Dating with the stars

The sky’s the limit for new romantic experience

They say love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, but maybe it’s in the stars.

A business in Halifax is renting out telescopes to couples as part of a new dating experience.

The company, called goBE, is a web platform allowing users to rent out expensive pieces of equipment, including canoes, cameras, metal detectors, snowboards and telescopes.

Costa Zafiris, co-founder of goBE, says accessing an expensive piece of equipment, like a telescope, can be difficult.

“Instead of going out and making a big $1,200 purchase, why not try it? See if you even like it for a couple of hours, or for a day, for a small fee.”

At the moment, goBE is charging $50 to rent out a telescope for the evening.

Zafiris says goBE is trying to style itself off Airbnb, an online global community where people can rent out their homes and apartments to travelers.

“It’s just something different,” says Zafiris, who believes young people are more open to the concept of the “sharing economy.”

“There’s definitely an appeal about how different they (Airbnb) are too …. It’s just something different. I think people will enjoy that.”

Chris Johnson, co-founder of goBE, says he and Zafiris first put an ad on Kijiji to gauge how much interest there would be in their new business venture.

“We had 200 hits and reposted it, and I think we’re at 198 right now,” he says.

The telescope Zafiris and Johnson use is a Celestron NexStar 8SE, a computerized telescope where users can punch in the co-ordinates of whatever object in space they want to look at and the telescope will align itself to those co-ordinates.

“So everything has a co-ordinate,” says Zafiris. “If you want to look at Mars, type in the co-ordinate and then it turns.”

The Celestron NexStar 8SE sells for $1,199 on telescopes.com and Zafiris says while it is “user friendly,” an informational session will be required to instruct users on what the fragile pieces are and how to properly align them.

Jeremy Tupper, a friend of Zafiris and Johnson, rented a telescope from goBE with his girlfriend and is the only one to have tried it, so far.

In an email, Tupper said the telescope needs to be programmed, otherwise it is difficult to follow the stars, but found it easy to use once it was set.

He said the sky did get cloudy on the first night but Zafiris and Johnson let him borrow it for a few more days.

“We saw some great stuff and the telescope was so good and powerful that we were able to see stars with incredible clarity. It was pretty cool. I had no idea that they looked like they do,” said Tupper.

Zafiris and Johnson first met at Halifax West High School before going on to Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University, respectively.

Zafiris earned his bachelor of commerce, with a major in entrepreneurship, while Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and took entrepreneurship classes at Dal.

When Zafiris and Johnson decided to start a business together, the pair would meet once a week to brainstorm ideas until Johnson realized he had a telescope and thought, “That’s a great date idea.”

Johnson says that for him, the appeal of using a telescope is to realize how small people truly are in the universe.

“There’s so much more out there that people don’t even think about.”

Zafiris says he’s always been a “space nerd.” He read and watched videos about space growing up, but a telescope brings you closer to actually experiencing it.

“You see pictures like the Hubble (Space Telescope), but when you actually align a telescope on an object yourself and look through it, there’s a really cool feeling to that.”

So far, Zafiris and Johnson have spread their business to friends by word-of-mouth, along with a Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram accounts.

They plan on creating a section on their website called “Date Caddie,” where users can share photos and experiences from their dates, offer reviews on what worked and what didn’t, as well as tips and ideas on where couples can go.

Johnson says there are plenty of dating platforms available, such as Tinder and PlentyOfFish, but not one which helps couples once they’ve already met.

“We’re more the fuel to the fire,” he says.

Focus in on your significant other. (Photo: Michael Lee)
Focus in on your significant other. (Photo: Michael Lee)