Last updated on March 24, 2016 | by Aet Suvari0
What is HerSmile and what gave you the idea for it?
I was in my final year at University in Moscow and I was on the train heading home after a long weekend out of the city. Leaving the carriage, I took the escalator towards the exit. As I travelled up, I caught the eye of a beautiful women travelling down on the opposite side. She smiled and for a brief moment there was a very real connection. Had it not been for the barrier between us who knows what might have happened…? At home later that evening I started to think about the relevance of the barrier. Though an impassable divide, it had inadvertently created a net of safety between us where neither of our spaces could be entered, or not at least, without a clear invitation.
Many years later, I was sitting at a bar with some friends in Tokyo. My buddy caught the attention of a woman sat at the bar and sensing reciprocal interest he approached offering to buy her a drink. When a man offers to buy a women a drink he is confirming his intention is genuine; his investment lets her know he is specifically interested in her. From a safe and informed point of view she can now decide where it goes. Meanwhile for him, if she accepts the drink he knows the interest is mutual and if she declines his time won’t be wasted.
The idea for HerSmile was born. We took exactly what we do in real life, and put it online. To send his first introductory message a man confirms his interest is genuine through a micro transaction. Her ‘smile’ confirms the feeling is mutual. If she’s not interested we’ll simply ensure he doesn’t lose out financially. There’s no pressure on either side.
Whether it be in a Russian metro, a Japanese bar or online you need to feel safe that an introduction is coming from a genuine place with real intention.
What are your thoughts on the current online dating industry?
Online dating is huge. The industry is worth over 2 billion dollars, growing at 5% each year. They expect by 2040 70% of us will have met our partners online. Yet, for many users the results are no better than a lottery. Profiles can be misleading and intentions deceptive. With all the chaos of a cattle market, I felt there had to be a better way to improve this billion dollar industry.
How long have you been working on HerSmile and what kind of market research did you do?
Back in 2011 I started researching the market. Across all demographics, I asked people what they didn’t like about online dating. What wasn’t working for them? Gaps started appearing, but there were three specific barriers that kept recurring: safety, information and intention.
Women don’t feel safe dating online. They are harassed aggressively – over half have reported they’re subjected to sexually explicit messages.
Also, information on online dating is simply boring! You’re asked to write reams of text trying to sum up your great sense of humour… If there is a good profile it has invariably been copied and pasted. It can be both deceptive and utterly uninspiring.
The third and most recurring was intention. Messages are sent out left, right and centre so when you do hear from someone you have no idea they’re genuinely interested in you or if you were just the first to ‘take the bait!’
Over the next year and a half year I created HerSmile as a solution to these specific barriers. Overall, it’s been about two and a half years from inception to completion.
How affordable is HerSmile compared to competitors?
When putting together our business plan, I did a thorough analysis of our competitors and their charges. I was astounded at some of the exorbitant costs! I knew we could offer better service with a more effective model at a third of the price.
The initial feedback on our £12 membership is proving very popular. I believe currently we are the most competitive paid dating site for long-term relationship in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
With so many dating sites and apps around what makes HerSmile stand out from the crowd?
When I Incorporated HerSmile, Tinder hadn’t even been invented. Currently there are 80,000 apps/sites to choose from worldwide. Why on earth do we need another? It’s hard not to agree. With a new dating app launching each week offering matches from the known to obscure, why is finding love still more like alchemy than chemistry? There are endless beautiful theories, but no consistent formula that leads to a golden outcome. If you want a successful formula you have to account for the evolutionary drives behind mating and many dating apps, although entertaining, simply do not fulfil the core purpose of why most people use online dating – to find a relationship.
HerSmile was made for relationships by addressing the fundamental issues people around the world face when trying to meet a suitable partner online. We haven’t created a clever algorithm to match people based on their taste in Burgundy wines or tried to gamify love through extensive psychometrics – we simply looked at the problems and created the solution.
Can you tell us a little more about HerSmile profiles?
We removed the stress of selling yourself, so rest assured you don’t need a degree in English literature. Inspiring to write, authentic to read; in a few fun yet thought provoking questions we can create your profile for you. By removing the ‘sell yourself’ mentality often associated with online dating we can ensure refreshingly honest profiles.
Merged into the site we took inspiration from, what we felt, were the best aspects of social media: Facebook (Mutual Friends Search), YouTube (simple incorporation of Videos), Twitter (Keyword search, Twitter hashtag search), and Instagram (Character Gallery). But what’s really exciting? Your time and money won’t be lost on someone who simply likes the attention. You won’t be misled.
Can you walk us through how contacting members works?
On HerSmile, women pay a monthly subscription (£12) letting them initiate contact with a man at any time, receive messages from men and review the possibility of contact. Men, who have no subscription, simply buy introductions/credits (£4 with a minimum purchase of 3).
He confirms his interest in a woman is genuine by using one credit to send his first, introductory message. Her ‘Smile’ lets him know the interest is mutual and he can contact her further. If she doesn’t reply, we’ll return his credit for him to use again in future introductions. This way she’s never bombarded with unwanted messages and because he invests in an introduction she’s assured of his commitment – specifically to her. From a safe and non-pressured position, she can decide where it goes and since men only hear from women who reciprocate their interest he wastes no time and money. By protecting women online and ensuring men aren’t misled we can considerably reduce the time taken for both sexes to meet a genuinely suitable partner.
Who is HerSmile meant for?
HerSmile is available throughout the UK and Ireland. Specifically resonating with the growing number of people that want substance and a long term relationship with someone who wants the same. Our members want assured intention they’re not looking for someone who simply likes the attention.
One client recently described HerSmile as: ‘traditional, timeless and classic. The place Audrey Hepburn would have felt at home’.
How does the HerSmile app differ from the website?
The native iOS and Android applications have been deployed to the app store and we’re expecting them to be released ready for launch on 8th March (International Women’s Day). The apps were designed by an extraordinarily talented 17 year old entrepreneur, Tom Gough, as a streamlined version of the feature-rich website.
When you walk into a restaurant, you’re instantly met with aromas of freshly cooked food, looking around you review what everyone else has chosen and when your waiter approaches he beautifully describes the food with an excess of superlatives. What’s happening is a combination of senses gather to help in the decision process. We wanted to capture that same experience on our app.
From design to functionality, applications have a plethora of facilities that simply aren’t available on a website. So instead of each platform competing for airtime, we designed the app to enhance the desktop experience.
A good example of this is voice. How someone sounds is an incredibly powerful natural tool to inform of a potential synergy. So with a short voice recording you can tell other users who you are and instead of typing your introductory message you can introduce yourself with a simple recording that works in in conjunction with your credits/subscription.
What steps have you taken to protect your members from cyber-fraud, scamming, catfishing etc?
Online dating scams have made people less trusting of free dating products. Being a paid site brings its own form of verification as members have to input valid card details. Stringent safety measures are in place. One of the pros of being a predominately ‘by invitation’ site is that a) we know the people joining or at least have a mutual connection; b) we can take the time to ensure their suitability.
I also felt it was important members could verity themselves so we crafted a number of unique ‘first-time’ features that help self-authentication and eliminate ‘catfishers’. For example, the Facebook card lets you see the number of Facebook friends someone has so you know instantly it’s not a recently created profile. Using GPS you see an overview of where someone is and filtering by Facebook mutual friends (only shows profiles of your mutual friends) gives a comforting reassurance of a personal connection.
As an online dating expert, where do you see its future headed?
It really depends on the time frames. Initially, I expect the gamification of online dating to increase and then over the next five years I believe we’ll see a shift towards the more serious dating sites. I think the natural course for the industries evolution is to align with biotech and VR. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see DNA matching and holographic dates.
Personally, I hope technology won’t replace reality. There is nothing more electric than the feeling of meeting the person you want a future with.
Thanks again Cosmo for being so generous with your time – we’re excited to see innovative and safety conscious sites like HerSmile enter the dating arena and hope it’s a great success!