices for the online daters out there?
MS: Just be yourself. Just because you’re behind a computer screen doesn’t give you liberties to create a persona that you can’t live up to in real life. Don’t try to “run game” on anyone. It usually appears creepy, disingenuous, and like you’re trying too hard. When you message people, keep it short, but with just enough substance — don’t write essays. A good rule of thumb is to keep additional messages around the same length as the responses you’re getting. Oh, and use good grammar!
DD: Try not to get fixated on any one particular online dating profile and realize that your success with online dating is not a reflection of how you are as an individual. I can break down a sample template message for everyone to try out.
Hey [insert name],
I came across your profile and [write about something that drew you to their profile, this could either be their pictures, profile, etc]. [Ask a follow up question about what drew you to their profile]. [State your own experience here].
Came across your profile and saw you at the Farmers Market and thought to message you. Have you been to the new Farmers Market downtown? I am currently selling my family’s produce at two farmers market and love it!