Despite the wealth of services in the space, the online dating experience still leaves a lot to be desired. This, in turn, is seeing new services launch with the aim of filling a gap left by, or righting an issue with, existing services, with the cycle then repeating again as new services launch to fill gaps and fix issues of the previous batch.
One of the latest to launch is Australian offering Pair. Founded by husband and wife duo Celeste and Hui Ong, who sold restaurant directory and review site Eatability to Optus in 2012 for $6 million, Pair is “designed to bring safety, respect and honesty to dating”.
The Ongs have been working on the app for three years, with Celeste explaining the idea came from watching her friends struggle with online dating.
“I was intrigued by the problem since a lot of people are searching for love, but I was shocked to find the kind of obstacles that have been present for so many years in current dating services like harassment, catfishing, and outdated photos and profiles,” she said.
“We decided that we could make a difference with Pair, essentially by creating a dating platform where people are able to meet each other in a respectful environment where bad behaviour is not tolerated.”
The cofounders are under no illusion about the realities of the online dating market; as Celeste put it, they came to the space fresh and had to learn about why so many startups in it had failed.
“It is also dominated by a few large players but the research has shown that users are facing an increasing number of frustrations that have been left unaddressed,” she said.
These frustrations run the gamut from relatively harmless to genuinely concerning and dangerous.
For some the experience of swiping through endless pictures on dating apps has simply come to feel shallow and they are now feeling swipe fatigue, while for others setting up a date with a stranger they met online brings up safety concerns.
As they began work on Pair, Celeste said the cofounders’ experience with Eatability came in handy.
“We’ve learned many lessons from running Eatability, from staying lean, having patience, to the importance of discipline and keeping focused. We needed all these things in developing Pair,” Celeste said.
“The development of Pair and the cloud service has been a marathon with years of hard work put into it. With Pair, our number one goal was to put the user experience first while leveraging our previous experience in user generated content and rating systems.”
The app, currently available for iPhone, works by having users sign up and verify their profile via their phone number. From there they are asked to take a selfie in-app and provide some information before they can start looking through profiles and matching with other members.
Users can match by liking profile photos, through their interests, or by letting Ava, Pair’s assistant, generate matches.
Like most other apps, users can begin messaging once matched. If members meet up offline, they are encouraged to rate each other’s behaviour through the app, indicating via a thumbs up or thumbs down whether their profile was accurate, and whether they were safe to be around.
The app is free to download and begin using, however after a free trial matching via Ava will be limited to those with premium subscriptions.
The startup’s target market, according to Celeste, is rather broad: “There are single people from all ages and all walks of life,” she said.
“The main demographic of singles is between 18 to 55 and we are targeting people who are looking beyond casual dating and are ready to look for a relationship. They want to do so in an environment that is friendly, respectful, and safe.”
This is where Pair stands apart from other offerings in the online dating market, the Ongs believe.
“There’s a gap in the market for a mobile dating app that is focused on creating a respectful, safe and honest environment for members to meet each other. Most dating apps are also geared towards casual dating and less towards those looking for a partner,” Celeste explained.
Of course, Celeste admitted that the most difficult thing for a new business “is for people to even know you exist”. As they look to tackle this challenge, the cofounders will be launching Pair worldwide over the next year with the goal of onboarding at least 50,000 users by the end of 2019.
“It’s not a huge target, but we’re looking for quality rather than quantity.”
Image: Hui and Celeste Ong. Source: Supplied.