Make room for yet another dating app. San Francisco-based Blume is hoping to entice singles into its arms with a real-time selfie feature designed to thwart catfishing. So no more being chatted up by sex-mad robots. Or wooed by forlorn hopers overselling their dating prospects with a set of out-of-date/overly processed photos.
In a further twist on the prevailing dating app recipe, Blume adds in a little ephemeral frisson too, with the real-time selfie only being shown for seven seconds, before disappearing – during which period the user must decide whether they really do want to match with the person in the photo or not.
If both Blume users confirm the match they unlock each other’s full profiles (i.e. of non-real-time selfie photos) plus the usual one-on-one messaging function. So there’s both an initial mutual match process, and a follow up real-time selfie match for confirmation.
What’s the point of matching twice? It’s designed to add a curation layer to dating interactions, says CEO and co-founder Daniel Delouya, in a bid to help users cut through the noise (i.e. the potential match choice) of the dating pool and sharpen their focus on a smaller selection of potential mates.
The thinking being that while there are always plenty more fish in the sea, if you make fishing the ocean as easy as swiping a touchscreen then people seem to find it remarkably hard to know when to stop swiping and start settling. At a certain point along the axis of proliferating choice, dating apparently becomes synonymous with windowshopping… which is not a great recipe for closing the deal. Or finding The One. Or just getting a date.
Blume aims to help Generation Dating App narrow their choices by simultaneously slowing the selection process down and making it more involved – yet also fun. So it’s two deliberate steps, rather than just one swipe.
Here’s Delouya’s take on the wrinkle Blume is zeroing in on: “Dating apps have a problem with oversaturation. They tend to be about meeting new people by getting matches that you can communicate with. The more matches you get the higher social stimulation you get. If there’s too much stimulation by getting too many matches, the satisfaction of actually interacting with new people gets oversaturated. This ultimately takes away what was once intended to be a personal experience meeting new people, which results in people not communicating with each other.
“When it’s too easy getting matches it takes the seriousness out of it. This was one of the reasons we founded Blume. We wanted people to create a platform where people actually have to invest in their match in order to start talking together.”
By “invest” he means take the time to snap and send a selfie, as well as subsequently taking the time to make a deliberate assessment of a potential match’s selfie – albeit, we’re only talking a few seconds of time here. But paradoxically the fact there are only a few, enforced seconds for a final selection to take place makes the user focus more intently on the choice. Or that’s the theory.
“It’s basic psychology, if you make people invest time and effort they are more likely to become emotionally attached to the product, and in this case, the other person they’re matching with,” he says.
“Once the match actually happens, both parties are certain that the other party were also keen on making the match happen (thereby making certain both parties are mutually interested to get the conversation going), and that leads to MUCH better communication between them. And the data proves it works. Over 68% of people who match fully on Blume initiate a conversation,” Delouya adds.
In the transactional dating apps space you can almost forgive him for that Freudian slip turn of phrase, which turns people into ‘products’. Although the choice of word does rather underline the wider problem with the dating app category; it intentionally (or inevitably) cheapens emotional interactions by presenting people as disposable. Cards to be flipped through in an idle moment and discarded at will.
At least Blume, the product, is an attempt to put a little emotional emphasis back into digital date selection, with its requirement that users spend up to seven seconds contemplating a potential match. (Perhaps a future iteration of the product could require an initially matched pair to actually make eye contact for seven seconds in real-time, over a silent video call… After which it would presumably be rather harder to view dating app profiles as just so much disposable ‘product’.)
Blume soft-launched in the U.S. in late November and has some 25,000 users at this nascent stage. While the team is based in San Francisco they originally hail from Denmark and have raised a small, pre-seed round ($250k) from three Danish Business Angels and early stage Danish VC firm SEED Capital to get the app launched. Delouya confirms they are now looking to raise a proper seed round — “preferably from the Valley”.
Unsurprisingly, given its real-time ephemeral selfie focus, Blume’s early adopters skew younger, with the majority (65 per cent) being aged 18 to 24 years old, followed by a further quarter being 25 to 34, according to Delouya.
“We’re definitely targeting a younger audience, and/or people who’re familiar with Snapchat,” he tells TechCrunch.
Isn’t there a Snapchattish risk of users being sent rude pictures rather than selfies, given the ephemeral element? Yes, concedes Delouya, but he reckons this won’t be a big problem — and that people who do flash others with a crotchie, i.e. rather than sending a real-time selfie, are likely to find it’s not a very good strategy to acquire a confirmed dating match.
Which, while probably true, does rather gloss over the risk of flashers using the app to just, well, flash strangers — and while you can of course decline to match with a dick pic, you can’t unsee an unexpected schlong. So, yeah…
“People can report inappropriate pictures, which we then can take action on (e.g issue a warning, or exclude people from the app),” says Delouya when pressed on this point.
“I do believe people will be less inhibited in a good way since these selfies are meant to show people as they are, and not perfected profile pictures,” he adds. “I’m quite confident that people will behave in terms of inappropriate pictures as the ones potentially doing it will get nothing out of it. They ruined their chance of matching with someone on the app by doing so, and will most likely be reported and banned from the app.”
What about rival dating apps that already offer some kind of verification process for the truthfulness of users’ profile photos? He argues Blume’s real-time selfie element is a more “simple, modern” — aka youth-demographic-friendly — workaround for the catfishing problem.
Blume is not the first dating to come up with the idea of mandating a real-time selfie. Gender asymmetrical dating app Antidate also had a requirement that users snap a fresh, time-stamped selfie for their profile pic, when it launched back in 2014 (although without any ephemeral twist).
“I came up with the idea after trying some dating apps, and immediately saw these problems,” says Blume’s 21-year-old co-founder. “I constantly had to ask my matches people for their Snapchat or Facebook in order to confirm their identity, and that’s something I know most people can identify with, as I discovered myself that I wasn’t the only one doing so.
“Also, the vast amount of bots on Tinder and other dating apps really destroys the environment that’s about meeting new people. I thought there had to be a better solution… So I immediately started working on Blume with two other guys.”
Of course there are now scores of ‘post-Tinder’ dating apps with a twist or two, whether their skew is aiming to give women more control over the selection process (e.g. Bumble), or to create more meaningful matches in other ways — or, er, not — so Blume joins a packed pool of dating app tiddlers all chasing the Tinder leviathan.
But it’s a measure of the latter’s success in pulling digital dating out of the desktop web era that there’s now such a colorful entourage of dating apps to choose from. Whether there’s too much choice on that front too is perhaps another pertinent question. Tinder for dating apps anyone?