August 12, 2011
Love is in the ether: 21% of Americans see the Internet as a good place to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to a survey by BBC World Service. And a new Chicago startup called Soulseekr is making it as effortless as possible for them to get dates.
“I wanted to work on something that would connect people together,” says cofounder Steve Znavor, 32, who became tired of high-frequency trading and his “faceless” customers.
Soulseekr queries Facebook for your name, age, gender, orientation, and photo. It also scans Facebook Places for your check-ins, so it won’t pair a bookworm with a bar hopper. Or you can search for your favorite places in Soulseekr’s comprehensive database, pulled from the Google Places API. With research showing that check-ins improve friend recommendations, this location-based approach may have some merit.
If you’re a Last.fm listener, Soulseekr can detect your favorites to prevent lovers’ quarrels over music. They also plan to integrate with other APIs like GetGlue’s—anything to avoid long, boring questionnaires. (Competitor OkCupid alleviates that problem with a funny, politically incorrect personality test.)
While importing social media data makes signing up easier, Znavor believes it also fosters more authenticity and better matches for would-be lovebirds.
“It’s not just another dating site. It’s more catered toward them as a person rather than just them as a number,” says Znavor, himself a quirky combination of engineer and musician. Soulseekr follows in the footsteps of several sites aiming to shake up online dating, such as the game-show-like Pick Mi Date, the video-focused SwoonXO and WinkVid, and SmallDates, which also pulls details from Facebook.
As long as the matches hit it off, Soulseekr’s biggest challenge will be to recruit more users. They have fewer than 100 now, and it shows: after signing up, I discovered three items in my feed, two of which were from Znavor. Also on the site is cofounder Matthew Kemp, an engineer who previously worked on a location-aware chat client called Meetro.
“We’re programmers. We don’t know how to get users,” admits Zavnor, who will be tackling that challenge next. They’ll have to learn soon, though, if they want to stand out in the crowd.
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