A smartphone showing a variety of dating apps.
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Swiping left to continue searching is easy. So is swiping right to like someone.
But there’s only so much drag some people can take, especially when they have nothing to show for it. So a growing number of singles are choosing to rely on an older dating source: matchmakers.
Professional matchmakers have been around for decades and are ingrained in our culture. Just look at the show “Millionaire Matchmaker”, which ran for eight years starting in 2008.
Unlike the app economy, traditional matchmaking services often cost thousands of dollars, making them unaffordable for large segments of the population.
There is an emerging crop of apps and companies looking to bring matchmaking to a new generation, blending old methods with modern technology.
One newcomer is Lox Club, a members-only dating app founded in 2020 by CEO Austin Kevich.
Lox Club operates on a subscription model, charging $96 for 12 months. The company offers all its members access to matchmakers who can connect users with each other or provide feedback on a person’s profile. Kevich said thousands of people have used the service, but did not elaborate.
“Professional matchmakers charge around $10-20,000 and are not as familiar with the struggles of dating apps as their peers would be,” Kevich wrote in an email, without offering details on Lox Club’s success rate. “I couldn’t afford that, no one on our team could afford that, so we knew we had to make it more accessible and rebrand it to feel like a friend helping you find dates .”
The company currently has three team members and is hiring more.
Interest in matchmaking coincides with the rise of online dating burnout. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many people dating have been reduced to online options. Companies have started to invest heavily in their audio and video features so that users can leave the house.
But with pre-pandemic activities opening up, not everyone wants to rely on hours of swiping to find a date. Instead, they outsource this work to experts.
“I think people are looking for other options, and I’ve seen a lot more people talking and thinking about matchmakers,” Ali Jackson, a dating coach who has built a large following on Instagram under the name @findingmrheight, told CNBC.
Lily Montacer, co-founder of New York speed dating startup Ambyr Club, put it another way.
“Everybody’s just exhausted,” she said.
Ambyr, launched late last year, hosts two to three events a month at trendy venues across the city for a select group of 10 men and 10 women. Montaser and co-founder Victoria Van Ness select and pair the 20 people for the event based on who they think would be a good fit, though they sometimes throw in a wildcard.
Ambyr draws from its wider pool of members for the events. All of them have gone through an interview and background check. Applicants pay a $60 application fee and an additional $150 per event if selected. Ambyr says it has a 15% acceptance rate and about 200 members in its database.
Matchmakers also take on the role of part-time dating therapists with their clients.
“I didn’t realize how much trauma there is in the general dating world in today’s world,” Ari Axelrod, 28, from New York, told CNBC. Axelrod is working with Cassie Levin, who recently launched her company called Inquire Within.
Axelrod has gone on two dates so far while working with Levin.
“Even if the actual matchmaking fails, what it has achieved is that I feel much more confident and confident,” he said. “So a few hundred dollars to remind me of something I didn’t even know I needed is worth it.”
Levine, who launched Inquire Within in April, currently charges $150 an hour.
Niche players aren’t the only ones behind this matchmaking revival.
Online dating giant Match Group has dived into matchmaking through its app of the same name. In November, the company introduced a matchmaking feature to its dating service. For $4.99 per week, Match staff will tag two profiles per week in an attempt to narrow down the options. Match did not respond to a request for comment on the feature’s success.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in people looking for love on dating platforms such as Match Group’s Tinder app.
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Matchmaking, by definition, is often a tedious process that requires the work of expensive humans rather than artificial intelligence. That’s not the focus of larger apps like Tinder and Hinge, which are owned by Match or Bumble. The closest thing Hinge offers is a “standout” profile feature, showing who a user would likely be interested in based on their swiping history.
“Although matchmaking requires a lot of manual moving parts, it’s something we’re seeing our members use and want more of,” said Lox Club’s Kevich. “We were surprised at first, but our members want it to exist, so we do.”
Van Ness said there’s some irony in the idea that “we’re kind of just trying to reintroduce that personal aspect.”
“We laugh because when apps were first introduced, it was so foreign and everyone was like, ‘Wait, do you want to meet a potential partner outside of an app?'” she said. “And then when we started introducing Ambyr, people had the exact same reaction. They were like “wait, you want to meet again in person, like that’s so weird.”
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