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Pia Poppenreiter, the company’s CEO, stands and greets me with a rushed hug."You picked a great day to visit," she says, in a voice that suggests more cigarettes than hours of sleep.That week Berlin had been host to the NOAH Conference, an invite-only event comparable to Code Conference or Disrupt back in the States.According to multiple reports, the gala party two nights earlier had been characterized by a high number of "attractive, glamorously dressed women" who flirted aggressively with the male attendees and handed out business cards.Launched in August 2015, Ohlala is a web-based app that facilitates what it calls "instant paid dating." Male users post offers for dates, consisting of a time, a duration, and how much money they’re willing to pay — a typical offer is from 1–4 hours at an average price of 0.
With Ohlala, everyone wants something, and everyone’s on a tight schedule. People use Tinder or Ok Cupid for everything from NSA hookups to long-term relationship hunting, but there’s a high likelihood that you and the person you’re courting electronically might not be on the same page, even if both of you put "casual dating" in your "looking for" field.Though its on-demand model has earned Ohlala the label "Uber for escorts," the company insists it isn’t an escort agency, or even operating in the adult entertainment space.As I scrolled through the largely German #escortgate hashtag, one Bing translation at a time, I started to piece together an unraveling scandal.Crucially, women are not visible to men before they initiate conversation — it’s the inverse of the backpage listings to which it’s often compared. From there, the couple can chat and discuss the whens and wheres of their impending dates, as well as a payment method and their boundaries, if they so please.(In-app payment is currently in the works, the team tells me.) When the terms are agreed upon, the chat is logged, and presumably both parties are incentivized to show up.