This Slow Dating App Takes a Swipe at the Competition
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because with the Once app you have a whole day to decide on the one match selected for you.
By Molly Fosco
When Jean Meyer returned to Paris after traveling abroad for several years, he was surprised to find so many of his friends still single. The fact that his smart, attractive female friends in their 30s didn’t have partners was particularly confusing. “My first reaction was, why wouldn’t they try a dating app?” Meyer says. He quickly learned they had tried them all and were fed up. Most users on Match and eHarmony were much older and in a different life stage, they said, while Tinder was about hooking up and one-night stands. There was nothing in between.
“Why isn’t there a better dating app for people in their 30s?” Meyer wondered. So, he decided to create one. And with a unique twist — one that’s taking off in Europe, and maybe soon in the U.S. You heard it here first.
In 2014, Meyer founded Once, the “slow dating” app. Once gives you just one match per day, every day at noon. If you’re both interested in each other, great. If not, you’ll get another match tomorrow. The important thing: The ability to incessantly swipe is gone. On average, millennials spend up to 10 hours a week on dating apps, according to a survey by U.K. dating platform Badoo. Meyer wanted to give them some of their time back. Since the app is free, his goal was to make sure users were still investing in something worthwhile. “The people you match with get your attention for 24 hours,” Meyer says. “We’re giving them something super valuable — the attention of others.”
When you sign up for Once, you can connect your Facebook or upload a profile picture. Right away, a photo will be sent to you. But it’s not a match — the app wants you to rate the photo to find out your type. Through his online dating research, Meyer discovered that the most likely reason people will match is not based on common interests or likes and dislikes — it’s based on the photo. Surprisingly, though, attractiveness isn’t necessarily the key factor. “It’s more about the way you dress, your hairstyle, if you have tattoos and piercings, the way you took the photo, the location where you took it,” says Meyer. A photo can tell you a lot more about whether you’ll like someone than what they write about themselves in their profile — which is often exaggerated.
Nearly every day, Once gets an email from someone thanking the company for helping them find love.
The app is quickly gaining popularity in Europe and is now available in most Western European countries. When Anna, 26, moved to London from Germany, she signed up for Once because she was looking for something more meaningful than a hookup. She met Joe within a few months and they’ve been together for two years. “I just liked the idea of getting one match every day,” says Anna. “You can meet people that are genuinely looking for a relationship.”
For other couples who met on the app, things have gotten even more serious. Marica, a journalist in Italy, tried Once so she could write about it for work. Daniel was the first person she matched with. Last year, they got married and a few weeks ago, they had a baby. “I was a bit cynical and disillusioned with love,” Marica says. “I did not expect that a match on an app could make me meet my future husband.”
But stateside, Once has not yet caught on. Meyer says this is primarily because the company has not spent time marketing across the pond. “It’s going to cost a lot to market in the U.S.,” he says. “Right now we want to understand the market better and find the right demographic.”
A few U.S. users told me they were confused when they opened the app and were presented with a photo. It was unclear that they were meant to rate the photo and that it wasn’t a match. Overall, they found the app somewhat unintuitive.
But Meyer is optimistic and thinks slow dating “will be a perfect fit for the U.S.” And he’s happy with his startup’s success so far. Nearly every day, Once gets an email from someone thanking the company for helping them find love. Working in the business of love is much more meaningful to Meyer than any of his previous jobs. “I used to work in finance,” he says. “This is so much more fulfilling.”