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Innovation + Job News

App sparks new twist on old-fashioned matchmaking

SparkStarter, a matchmaking and dating app developed by MSP entrepreneur Tony Kramer, promises a better, less awkward way for singles to meet, mingle and (maybe) fall in love.
Launched nationally in mid-February, SparkStarter already has nearly 2 million unique user profiles. The business also has about a dozen collaborators working part- or full-time. The app is available for download at the Google Play store and the iTunes App Store.
Kramer has an aggressive plan to drive user growth over the coming months, relying on a combination of organic growth and collaborations with nonprofit organizations.
“We’re developing win-win partnerships to grow our user base in return for supporting worthy causes,” says Kramer. “We love giving back to charities and the community in general, as we see SparkStarter as a thriving community of its own.”
Kramer is also laser-focused on the user experience, a weak point for some other dating apps. “We’re continuously adding features to engage users,” he says, describing how customer feedback led his team to add a social feed that strengthens the connections between Sparkstarter users.
SparkStarter syncs with Facebook for a twist on the now-familiar dating app archetype. As a single user, you browse your friends and friends-of-friends lists to find other eligible singles who catch your eye. When you find someone appealing, you can “vote up” to create a “Spark” — a potential match — and get formally introduced by a mutual friend.
Since both individuals know the matchmaker, these matches involve an element of trust and familiarity that may be missing from chance encounters or dates brokered by a computerized dating app. And since the matchmaker knows the individuals well, he or she is likely to be a great judge of their mutual compatibility.
Once the introduction has been made, other SparkStarter users in your Facebook network can upvote or downvote the Spark; upvotes increase your compatibility score relative to your match partner, while downvotes decrease compatibility. A built-in messaging system lets you communicate with your Spark partner. If things go well, you and your partner can mutually decide to meet offline as well.
Unlike most other dating apps, SparkStarter has a distinctly social element, welcoming — even relying on — input from other users (who may not even be single) to determine the compatibility of each match. Each upvote is a literal vote of confidence that the two individuals go well together — and that the match will ultimately succeed.
Kramer’s confidence in the SparkStarter model comes, in part, from personal experience. Five years ago, while trawling Facebook, a good friend of Kramer’s found an old female acquaintance who seemed to be compatible with Kramer. He introduced the two online, and a real-world relationship soon blossomed.
“Within 3 years after that first date, we were married,” Kramer recalls. “It was simple, easy” and not at all awkward, he adds. After speaking with friends and colleagues, Kramer realized that his experience wasn’t unique: Lasting relationships often form when a matchmaker introduces two mutual friends to one another, whether online or in person. But when he met his future wife, Astyn, Kramer wasn’t aware of any apps or websites that facilitated person-to-person matchmaking.
“While online dating and apps had become more popular, there still wasn't a digital concept that involved a common way for people meet, through a mutual friend,” says Kramer. “That's when the idea for SparkStarter was born.”
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