I was very happy to get an opportunity to speak with Dino Andrade, voice actor and founder of the niche dating site SoulGeek.com.
e.: Tell us a little about your geek cred. What flavor of geek are you?
Dino: Life-long. I was born September 16th, 1963 the very day the original Outer Limits premiered. I have been in love with works of great imagination all my life with a particular love for animation. Which is why I chose animation as a profession. In acting class while everyone was reading Onoel, Ibsen and Shaw, I was the clown reading Batman comics. I own cels from the original Star trek the Animated series. I stood in line for hours at Disneyland along with Rob Zombie and Greg Nicetero to get a limited edition Haunted Mansion print. I saw Star Wars in the Theater 27 time when it opened in 1977 – once dressed as a Sandman from Logan’s Run. I have a Planet of The Apes Trash can from 1974… shall I go on?
e.: Geek cred, check! So what made you want to launch a geek dating site?
Dino: I wish i could say that it was this happy burst of inspiration but I’m afraid that’s simply not the case.
I am the widower of voice actress Mary Kay Bergman whom we lost in November of 1999. She and I shared a love of geekdom that was a major part of our lives. We would go to any number of geek events from Disneyana events to Star Trek Cons (yes, we owned a pair of Starfleet uniforms). She was the gal who create all the female voice for South Park and performed them in the first three seasons and the movie so we were very close to fantasy entertainment. It was a world we reveled in.
When I lost her I was completely hollowed out. Life was just existence – no real life – for about 5 years.
When I finally decided it was time to reconnect with humanity I started joining dating sites and it was a nightmare. Being a widower was bad enough, adding “geek” status and forget it. It got to the point that I had two profiles on every site – a geek profile, and a non-geek profile. In short, I resorted to denying who I was and what I loved just to avoid loneliness. In the end, I gave up.
Eventually as luck would have it by sheer happenstance I ran into – of all people – my old high school sweetheart whom I hadn’t seen in 26 years. The spark was still there and we fell for each other all over again – and best of all – she too is a huge geek. I was thrilled to see she owned a set of Kirk, Spock and McCoy figurines on her mantle.
For Father’s Day (I have a daughter – a 21 year old blackbelt!), Casey (that’s my old high school sweetheart) took me to a Battlestar Galactica music event at the Mint in Los Angeles. This event was pretty cool because I love film music and most of the band members who did the score for Galactica used to be in the band Oingo Boingo who I used to work for back in the 80′s.
It was at this event that we ran into a gal who saw us hand in hand and commented “I hope I can find a geek of my own here.” This knocked me for a loop. This gal was cute, came to Los Angeles from San Diego (it turned out) for a Galactica event – be still my heart! – why was this girl single? That’s when all the memories of the hell I went through on all those dating sites came flooding back.
I told Casey that somebody should build a massive dating site tailor made for geeks. I searched online but I couldn’t find anything on the scale I wanted. To this Casey said, “Then why don’t you?”
I felt Casey was right so I quite literally took the money my wife left me and began construction of SoulGeek.com which was designed by myself, Casey and my daughter. In effect, the site is a multi-generational family affair and very much a part of my wife’s legacy.
e.: How many members does SoulGeek have?
Dino: We are right on the edge of 17,000 worldwide and we’re just under two years old. We began construction in June of 06, and the site made its premier at San Diego Comic-Con July of 07.
e.: Other than the obvious geek bent, what makes this site different than other dating sites?
Dino: First I would say that it is completely geek-centric. Many sites I’ve seen that claim to be for geeks are quite obviously the same cloned software of all the other dating sites just skinned with public domain images of flying saucers and such.
But when you look at profiles it’s all the same questions:
- How much do you make?
- What level of school did you achieve?
- How much do you make?
- What color hair to you have?
- How much do you make? …etc…
Not SoulGeek! Our profiles are based entirely on geekdom and you can go on and on about yourself in up to 18 areas of fandom: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, cosplay, animation, conventions, video games, collectibles, anime, webcomics, comic-books, table top RPG’s etc…
e.: (18 area of fandom reminds me of eharmony’s compatibility… hehehe!)
Dino: Yeah…don’t tell those guys!!! :) The site was originally coded from the ground up just for the geek to include galleries for fan-art and conpics, there’s fan-fiction. Over a dozen geek forums, almost as many geek oriented chatrooms, we have original webcomics, geek dating tip newsletters, geek news and so on.
In fact in the language section of your profile you can choose both Elvish and Klingon.
Plus I’m in my mid-40′s, my daughter is 21. I bring a very old school geek mentality influenced by Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Ray Bradbury, D&D etc… while my daughter brings an anime, cosplay, MMORPG younger vibe. In the end, the site has a multi-generational feel as opposed to other sites that tend to only favor the young, hip crowd. SoulGeek has just as much appeal for the 20 somethings as us old school dudes.
e.: How does membership work? Are there different tiers of membership?
Dino: Membership works no different than all the other security based sites such as Match.com, American Singles, eHarmony, etc… Joining is free and the free membership is all about observation. You can search all the members you want, read all the fan-fic you want, read all the geek news you want, enjoy the webcomics.
You can even submit questions to our gurus. The gurus are part of a program we have to help geeks who want to get into areas of fantasy entertainment. We have working professional gurus in digital special effect, on-camera acting, voice acting, creating webcomics, graphic art…we even have a geek dating and relationship guru – all free.
But it is our paid level of memberhsip where things really take off. With our uber membership you can compose messages to any member you want, create geek blogs, fan-fic and galleries. You can participate in all the chatrooms and forums. In short uber membership is all about participation. Again the model is the same as say Match.com with one huge exception – the price.
While most of those guys charge upwards of 40 to 60 bucks month, a Soulgeek Uber membership is only $9.95. So you’re talking about finding the love of your life for less than the price of two tickets to a movie.
e.: Very nice. I’ve noticed that in the sign-up, you give the option to select dating men, dating women, dating both, or non-dating member. Has the bisexual option always been there? (It seems to be absent from many dating sites!)
Dino: Yes, that was planned from the very beginning. What was not planned were the non-dating member options. I was literally sooooooo focused on dating like a man obsessed, that it never occurred to me that anyone would want to become a member just to be on a site like ours. After getting a lot of requests from non-daters we finally went back and coded in non-dating categories.
e.: Do you have any favorite success stories?
Dino: Several, but the very first is that the simple fact that the site is working. Six months after we launched we had no idea if it was working. That was when I noticed members in the forums talking about throwing a SoulGeek party over Valentines weekend in Las Vegas.
I chimed in as the creator of the site as asked “Hey Guys, mind if I tag along?” The event was literally put together and executed by SoulGeek members themselves and I had very little to do with it. When Casey and I got to Vegas we had the shock of our lives. I was greeted by a number of couples who had traveled across the country to thank me for building the site because they had found their significant other on SoulGeek. This was how I learned the site was actually working.
At the gathering, I saw a bank of monitors as Dick’s Bar and Grill where every monitor was tuned to various sports channels except for one that was showing the first season South Park Halloween special which featured my late wife rather prominently. Meeting all those couples and then seeing that was a real ass-kicker. That night back at my hotel room I bawled like a baby – I was very happy.
e.: awww :) (I have to admit, I was a little choked up reading that!)
Dino: The event was actually chronicled in webcomic form by one of the couples. This comic was created by webcomic artist Jennifer Walker who found her love on SoulGeek. She has since created an original comic for SoulGeek Webcomics entitled “Where the Geek Girls Are.”
Jennifer and her guy Todd are obviously another great success story. We also have at least two couples that are engaged, one married and numerous couple who have traveled huge distances to be with each other. In particular, one who traveled from Canada to Japan, and one who traveled from the US to Australia. I think we’re doing a lot of good.
e.: Is there anything else about SoulGeek you’d like to share?
Dino: We’re doing a lot of expanding. Battlestar Galactica star Richard Hatch is about to join the SoulGeek family. Together Richard and I will be doing a lot of video promotion and such. Plus we are about to launch monthly SoulGeek bashes in Hollywood. These gathering are slated to begin the second Saturday evening of every month starting in July at the 10 Forward Cafe at Hollywood and Vine.
e.: Very sweet. Do you ever do meetups at conventions?
Dino: People should also visit the SoulGeek booth at this years upcoming San Diego Comic-Con (booth 2517). After SDCC we will be at DragonCon but for next year we plan to start throwing con parties. We are about to scrap and relaunch a brand new conventions page so please feel free to send me any info on any upcoming cons.
Mind if I bring up one last thing about SoulGeek?
e.: Go for it
Dino: We have on the payroll a tiny staff and systems admin who monitor the site 24/7. None of the profiles are auto-approved. The profiles are all approved by human eyes, so we can maintain a zero tolerance for spammers, scammers, porn jockeys, and yahoos who try to create profiles that are actually fronts for companies trying to sell you crap you don’t want. In short we do our very best to ensure that each and every profile on SoulGeek is authentic. SoulGeek is a VERY safe place to find a geek of your own.
e.: I love your passion for geek matchmaking. Nice to see someone like me who is all about the geek love
Dino: The feeling is mutual. You’re doing the world a lot of good. Think about it. These couples you are helping bring together will like start family and so there will be people in the world all thanks to you. You should be proud of yourself. Cheers to you.
e.: Cheers to you too! Have a good night!
Dino: You too – Stay Animated!
Thank you to Dino Andrade for taking the time to chat with me about SoulGeek! If you’d like to learn more about Dino, his voice acting (he’s been in several video and computer games, including WoW’s Lich King expansion), and SoulGeek, check out this interview at Examiner.com.
Do any of you use SoulGeek? How has your experience been on the site?