Feb. 9 2016 06:01 PM

San Diego-born app also lets you be a matchmaker

Spritzr applies a drag-and-drop approach to matchmaking.

An unwillingness to meet people face-to-face and flirtations conducted by taps on an iPhone screen are not going to lead me to my "other half." I realize this and am fed up with robotic romanticism. And so is North Parker Manshu Agarwal. He wants to humanize the online dating world with his new app Spritzr, which is branded as a matchmaking app and not necessarily as a dating app.

Spritzr connects to Facebook so friends can suggest matches for others, allowing a personalized touch that also feeds into the life-meddling, stalker-like online tendencies of which we're all guilty. Even though I'm mortified to recognize anyone on a dating app, Agarwal's theory is that your friends know you better than a computer algorithm.

"Most couples meet through their social circles, and thereís a reason for that," he says. "Our social circle applies a filter to the world, the master universe of potential mates."

Those friends making suggestions for you don't have to be single. Actually, 30 percent of Spritzr's users are taken.

Agarwal realizes this could be a slippery slope to an Ashley Madison-style misconception of the app. "People need to understand that by seeing Spritzr on your spouse's app, he's not cheating on you, and that's going to take some time," he says.

I went ahead and downloaded the app (currently only available on iPhones), hoping an outside perspective from my inner circle could help find me a partner. However, I had just three friends on the app. Three. Maybe it's because, at age 22, I'm just missing the mark for Spritzr's target age range of mid-20s and 30s. Another factor: The app launched in August, and the number of users is in the low thousands—considerably low in comparison to hook-up culture apps such as Tinder and Bumble.

Agarwal says Spritzr is making slow, steady progress, and he made me rethink deleting it. Since its launch, Spritzrís user base has climbed 5 percent per week, not to mention boasting the only fifty-fifty male-to-female ratio in the business. Plus, Spriztrís mutual match rate is 20 times higher than the industry average, meaning more quality contact and less reckless rejection.

There's one more twist. The app allows users to step away from their friends' love lives and dive into the "community," where only strangers roam and where a shocking 80 percent of the app's matches are made. Just like with my Facebook friends, I could drag and drop matches, but this time my decisions were purely hinging on old-fashioned superficial judgment.

"Couples, typically, are similar levels of attractiveness, and a computer algorithm can't tell that level of attractiveness," Agarwal says. "So you can see a guy who is like a six on the scale, and a girl is kind of close, and maybe they have the same kind of look and movement and some interests that might be overlapping, and you'll think they might be a good match."

I found this third-party matchmaking downright entertaining, and this aspect made up for me having few friends on the app. I found myself analyzing the vibes of one girl's photos and aligning them with a guy with comparable interests and attractiveness. Agarwal is fueling the competitive nature in this arena. He plans to add scoreboards that display the matchmakers with the highest success rates and rewarding those users with date deals, such as free movie tickets.

For me, aside from a density dearth in the dating pool, Spritzr needs some work. It's less than intuitive at times, even from a millennial standpoint. Without a tutorial, users are left to guess the purpose of the app's "karma points," which are actually awarded for successful matchmaking. And, the amount of karma points you earn correlates to the number of matches Spritzr will suggest for you and how often you show up as a potential match for other users. In a nutshell, the app is clever but convoluted.

As Agarwal continues to troubleshoot, he's also rolling out the app's first sizeable marketing push, including advertising on YouTube and other Google platforms, as well as hosting matchmaking events. It hosted a New Year's Eve party where attendees were matched using the app, and a similar plan is set for a Valentine's Day party, called the LA Love Ball.

For now, it seems my world-traveling, gourmet-cooking, feet-rubbing perfect match is not yet on the app. But while I wait for my options to increase, I can still use Spritzr to meddle in other people's personal lives from the safety of the sidelines.


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