While she was in school completing her college degree, entrepreneur Cynthia Tercier had barely any time to connect with her friends. “There were some times I just wanted to go out,” she says. “There was just never anything to do and even if there was, there was no one to go with because all of my friends were in school or busy.” She and some of her friends had tried to meet people online, but things went sour when the men they met weren’t as they had portrayed themselves.
Tercier decided to create a paid website that allowed for background checks on those who used it. Introduced last year, firstinteraction.com allows members to seek out others with similar interests in just about anything, with the peace of mind that those they meet have gone through a background check.
This feature was important to Tercier. “That’s what makes me wary about going on dating websites, because you never know who you’re meeting with,” she says. “And then you finally meet them and you think they’re cool and then later on you find out they’ve been in jail for something.”
She said that this filter would “help minimize the exposure you’re putting yourself into,” because in regards to a crime, you can’t “determine that it’s not going to happen again”.
Tercier had also been shown a similar website, meetup.com, but she noticed that most of their events were planned in advance for members rather than the members planning them themselves. “You can still make your own thing, but a lot of them were organized events,” she says. “It was more like, ‘There are activities going on and you can go meet up with them there or in a group,’ and I kind of wanted to think more one-on-one or maybe two or three people.
“Then I thought, ‘[…] What will separate me from others?’ And that’s when I introduced the safety network behind it,” Tercier continues. “There’s no website out there that promotes safety. I’m not guaranteeing safety, but I’m promoting minimizing the amount of exposure that people are putting themselves into, because you’re more likely to meet up with someone [who’s] not a registered sex offender or doesn’t have any criminal background.”
The background check is done by a company called People Smart. In Tercier’s understanding, they’re still working on the safety aspect of the site, but she claims that the checks are as accurate as those you would find in a courthouse: you request a first and last name and date of birth and find out if there’s anything on them.
“We don’t actually get the result as to what’s on your background […],” says Tercier. “If it has anything more than a DUI, it comes back and says that there’s something not clear on this person’s background.”
The website was not meant solely for students, Tercier says. “I want it targeted for mainly families because I want the website to be very family-oriented,” she says. “I wanted to do it in a community sense, so for students. And I want it to be for the hardworking person who wants to go out when they’re busy at work and now they want to go and have a good time or enjoy a day out doing what they enjoy. I want everyone to be able to participate in it.”
Tercier says she still wants members to be careful and to meet new members in public, but she also stresses the fact that her website is an elite club for the prudent.
“I’m also sending out a message to the young generations that are coming up so that they know they need to be careful and watch what they do,” she says. “Because eventually, the world is going to where, if you don’t have a clear background, you’re not going to be part of certain things. You’re going to miss out in life and on certain things that are happening.”
“Nowadays, children are growing up and doing things and not even thinking about their actions,” she continues. “I want them to start thinking about what their actions are and the consequences that can arise later on in life. I’m passionate about this website because it’s turning the world around into a new generation.”
The site was just launched last month. “Currently, there are 134 people,” says Tercier. “Nobody’s really using the functions, because it’s been my friends who send it to their friends.” Right now, she wants to bring the site to schools so that students can create their own networks and events.