It's the most wonderful time of the year...unless you're single and your parents/grandparents/cousins/annoying family members want to ask you a million questions about it.
Before the winter holidays start in earnest and the barrage of questions about your personal life is unleashed ("Why haven't you met someone? Is it because you dress like that? Don't you smile more?"), Daily RFT thought we'd share one of the most unique holiday gift ideas we've seen this season -- something conceived and built by a St. Louis startup.
Invisible Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend, the winners of the 2013 Startup Weekend St. Louis, are selling a "Girlfriend/Boyfriend-in-a-Box," a one-month subscription to the startup's fake love services -- including fake texts, voicemails and handwritten notes -- for $29.99. The startup partnered with Greetabl greeting card company, so every girlfriend-in-a-box comes with a special gift box and a handwritten message from the sender.
Matt Homann, Invisible Girlfriend's creator, says he designed the "gift box" to be a present for people who need enough proof of a relationship (even a fake one) to get through the holidays with their families.
"It's not built for the gag-gift idea," Homann tells Daily RFT. This is real love, or at least, real fake love. "You have to confirm it's you."
Homann's long-simmering idea for a fake girlfriend/boyfriend site came to fruition last year when his team developed the concept into a full-fledged business at the Startup St. Louis competition, where entrepreneurs spend a frantic weekend building new startups. Five members of Homann's original team are still working on the startup.
"We're not trying to build a girlfriend they can believe in -- that's a whole other level of technology," Homann says. "We're giving them a better story to tell, even if the story isn't true."
The site's original prototype included three pricing plans: "Just Talking" for $9.99 per month; "Getting Serious" for $29.99 per month; and "Almost Engaged" for a whopping $49.99 per month. The most expensive package included texts, an emergency interaction button, random gifts and notes sent to home or work, real voicemails, a coupled relationship status on Facebook and live phone calls.
A year later, the startup has a full-time employee and completed enough beta-testing to start selling fake love for real. The startup even asked people to donate their selfies so each fake relationship can have a real face.
"This is the business of helping [clients] tell a lie -- we're thinking of it more as a shield -- to have the excuse ready in hand and not have to be uncomfortable," says Homann. "It's lightweight but credible social proof."
Want to get your girlfriend or boyfriend-in-a-box by Christmas? Order by today, December 16.