In a time when every quirky dating app you could imagine is spawning out of the App Store ether, it’s a big challenge for developers to find a niche that will really hit a nerve, but James Haville’s controversial slant on dating might just do the trick. His app, Ten, allows users to rate potential dates out of 10 and then creates matches based on users with the same average rating. An idea that might sound simply like a fun, yet judgemental, way to wile away a coffee break is in fact based on solid scientific research that relationships tend to be more successful when the attractiveness of each partner is considered to be on a level playing field.

We caught up with the daring brain behind Ten to find out more about life on the vanguard of contemporary dating.

How is Ten different to other dating apps already out there?

Ten matches you with people who are in the same ‘league’ – it displays people nearby and allows you to anonymously rate them out of 10. You get an average from all the ratings you’re given and if the person you rate has a similar average to yourself you can message, save or skip them if you’re not interested.

Is it a reality check for some people then?

All the averages and ratings are hidden but I think you’re either realistic about it or you’re not going to use the app. Instead of wasting your time on other dating apps and endlessly messaging people and not getting a reply because they’re not interested in you, the app is likely to increase your response rate.

How does Ten solve this problem?

You need to have some kind of pre-filtering system and Tinder solved it to an extent, but what happens is a lot of guys are just swiping right on everyone so you’re getting inaccurate matches and conversations that just won’t happen. What I’m trying to do is increase that response rate and stop wasting people’s time. So it solves it from two angles, one from the type of people who receive hundreds of messages on traditional dating apps and want some kind of filter, and one from the people who send hundreds of messages and don’t get responses.

Your website talks about basing your app on the science of dating, tell me more about that?

OKCupid found that more than 90% of what people online think of you is based on your photos, so I looked at that and I looked at why people get into relationships. There’s a lot of research that’s been done about whether people tend to end up going out with people on a similar level of attractiveness, a similar compatibility called the Matching Hypothesis. The whole app is based around that concept that you’re going to end up going out with someone who’s on your level so Ten is about working out how to create that situation.

So how does the app itself work, if you averaged as a 7 would you only meet people you consider as a 7 as well?

When you match with someone it is a suggestion that you should consider contacting them as others have put you at around the same level. If you had an average as a 7 you would match with other people who have a rating around a 7. You can also change your standards to allow a lower and higher rating to match with you.

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What stage are you at with Ten right now? 

We launched in May and are growing quickly. We are using this initial period to improve the app based on the feedback we are getting and have some exciting ideas for new features over the next few months. For example, we’ve just changed the rating slider to start in the middle on 5, because before it started at 0 and we’ve already found that people are more generous [when it starts at 5], you get this situation where if you think they’re attractive you go right, and if you don’t you go left.

Whats the ratio of women to men?

It’s actually pretty even at the moment, we’re starting to see more men but I think that’s expected, a good percentage of these kind of apps is 30% women. So that’s why we’re targeting most of our advertising at women.

Some people might be offended by the judgemental value in the app, how has it been received so far?

I was in the barbers yesterday and these guys were on Tinder and I told them about Ten and they downloaded it straight away and were like ‘oh this is amazing’. It’s definitely got that kind of appeal of something a bit different, and people are naturally judgemental

What do you want your users to get out of it ultimately?

I think creating a situation where you’re more likely to form a relationship with someone based on the idea or the evidence that you’re similar. If we can create something that enables people to do that, however you look, then that’s the goal. It’s basically a dating app for everyone, not just those who look above average. And I think it’s actually a real problem for people who lack confidence and they’re not having any success on normal dating apps like Tinder even traditional ones. And they don’t like going out particularly or putting themselves out there so this will give them an opportunity to chat to people who also lack confidence and stop wasting time.

What’s the journey been like so far building Ten?

I worked in the city for three years, did financial software, then I started a website which bought in offers from UK retailers and took commission on sales like electronics. Then I had this idea – I wanted to get experience building something, and it started as a web-based prototype, and then it just seemed to make sense to make it as an app. I went to try and find someone to help me build it but they wanted £800 a day, so I just thought I’ll do it myself!

How many hours are you working per day?

I don’t know…probably whenever I’m awake! I don’t really distinguish much. It’s hard to switch off when you’re so involved in something. There are a couple of occasions before launch where I just felt like this is ridiculous, because you never really know if people are going to like it or not, but you have to keep moving forwards anyway. And there’s a few moments, you just think ‘it’s never going to come out!’.

What’s kept your belief in it through the obstacles?

Mainly because I didn’t have any other choice after all the work that went into it! I think the idea of not putting something out after all this time is not really an option. It’s not been easy. But it’s good to finally see people use it and people come back again and again.

How organic is your audience growth?

Probably 70% is organic and some is through Facebook ads. Organic downloads are growing and the advertising spend has halved since the beginning. Going forward we are going to target music festivals & freshers weeks.

With events like freshers and music festivals to promote at would you say it’s more an app for casual relationships as opposed to a long-term goal of finding ‘the one’?

With apps like Tinder I’ve heard many different stories and I know people who’ve found their partner on it and also know people who use it for other purposes. It’s the same with this, we connect people with similar attractiveness, whatever they want to do with that it’s up to them. The research shows that they are more likely to form a successful relationship.

Did you use online dating before you used the app?

Oh it’s the personal questions! I did have to do some research.

Just research?

The problem is when I use apps and I say what I do they always assume that I’m doing research anyway, but I have used them and I think there’s a market for something else.They’re all now doing what Tinder are doing and there’s a lack of innovation in the space.

Have you had any disastrous online dates?

No, all my dates have gone perfectly fine! I honestly believe as long as you’re two sociable people you’re never gonna have a bad date so to speak.

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