Apps / Lifestyle / Startups

This DC guy wants to build a better dating app. Here’s how

Meet Sweet Pea — more talking, less swiping.

The Game Innovation Lab's promotional flyer for the interactive play. (Image courtesy of NYU Poly)
Michael Bruch sees a market opportunity for a dating app. Yes, another one. Yes, he’s being serious. Let’s hear him out.

Bruch knows that dating apps are a dime a dozen these days, and yet, he argues, no one is really happy with the existing options.

“People don’t necessarily have a loyalty to the other products out there,” he said, of the dating app marketplace. In contrast to social apps where people interact with existing friends and tend to be very attached to one or another (generally what they’re used to and where their friends are), dating apps are a whole other story. Each one that has emerged is, in Bruch’s mind at least, in some way problematic. And this creates that market opportunity we mentioned at the top.

So Bruch has launched Sweet Pea — “an introductions app,” he calls it.

Sweet Pea “seeks to humanize the online dating experience.” How? Bruch’s theory is that good relationships start with good conversation. So he’s designed Sweet Pea as a place where conversations can start — one of the app’s primary distinguishing features is an “icebreaker” question on every users’ profile that anyone can answer, effectively providing users with an easier entry into conversation than the traditional (yet lame) “hey” of a Tinder DM. “I like to say it’s the coffee shop of dating apps,” Bruch said. It’s all about “getting people talking more and swiping less.”

Sweet Pea's "icebreaker" feature. (Screenshot)

Sweet Pea’s “icebreaker” feature. (Screenshot)

Sweet Pea also allows users to display profile videos in lieu of (or in addition to) profile pictures — the idea being that a simple, Snapchat-like video can be more authentic and information-rich. “You don’t necessarily have to have the perfect profile picture,” Bruch said.

Beyond these two main distinguishing features, Sweet Pea operates much like any other dating app. You design a profile and designate what you’re looking for; You swipe left or right; you message others you’re interested in, etc.

And like many dating apps, Sweet Pea operates on a freemium model — free for basic use, or paid for a “VIPea” subscription. The company also has a social mission and donates 10 percent of profits to charities that help people get out of abusive or toxic relationships.

Sweet Pea launched just weeks ago and Bruch said it already has “a couple thousand” users. It’s early days still so Bruch is focused on listening to those users, trying to create a product that people will love. After all that’s what his whole theory (that there’s an opportunity here) rests on.

And maybe Bruch is right — maybe the issue with dating apps is just that no one has created the right one yet. But maybe the issue is a little deeper than that. Maybe online dating, much like any kind of dating, just kinda sucks until you meet someone wonderful and then, suddenly, it doesn’t anymore. And that process, however inefficient, might not be a “problem” that tech can fix.

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