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Tired of swiping left, singles turn to new matchmaking services

A smartphone displaying a variety of dating apps.

Yu Chun | Christopher Wang | S3studio | Getty Images

Swiping left to continue searching is easy. The same goes for swiping right to like someone.

But there’s not a lot some people can accept, especially when they have nothing to show for it. Thus, a growing number of singles are deciding to trust an old source of finding dates: matchmakers.

Professional matchmakers have been around for decades and are embedded in our culture. Just look at the “Millionaire Matchmaker” show, which ran for eight years from 2008.

Unlike the app economy, traditional matchmaking services often cost thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to large swaths of the population.

There is an emerging generation of apps and companies looking to bring matchmaking to a new generation, blending old ways with modern technology.

A relative newcomer is Lox Club, a members-only dating app founded in 2020 by CEO Austin Kevitch.

Lox Club operates on a subscription model, charging $96 for 12 months. The company offers all of its members access to matchmakers, who can set users up with each other or give feedback on the person’s profile. Kevitch said thousands of people have used the service, but he didn’t elaborate.

“Professional matchmakers charge around $10-20k and aren’t as familiar with the difficulties of dating apps as a peer would be,” Kevitch wrote in an email, without providing details on the success rate. of the Lox Club. “I couldn’t afford it, no one on our team could afford it, so we knew we had to make it more affordable and rebrand it to feel like a friend helping you find dates.”

The company currently has three matchmakers and is hiring more.

Interest in matchmaking coincides with an increase in online dating burnout. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many daters have been reduced to online options. Companies have started to invest heavily in their audio and video features so that users can get out of their homes.

But with the opening of pre-pandemic activities, not everyone wants to rely on hours of scanning 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 made a big Instagram following under the handle @findingmrheight, told CNBC. .

Lily Montasser, co-founder of New York speed dating start-up Ambyr Club, put it another way.

“Everyone is just exhausted,” she said.

Ambyr, launched late last year, hosts two to three events a month at hip locations around town for a select group of 10 men and 10 women. Montasser and co-founder Victoria Van Ness vet and pair the 20 people for the event based on who they think would be the best fit, though they sometimes add a wildcard.

Ambyr taps into its wider pool of members for events. All have passed an interview and background check. Applicants pay an application fee of $60 plus an additional $150 for each event, if chosen. 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 hadn’t realized how much trauma there was in the general world of dating in the world today,” Ari Axelrod, a 28-year-old New Yorker, told CNBC. Axelrod worked with Cassie Levine, who recently launched her company called Inquire Within.

Axelrod has had two dates so far while working with Levine.

“Even if the actual matchmaking fails, what it’s accomplished is that I feel so much more validated and confident,” he said. “So a few hundred dollars to remind me of something I didn’t even know I had to remember was worth it.”

Levine, who launched Inquire Within in April, currently charges $150 an hour.

Niche players aren’t the only ones driving this matchmaking resurgence.

Online dating giant Match Group has dabbled in matchmaking through its eponymous app. In November, the company introduced a human matchmaking element to its dating service. For $4.99 per week, Match employees will report two profiles per week in an effort to narrow options. Match did not respond to a request for comment on the success of the feature.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the number of people looking for love on dating platforms such as Match Group’s Tinder app.

Beata Zawrzel | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Matchmaking, by definition, is often a tedious process that requires expensive human labor, rather than artificial intelligence. That’s not the goal of larger-scale apps like Tinder and Hinge, which are owned by Match, or Bumble. The closest thing Hinge offers is a “standout” profiles feature, showing who a user would be likely to be interested in based on their swiping history.

“While matchmaking requires a lot of manual moving parts, it’s something our members are using and asking for more of,” said Lox Club’s Kevitch. “We were surprised at first, but our members want it to exist, so we’re doing it.”

Van Ness said there was a certain irony in the idea that “we’re kind of trying to reintroduce that aspect again in person.”

“We laugh because when apps were first introduced it was so alien and everyone was like, ‘Wait, you want us to meet a potential partner outside of an app? ‘” she said. “And then when we started showcasing Ambyr, people had the exact same reaction. They were like, ‘Wait, you want to meet in person again, this is so weird.'”

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