Springfield Startup Hoping Sparks Fly With New Dating Site

Aug 29, 2014

Credit Alissa Zhu / KSMU

“Your perfect match is just a click away” promises 417 Fling, a dating website exclusively for relationship seekers in southwest Missouri. As KSMU’s Alissa Zhu reports, it’s just one of many new startups in Springfield.

The dating site was the brainchild of 19-year-old Shaun Borneman, a sophomore at Missouri State University. Borneman created 417 Fling as a summer project after he decided that large national online dating services were not meeting his expectations.

“I made an account on a couple of the big sites but it never got me anywhere. I’m hoping that this one will be different,” said Borneman.

417 Fling is still in its internet infancy. It’s been live for a week and had 34 users at last report. 417 Fling is one of 927 new business licenses issued by the City of Springfield just this year.

“We have a really rich history of entrepreneurial success.”

That was Maggie Kost with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

“If you look at companies like Bass Pro Shop, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation, those companies have really defined Springfield’s entrepreneurial culture. There’s something about the bootstrap innovation that goes on in Springfield and it allows companies to go from small startups to national corporations and so it just shows that southwest Missouri really has an environment that’s ripe for economic growth,” Kost said.

The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and entrepreneurial partners are awarding $5,000 to the winner of its Go BIG pitch competition at the B2B Expo on October 2nd.  The competition provides an opportunity for a startup to develop its idea by receiving seed funding, a space to work and mentoring and consultation services from local businesses. The competition also gives the community an opportunity to engage in the unique and dynamic entrepreneurial culture developing in southwest Missouri today.

The pitch competition comes at what Brian Kincaid, the business incubator director for the eFactory, calls a renaissance for entrepreneurship and startups in Springfield. The eFactory at MSU is an entrepreneurial development center and small business incubator that helps business ideas become realities.

Jason Graf is the CEO of Crowdit, a successful crowdfunding site based in Springfield.

“This time, last year if you had taken a look at the entrepreneurial and startup community, it would have been hard to put a finger on it and get a pulse as to what exactly was going on. It was scattered, it was fragmented, and there was no central location for entrepreneurs to gain to gain networking, to gain knowledge and to gain resources,” said Graf.

However, the startup culture really started snowballing after a Kauffman Foundation program called 1 Million Cups, which connects entrepreneurs and mentors, came to Springfield in February 2014.

The conglomeration of entrepreneurial partnerships between the eFactory, 1 Million Cups, and a variety of other businesses facilitates connections between people with big ideas and appropriate mentorship as well as early stage capital. Kind of like how 417 Fling hopes to facilitate meetings between kindred spirits.

The lack of experience is the number one reason that over half of new businesses in the United States fail, according to Graf.

“Be passionate, don’t give up and plan. You’ve got to plan, plan, plan. Get mentors, get advisors, surround yourself with people who want to help you and teach you how to be successful. Really hone in and figure out what’s going to differentiate you from your competition,” said Graf.

Bourneman said he hopes his hyper local focus will help set 417 Fling apart from larger dating sites. Services like OK Cupid or Tinder allow for users to search for matches within a certain locality, but they don’t feature local restaurants or date night suggestions, which is an element that Bourneman said he may add to 417 Fling soon.

“It all starts with a date,” reads the homepage of 417 Fling. Starting a new a business, in some ways, is like embarking upon a new relationship. It can be exciting and many are doomed to fail. For the businesses that do succeed, they all start with an idea.