Let’s Get It On(line): Tawkify Dating Concierge

“Maybe the best date I’ve had in a few years. No joke. I really appreciate the work and care Kate put in for this match.” –Tawkify customer

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Online dating today often happens one of three unpleasant ways.

1) Endless swiping or scrolling in a digital meat market, send out 60 messages, a few reply, and finally a date after a couple of weeks.

2) Inundation of messages, out of which you’d pick one who doesn’t look like a serial killer, followed by messaging ping pong, and finally a date.

3) Endless swiping, roster of creeps, immediate account deactivation out of frustration. Silver lining: assurance that you’re normal.

At the date, maybe it doesn’t go so well. Maybe he looks nothing like his photo. So you surreptitiously text the guy that you’ve putting on the backburner. It can be exhausting.

This trend led to the founding of Tawkify, a matchmaking company for the digital age founded by an unlikely pair – a 70 year-old sex advice columnist and a 30 year-old tech entrepreneur who earned his stripes at Microsoft.

BUSINESS MODEL

Tawkify provides a high touch dating experience for its users, giving them quality matches and unique dates with minimal investment by the user. Clients enjoy more privacy than sites where their profiles are publicly browsable while saving stress, effort, and time. In return, the firm charges a monthly subscription.

OPERATING MODEL

In many ways, the company bridges the best of the two founder’s worlds: one that may value old fashioned personal connection with one that sees the tremendous promise of technology.

1) Hire and train a network of high quality matchmakers

At the heart of the company is a network of matchmakers hired and trained by co-founder E. Jean Carroll, whose popular dating advice column in Elle Magazine is the longest running magazine column in the country.

Carroll’s deep expertise in dating gives the company a competitive edge, and they sustain it by creating a network from the matchmakers. If a matchmaker finds someone that’s a better fit for a teammate’s client, she would pass on the contact. Once a week, the firm gets all matchmakers together on a video conference dubbed Tawkify Cafe, where they help each other improve by sharing news, success stories, and strategies.

2) Use technology to enable client experience and matchmaker efficiency

To screen clients, the startup hired Microsoft and Stanford engineers to build a simple and clear web experience that clients have come to expect of consumer internet companies today.

For the matchmakers, Tawkify built search and database technologies to help them collaborate and find the best match from their database. In addition, the company built a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to help matchmakers keep track of client dates and preferences.

3) Provide a concierge service

By studying successful startups’ onboarding processes, Tawkify designed a simple and engaging onboarding experience.

Clients first sign up for the service and answer ten questions on the Tawkify website. If they pass the initial screen then they meet with their matchmaker in person to talk about ex-boyfriends, favorite dates, and dating preferences. Along the way, clients receive a high touch service. The matchmaker searches through the company database, reaches out to personal networks, and goes out to meet people – one found a great guy at a stand-up paddleboarding meetup.

The matchmaker then schedules and plans a unique date. For one client’s first date, Tawkify set up an appointment at Tiffany’s and instructed the two strangers to pretend to register for their wedding together.

Before and after each date, the matchmaker also offers advice, coaching, and follow-ups to find out what worked and what didn’t work.

4) Capturing value with a simple subscription model

For all the work, the company charges about $600 a month – hefty compared to online dating sites that usually charge less than $100 a month, but not so much compared to the tens of thousands that a traditional matchmaker might charge.

And the model is working, as the site boasts tens of thousands of clients. More importantly as a measure of engagement, 81% of clients go on a second date with matches. One client gushed, “Aw, come on. [My matchmaker] Angie is great. I keep subscribing. I recommend others because Angie’s so real. I feel like she’s really in my corner.”

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Tawkify’s technology and processes align with their value proposition to create an effective operation. In this way, it has made traditional matchmaking more efficient while retaining the charm of an offline experience.

 

 


 

Sources:

Ansari, Aziz. Modern Romance: An Investigation. London: Penguin, 2015. Print.

Benedict, Mallory. “What It’s REALLY Like To Be A Professional Matchmaker.” Refinery29. N.p., 26 Aug. 2014.

“E. Jean Carroll.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.

“FAQ.” Tawkify. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.

Jolly, Jennifer. “TECH NOW: Look for Love Online with New Apps.” USA Today. N.p., 14 Feb. 2014.

Lange, Maggie. “My Blind Date at Tiffany’s.” New York Magazine. 11 Sept. 2014.

McGowan, Emma. “Singles Tired of Swiping Paying $600/mo for a “Dating Concierge”” The Bold Italic. 4 Feb. 2015.

Shaw, Kenneth. Personal interview. 7 Dec 2015.

Stone, Madeline. “A 72-year-old Advice Columnist Launched a Matchmaking Service out of Stanford’s Startup Accelerator.” Business Insider. 04 Feb. 2015.

“What People Are Saying.” Tawkify. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Get It On(line): Tawkify Dating Concierge

  1. Interesting concept to help provide a touch of class and personalization to the depersonalized model of currently online dating (e.g., Tinder). I have some concerns with Tawkify’s positioning in the market. Namely:

    1) How does this company scale? They seem to be positioning themselves as a technology company, but their high-touch and customized operating model inherently prevents them from using technology to scale their business in the traditional way (e.g., one-time infrastructure fixed cost led by pure margin revenue from new users)

    2) What is this company’s strategic positioning? Are they the cheapest matchmaking service, or are they the highest quality online dating service? Right now, seems like they’re stuck in the middle — a dangerous place to be in a highly competitive industry with low barriers to entry.

    1. Hi Nate,

      1) I think the labor-intensive shared economy model in tech is actually becoming quite prevalent, but perhaps this is a feature of a macro economy with plenty of slack in its labor force. TaskRabbit, Uber, Gigwalk, Postmates, Instacart – all these are companies that rely heavily on human labor, most of them underemployed. Granted, these other services are not as high touch, but the prices are proportional to effort required.

      The other part of your concern is that skilled labor is harder to scale, but I think scale can be big here: maybe you simply need a lot of outgoing people as matchmakers to find dates, and you can centralize the date ideas generation by having a small core team come up with most date ideas.

      Finally, I think CRM software can really amplify the time the matchmakers spend on the “high touch” interactions, providing a highly personal experience with less amount of work.

      2) Great question. I see this as high end online dating rather than cheap matchmaking and not stuck in the middle at all. I think most of their customers wouldn’t consider using a traditional matchmaker but have been online dating/app dating users, so their price anchoring is to $100 dating sites and not the multi-thousand dollar matches.

  2. I think this is an interesting repackaging of some concepts that have already existed for a long time. This sounds like a combination between a traditional matchmaking service, an online dating site that has been around for a while (match.com) that seem too “old” or “serious” for a certain audience, and the apps that are geared towards a younger, mobile using community.

    One potential problem I see is that this app seems to be really high involvement. For those apps, like Tinder, Hinge, etc., where the commitment is relatively low and mimics meeting someone in a bar but online, they are able to have many users. For an application like this, the services that make it unique may also make it more challenging for users who see it as more of a commitment. I think they might benefit from scaling back the services such as date-planning and capitalizing on their human capital matchmaking potential and building their rolodex to compete with some of the other applications in a similar space.

    1. Unsure if “repackaging” is meant to be a criticism, but either way I believe remixing is fine and legitimate on its own. I’m thinking Mod Pizza or Starbucks that are not necessarily new ideas, but use good operational thinking and marketing to create value. Also Girl Talk. However, I think this company goes beyond repackaging – it’s applying technology to an industry that hasn’t been very tech-enabled. Uber did this with transportation, Airbnb with lodging.

      The high involvement point is fascinating, and I don’t have a great response. I tend to see the high involvement as a point of differentiation from other services like you mentioned “where the commitment is relatively low.” In one of the articles I cited, the founder talks bout experimenting with different price points and found that when the price is too low, people would bail on dates because it was only like $50. So there may be something in asking users (who are dates to other users) to be committed to the experience.

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