Interview: Filter Off and RealMe Discuss Video-First Dating and User Transparency

Filter Off is an exciting startup dating app that puts video first. After filling out their profiles, singles will be set up on three video speed dates with another compatible user.

This is designed to streamline the dating process by connecting and engaging people straight away. The video element also adds an extra layer of security by preventing catfish or scammers from using the platform.

We caught up with Filter Off co-founder and CEO Zach Schleien, as well as RealMe’s VP of Partnerships Courtney Kovacevich, to learn more about the app and how dating companies can be as transparent as possible while also maintaining users privacy

Zach Schleien (ZS) is the co-founder/CEO of the video speed dating app, Filter Off. Filter Off has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, BBC, and hit #1 on ProductHunt. Previously he ran and sold the dating blog Top Romp, which covered dating hacks and apps for the modern dater.

He is a TEDx speaker and his passions lie in technology, health, and creating authentic connections. When he is not working, Zach loves to travel the world, listen to podcasts, and workout. 

Courtney Kovacevich (CK) is a global sales executive, having worked at some of the largest media companies in the world, including MTV Networks and iHeartMedia.  Her advertising campaigns have run in major television events and shows, including the Super Bowl, iHeartRadio Music Festival, MTV VMAs, and ABC’s Good Morning America.

Currently, Courtney is the VP of Partnerships at RealMe, a company dedicated to making dating apps safer. She partners with leading dating apps and platforms to provide consumers with background and reputation information to empower users to make informed decisions with those they interact with online.

You launched FilterOff in February 2020, what was your inspiration in creating the app?  

ZS: I created Filter Off because I was sick and tired of going on bad in-person first dates. So before meeting up in person, I started asking my matches if they’d be open to video chatting.

Previously I would have tried to build a connection over text. But I realized I had no text game. When texting it’s really easy to fill in the gaps to make assumptions about what that person is like without hearing and seeing them. Things got lost in translation. I then started asking women if they’d be open to FaceTiming instead.

I felt video chatting would be a low-pressure way to see if we vibed and whether I was attracted before meeting up in person…and it worked. Video chatting first was so much more efficient. I wasn’t wasting time commuting to meet someone or splurging on over-priced drinks only to quickly discover that we weren’t interested in each other.

Can you tell us more about Filter Off and what sets your app apart from other dating apps? 

ZS: Singles turned to Filter Off to seek out meaningful connections. We at Filter Off facilitated over 4,000 video speed dating events worldwide with 4 engagements created. 

For one, rather than swiping for hours, our users made real face-to-face connections in their 3-minute virtual speed dates. Secondly, Filter Off is building a community. We do that by hosting virtual speed dating events for communities. This can be anything from a Facebook group, like a community of self-proclaimed nerds, to a local religious organization, to a nonprofit. 

These communities have used Filter Off to facilitate face-to-face connections. Not only are individuals making connections, but it makes the group more tight-knit.

By providing the opportunity for users to meet people, not profiles, Filter Off’s ‘video first’ aims to create community-based experiences. Can you tell us more? 

ZS: Many users turn to Filter Off to host their own private virtual speed dating events for their community. It is free to host an event and can create an event within the app itself. Filter Off provides communities a slew of features, including:

  • Company branding
  • Ability to charge tickets
  • Ability to add an introductory video welcoming your attendees
  • Easy way to share your event from the event dashboard 
  • Assets
  • Advanced analytics

Authenticity and transparency are key selling points in the Filter Off user experience, can you elaborate on these?  

ZS: While using swipe apps, you’re judging their profile based on their bio and pictures. However, some people can’t build a decent profile or take good photos. There’s an entire industry to hire someone to design your profile. There’s a skill to building a profile, but it doesn’t equate to the skills you need to build a relationship.  

Filter Off provides a video first experience — no swiping, no catfishing. Given that it is video first you know who is behind the profile, providing our users with a transparent online dating experience.

Moving into the industry, what are the main challenges dating apps currently face when it comes to increasing transparency amongst their user base? 

CK: That’s a great question. Currently, dating apps are challenged by privacy and transparency. Most dating apps provide a level of privacy with respect to the data they collect upon setting up a profile; however, based on the information, it doesn’t provide a level of transparency from user to potential match. Based on our recent Dating Industry Survey, 2 in 3 dating insiders say their users are asking for more protection from the risks of online dating. 

RealMe makes dating apps safer by providing users with obfuscated profile and reputation information on their potential matches to ensure a level of privacy, but offers transparency on whether the potential match has a criminal background or sex offender status. Our mission is to empower users on dating apps to make more informed decisions.

ZS: For all dating apps privacy must be a focal point. However, transparency is key as well. Without transparency, that leads to catfishing and fake profiles. At Filter Off, we believe in a video-first experience that removes the possibility of catfishing and fake profiles.  

Transparency can sometimes be confused with ‘over sharing’ personal information. How can dating platforms strike the right balance and instil trust amongst their user base? 

CK: RealMe is dedicated to cultivating safety and trust on dating platforms. Platforms can strike the right balance by offering a level of verification to their users when they find a potential match. When a user becomes ‘RealMe Verified’, they are in control of their level of transparency which is key to increasing the number of potential matches. 

Our recent survey indicated user requests are the most important driver for change in safety and security policies and with 4 in 5 seeing an increase of scamming and catfishing during the pandemic, dating platforms should be evaluating how they can enhance security protocols to protect their users.

ZS: At Filter Off we believe that you should build trust via video. All video is conducted through the Filter Off platform. Only when you have a feeling of trust and connection do we then recommend giving out information such as a phone number or social media.

How does your product/app protect users on dating apps or silence bad actors? What information is used to maximize transparency and safety for daters? 

CK: Together, along with Spectrum Labs and UrSafe, we created CheckPlus, an automated solution that bridges users’ background, social media, and offline protection to provide platforms with a complimentary analysis and prediction of risk for an individual. 

We pass back user authentication, including criminal flags and sex offender status to our dating app partner to help assess risk and verify the user. While matches are in communication with one another, Spectrum Labs provides a contextual AI platform that looks beyond keywords to identify toxic behaviors in real-time. Together, the technologies create a RealMe-verified ID for the user. To complete our holistic user risk management tool, we look to UrSafe to provide offline security.

ZS: Filter Off has robust reporting options. However, we rarely have inappropriate actors given that your information is tied to your phone number. We take all reports seriously. We’ve also added features to block scammers from signing up and contacting users as well.

Virtual dating looks set to stay. What role will technology play in enabling these users to vet their potential matches to prepare them for the IRL experience?

CK: With CheckPlus, dating apps can monitor behavior in-app, off-app, and offline to protect their community and provide a greater understanding of their members, including the positive, and potentially harmful behavior, both current and historical. 

There are no other partnerships in the space that offer a holistic understanding and prediction of risk for individual dating app users. 

ZS: For every person it varies. Through our research, users have reported that they go on their initial video date to get a feel for whether they’re attracted, have chemistry, and enjoy speaking to their date. Following the initial timed video date, they then proceed by going on a long call. If they feel a connection they may then choose to meet in person.

What measures does your business already have in place to support the drive for greater transparency and do you plan to add to these in the coming months?

CK: RealMe is continually evaluating the way we access and gather information so that we can provide the most accurate background and reputation information on each ‘RealMe Verified’ user. We are optimizing the data and developing new profiles showcasing relevant data to empower more informed user decisions.

ZS: The Filter Off platform encourages communities to host virtual speed dating events. Having private events provides a feeling of trust and belonging, which leads to greater connection. We will continue to build new features to help organizers provide a frictionless video experience to their community with an increased awareness for their organization.

Click here to visit the RealMe or Filter Off’s website.

Source (Dating Industry Insider Survey): In partnership with GDI, 1,000 global dating executives from apps, websites and platforms responded to our survey about safety and security trends that impacted online dating over the past year and how those at the industry forefront are evolving  to tackle new challenges and build a safer and more transparent future for their users.