Position & Company: Founder, HerSmile
Tell us a little about HerSmile and how it works.
HerSmile is an award nominated dating site dedicated to refreshingly honest profiles and reciprocated interest from someone wanting a genuine relationship. We protect women online and are the first site to use an intention assured payment model, considerably reducing the time taken for both men and women to meet a suitable partner.
How is HerSmile different from other dating sites in the way it matches up its users?.
When researching the market we looked at how our competitors matched their users. We found a disarray of introductions where 24% of suggested matches were suitably compatible. The sentiment from our market research was; a red herring of wasted time. It seems technology has yet to find a way to incorporate a human touch in online dating selection.
We needed to find a simple way users could see a synergy in a prospective partner. So we created the Points in Common. Matched to 16 of your Essential questions. This process reduces the time spent on a ‘daily mismatch’ whilst giving users an instant compatibility reference point.
Where did you come up with this idea?
The initial idea came about when I was in my final year at University in Moscow and I was on the train heading home after a long weekend out of the city. Leaving the carriage I took the escalator towards the exit. As I travelled up, I caught the eye of a beautiful women travelling down on the opposite side. She smiled and for a brief moment there was a very real connection. Had it not been for the barrier between us who knows what might have happened? At home later that evening I started to think about the relevance of the barrier. Though an impassable divide it had inadvertently created a net of safety between us where neither of our space could be entered, or not at least, without a clear invitation.
Many years later I was sitting at a bar with some friends in Tokyo. My buddy caught the attention of a woman sat at the bar and sensing reciprocated interest he approached offering to buy her a drink.
When a man offers to buy a women a drink he is confirming his intention is genuine. His investment lets her know he is specifically interested in her. From a safe and informed point of view she can decide where it goes. Meanwhile for him; if she accepts the drink he knows the interest is mutual and if she declines his time won’t be wasted.
The blueprint for HerSmile was born. We took exactly what we do in real life and put it online. To send his first introductory message a man confirms his interest is genuine through a micro transaction. Her ‘smile’ confirms the feeling is mutual. If she’s not interested we’ll simply ensure he doesn’t lose out financially. There’s no pressure on either side.
Whether it be in a Russian metro, a Japanese bar or online you need to feel safe that an introduction is coming from a genuine place with real intention.
What stage is HerSmile at now? When did you launch, what markets are you currently live in, and how many user do you have?
HerSmile went live in the UK and The Republic of Ireland in December 2015. The official launch of the site and native applications (iOS and Android) will be on 14th February 2016. Since December we’ve had 500 sign ups.
What interests you most about the online dating industry?
Online dating is huge. The industry its worth over 2 billion dollars, growing at 5% each year they expect by 2040 70% of us will have met our partners online. Yet for many users the results are no better than a lottery. Profiles are often misleading and intention can be deceptive. With all the chaos of a cattle market; I absolutely knew there was a better way. So I created HerSmile.
What do you think are the biggest problems for online daters at the moment?
Back in 2011 I started to research the market. Across all demographics I asked people what they didn’t like about online dating. What wasn’t working for them. I found three barriers kept recurring: Safety, information and intention. Finding a solution to these barriers become the blueprint for HerSmile.
How do you aim to make sure your users’ profiles are honest?
Information on online dating is boring – you’re asked to write reams of text trying to sum up your great sense of humor… who cares! If there is a good profile it’s invariably been copied and pasted. It’s both deceptive and uninspiring. Yet, realistic profiling is so crucial for a great introduction.
So, we removed the stress of selling yourself, ensuring you’d never be asked to write your life’s CV. Inspiring to write, authentic to read in a few fun yet thought provoking questions we can create your profile for you. By removing the selling yourself mentality often associated by online dating we can ensure refreshingly honest profiles.
What is your background in? How big is the HerSmile team and how did you come together?
I spent 3 years in Moscow Studying Russian, before moving onto Tokyo to do my post grad in Japanese. Putting aside one third of my income I started fulltime work as a headhunter in Amsterdam. At 26 having lived abroad for 10 years, with 5 languages under my belt and some money saved I came home.
HerSmile is the essence of a startup with a current team of 2, myself and marketing specialist Graeme Brooks.
How has your app changed and developed since its launch?
Considerably! The app we have today is a remanence of what we originally had. We must have recoded the site 6 times and streamlined our model at least 4 times.
Which markets are you looking to expand into next? How big is the market potential?
We plan to expand across the English speaking countries, then throughout Europe. Love is not a niche market so the potential is limitless. We all need love in our lives.
How do you plan to grow the app? (advertising, marketing, PR etc)
We’ve seen quite a bit of growth following our success at the UK Online Dating Awards: Best New Dating Site 2015 and Innovation in the Dating Industry 2016. The plan for 2016 is to capitalise on this initial buzz using a combination of social media, gorilla marketing, targeted articles and viral videos. Once we’ve established a recognised brand we’ll then look at targeted advertising and localised PR.
How do you ensure authentic users?
Being a paid site brings its own form of verification as members have to input valid card details. In addition, we created a number of unique features that help users authenticate themselves further.
How is the app monetised? How did you decide on this strategy?
Members on HerSmile can message anyone at any time. To become a member women need a subscription (£12), men need introductions/credits (£4 each. Minimum purchase of 3). Men are only charged to confirm their interest in a woman is genuine and use one credit to establish contact. ‘Her smile’ informs him that the interest is mutual. This allows him to have a dialogue with her. If she doesn’t reply he cannot have a dialogue and the credit is returned for him to use again with someone else.
Women, from a safe and non-pressured position aren’t bombarded with unwanted messages and because he invests in an introduction, she is assured of his commitment to her. Men, who only receive responses from women who reciprocated their interest waste no time and money.
This process removes the negative behaviour patterns that can make online dating a disappointing experience. Men are discouraged from ‘playing the numbers game’, while women are encouraged not to ‘sit on the fence’.
Throughout nature females select males with great care, while males pursue every partnership opportunity. HerSmile is the first introductory site designed to reflect these inherited instincts; men pay per opportunity (introduction) and women, for a fixed fee, screen an unlimited number of suitors. By operating a payment structure that parallels our biological drives we have an environment where love is less of a lottery and more of a real possibility.
Have you raised any funding for the app?
Though we’ve been fortunate enough to receive investment offers; HerSmile has been entirely self-funded. This route helped us retain 100% of the shares. I felt by using my own money it would help show future investors my commitment and belief in the project.
What are your plans for the app over the next year?
Find out more about HerSmile on its official site.