Leave it to a Frenchman to put the idea of romance back into dating apps. The creator of the recently-launched Once, with a fairy tale frog prince(ess?) for its logo, is described by its creator as the “anti-tinder.” 32-year-old Jean Meyer says his app isn’t about hookups, it’s about “serious dating” — his clients are looking for long-term love.
Once rejects the hot-or-not format of Tinder with its endless parade of faces that a user can accept or reject with the stroke of a thumb. The new French app only offers one profile per day. As you view your match’s profile, they view yours, each one getting a maximum amount of attention. It’s that attention that is at the basis of Meyer’s concept. He thinks it will give more opportunities to those of us who aren’t Barbie or Ken look-a-likes.
Meyer isn’t new to the dating business. The Toulouse-born engineer created Date My School in 2011 after graduating with an MBA from Columbia. Date My School is continuing to develop but Meyer split from his cofounder “with $100,000 in my pocket” to try something different. He started work on his new app right away. “It’s a business that I find pretty attractive and it’s a need that a lot of people have,” he explains, “And now it’s very acceptable in the US and in France.”
With three million dollars raised before its launch, Once is off to a great start. But there’s heavy competition in the online dating world, and Once isn’t the only app that can tout the one-profile-per-day structure. There’s Coffee Meets Bagels, for example, which raised 7.8 million dollars in February. “We are better,” says Meyer,”with different performance.” The engineer says Once’s design is sleeker, its geo-localisation is more efficient and its matches are made more thoughtfully.
Like with other apps, Once’s success will ultimately depend on the matches it proposes. When it comes to that, Meyer’s take is decidedly less romantic. “Studies show that there are two major determinants that make couples work,” says Meyer, “class and looks. Our algorithm works based off of those two criteria.” A user’s profession and education level are proxies for class. For looks, Meyer says, “we have formulas that analyze photos and learn your tastes, the kind of face you like.”
Once has about 5000 users right now, and Meyer hopes some upcoming ad campaigns will boost that number. His next step will be to move the rest of his team from France to New York once their visas are squared away. “We’ve just translated Once into seven languages and we’d like to launch in 20 countries before December,” Meyer says.
While he may be a dating expert, Meyer isn’t looking himself. The profile that the young father has created for himself is purely for research purposes, or, as he says, “to test the concept.”