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Need Models for Your Party? There’s an App for That


Members join the app by linking their Facebook profiles and are then “crowdcast” for clients, based on demographic details like their age, interests and number of Instagram followers. Eighteen months into operation, the app is still building its business; it approached Wearable X to provide its services, at no cost.

Ms. Siaca earned a modest $10 for her attendance, and her Instagram post from the party (“When @wearablex launches new technology embedded yoga pants, ya gotta check it out!”) garnered over 115 likes and three emoji comments, including one from Scott Lipps, an influential model agent.

“For me, it’s not about the money,” said Ms. Siaca, who works in digital marketing for Clarins, and has earned about $600 attending 12 Surkus events. “It’s what kind of people can I meet, what kind of, like, environment is it? Is it a cool brand that I might be interested in?”

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According to Mr. George, center, Surkus has 150,000 members who have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, mainly in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami.

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Dina Litovsky for The New York Times

Surkus is run by Stephen George, a 30-year-old who lives in Los Angeles and rides a Onewheel (a sort of motorized skateboard and unicycle) to the company’s Hollywood offices each morning. A subdued tech millionaire, with apple cheeks and searching brown eyes, he makes an unlikely conductor of cool.

Mr. George started his career in 2008, as an intern at the company that became Groupon. After making almost $10 million from the stock options, he traveled the world for three years before investing $250,000 in Surkus in 2015, becoming chief executive last November.

According to Mr. George, Surkus has 150,000 members who have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, mainly in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. Power users, he said, can earn $4,000 a year.

It’s not all beautiful people doing beautiful things. We’ve had some very fun one-off events,” said Mr. George, citing one movie extra casting “where they needed senior citizens, 65-plus, and so we acquired members to do that.”

How, exactly? “We may have organically hacked that, and reached out to a couple of senior citizen homes in L.A.,” he said, suppressing a giggle.

But O.K., it’s mostly beautiful people doing beautiful things.

The next night, Surkus supplied 10 women, all in their mid-20s, for a party promoting Patrón tequila at the Marmara hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

The Surkus guest list, as displayed on its app, recalled Mitt Romney’s line from the 2012 presidential campaign about having “binders full of women.” It was a grid of alluring social-media portraits (“thirst traps,” as the kids say) packing enough tousled hair extensions to spring Rapunzel from 1 World Trade Center.

The members, each of whom would receive a star rating at the end of the night indicating how she had comported herself, were a cross section of ambitious young arrivals to the city. They included a Rockland County native, Vanessa Wilson, 25, a receptionist at Chanel’s Midtown offices, and Kristin Taylor, 24, an actress from Kansas City, Kan., who makes a living impersonating Jennifer Lawrence on YouTube.

Each received $10, and was told to be discreet about how they came to be there. The client, a downtown “experiential agency” called Bowery Collective, charged everyone else up to $85 to attend.

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