Dating. Ahhhhhh, dating. The wonderful art of navigating a veritable mine-field of unsuitable suitors. The difficulty of dating seems to be particular prevalent here in London. Too much choice, no reason to grow up, no ‘real’ traditional roles as we know them. Just what is a girl (or guy) to do? Tinder will eventually become tiring and Bumble inevitably boring. How many times can you sit endlessly swiping yes or no to a photograph? Until your thumb seizes up? Until your cold, dead body is found on the sofa, and rigamortis has set in?
So you can imagine my cynicism when I got an email about yet another dating app entering the market. Using that age old philosophy that human beings actually enjoy dating people based on sharing similar interests and values (I know, bloody bonkers right?!) Clikd is a new app that aims to shake up the digital dating world. The concept was created by Mike and Rupert. When I chat to Mike he’s jovial. Chatting happily in his soft North-Eastern lilt. Hailing from Newcastle, Mike’s family had expected him to move into the world of law after studying for a degree in that field.
“My family all thought I was crazy,” he chuckles. “Especially my parents. They’re both from the North-East and quite old. [My Dad] barely knows about internet dating, never mind dating apps.” After a nice, short slog of 10 years of getting into the law industry, Mike realised it wasn’t for him. Like many others, he wanted to build his own empire and follow the footsteps of those before him and break into the app world. But why specifically a dating app? “We looked at a few different things, three areas,” he explains. “[Our aim] was to build the company fairly quickly and with not much money. So we pitched the ideas to a few friends who have good business heads, they said “those two are crap, the dating app is really good”.”
Unlike the popular apps that we know of that allow you to make a decision based upon a few, carefully selected and filtered to the hills photos, accompanied by a “witty” bio littered with emojis (bants, you know *insert rolling eyes emoji here*), and those at the opposite end of the spectrum that require you to sign up for a fee and answer a billion questions, Clikd is trying to strike a balance between the two.
Realising that there must be a way to modernise the dating app, Mike spent a month reviewing no less than 250 of them. Who knew there were that many? “There’s probably about 1,500,” he tells me. “Last count there were 1,477 in the App Store.” This vast number of apps cater to everyone’s taste. Including one called ‘Bristlr’, which is basically Tinder but for people with beards and those who like people with beards. The eureka moment came when Mike was having dinner with a friend. He explains: “[They] said “you know what would be really useful? There’s a couple of things I won’t compromise on. There should be way to filter these things before you go on a date.”
The way Clikd works, is that you choose three different topics; from humour to politics, to art and to how you like to spend your downtime, amongst others. Within these areas you respond to the questions according to your taste. Potential partners must then match with the same answers, and, once they do you can start talking.
I’m curious to know how they came up with the questions. “We went out onto the streets of London and spoke to 600 or 700 people and asked them what it is they look for.” And what exactly is it that the people of London are looking for when it comes to relationships, because I am somewhat stumped? “There are so many different ones. We had one girl who said she would only date men who wore matching socks. She said people who planned ahead and wore matching socks would be the guy for her. The interesting thing for me is that everyone is different.”
The app now allows users to suggest their own questions. So far they’ve had questions that are based around films and TV series and one about sense of humour. All pretty standard things that you’d hope to have in common with someone. But what I really want to know, is what the weird and down right bizarre questions have been? Mike laughs. “Well, we had one guy who said he wanted to date someone who knew which was the best out of REM’s 5th and 7th albums, and there was the lady who wanted to date a maths geek. She wanted to put two questions based around maths formulas.” So far the app has acquired 670 London-centric users, the oldest user being 54-years-old, with the general demographic being 20-35 years of age.
As with all start-ups, the risk can be huge and the task challenging. How have Mike and Rupert found their journey thus far? “I won’t say it’s been easy,” Mike stresses. “There’s been a lot of learning…the hardest thing is you have people working for you and you have to sell your vision of what you want for the company when you’ve put yourself on the line. I feel the pressure, not for me, but having other people working on this. It’s a good pressure. It makes me work harder because I want everyone to succeed.”
Whilst going it alone can be somewhat daunting there are incubators and programmes especially for those who want to take the risk of setting up their own business. Mike tells me about a specialist ‘nurture programme’ for start-ups at entry level. It’s ran by JC Deceaux, the company who own all of those huge billboards that can be seen all around London. They help pull together the material for the campaign, you tell them who your target user is and they then profile which the best areas will be to place your advertisements.
Is London the best place for start-ups what with the growing number of them? “London is an amazing city to do this in,” Mike tells me assuredly. “The overheads and the cost of living are the only downsides. But you have so many shared workspaces and incubators and other people doing the same thing. It’s quite nice when you’ve been in a safe corporate environment.”
Now being able to speak from experience, Mike tells me that the most important thing about quitting the day job and taking that leap of faith is passion. If you’re not creating the business because it’s something that you deeply care about, you’re not in it for the right reasons. “When you get to points when you’re running out of money,” he says knowingly “and things aren’t going that well, you really need to have that passion for what it is you’re pursuing to get you through the really tough times.” The Geordie then gives me a very concrete piece of advice: “Make sure you go and speak to people who know their shit. You need to speak to people who are honest. Not just friends and family who will say “yes” to everything.”
We begin to discuss the many dating disasters we’ve both had. Mine are too many to go into and include one guy I met who went into great detail about the city in Denamrk where there are no laws and how it would be a great place to take someone to kill them, and another who was just an out and our racist. Mike regales one for me that highlights exactly what us singletons have to deal with. “I turned up about 6 minutes late to this date, but I text 15 minutes before that. I apologised, but she was so annoyed with me. I asked her if she wanted a drink but she sat there with her arms folded and said “I was going to, but I’ve been here since 2:35pm, she arrived 25 minutes early!, and now I’m so pissed off I don’t want a drink.” And then sat there and refused to speak to me for about ten minutes…. So in the end I just left.”
Clikd continues to grow from strength to strength, having won a the award for Innovation In Dating at The Dating Awards last November. Their intern Daria is also testament to the app having met her partner through it. But, for someone like me who doesn’t get on with dating apps, why should I try Clikd? What’s so different about it deep down compared to other apps? Mike concludes: “All I would say is if you’ve tried other apps and they haven’t worked, maybe it’s because they’re too shallow or maybe it’s because they aren’t finding the right person for you. You need to decide what is important to you. If you want someone who’s more likely to get you and be on your wavelength- try it. It’s a bit of fun, it allows you to put your personality in there. In those terms, I don’t think you’ve got anything to lose.”
Words by Jennifer Wallis
Clikd launch a competition this Valentine’s Day in conjuction with charity PhotoVoice. Check it out here.