From Google Forms to dating apps – Durham University start-up ‘Simily’ set to launch through PalatiDates

By

Simily, an AI-driven dating app founded by current Durham students, is kicking off its first trial, and you can sign up right now.

The journey so far…

Have you ever tried to put together a dating profile, only to get totally stuck on the ‘bio’ section? Or, maybe there weren’t enough options to highlight all your hobbies, passions, and interests. Maybe you’ve finished and started browsing through profiles, only to find a lot of them don’t include much more than a few pictures of the person.

Profile-based dating apps have all kinds of fun, innovative features: appearance-centred algorithms which give popular profiles more influence; limited options for expressing your likes, interests, hobbies, values; the ability to induce ‘swiping fatigue’, a phenomenon where users become exhausted from browsing through dating profiles; the guarantee that your profile is there for everyone on the app to see.

The online dating world is a little bit of a mess, and Durham University has its alleged ‘70% alumni marriage’ rate to uphold. So, it’s no wonder that for a few years now, Palatinate has embarked on a side quest to match up students together for the perfect date through ‘PalatiDates’. It’s simple, just fill out a form and get set up on a blind date with another student. Vintage!

Last year, I took the reins as the PalatiDates matchmaker, and found out pretty quickly that there’s only so much a Google Form can tell you about a person.

It was my goal now to find a decent alternative to dating apps for students, and PalatiDates just wasn’t cutting it. Which is why I took the plunge and decided to stop ‘focusing on my degree’, and start building a company with my friend Owen to solve the issue. And now I’m doing a shameless promo. Free speech is fake.

The online dating world is a little bit of a mess, and Durham University has its alleged ‘70% alumni marriage’ rate to uphold

What is Simily?

That was my question too – how is this different?

It’s pretty simple: Simily offers the traditional matchmaking experience through AI-driven interactions. You create your entirely private profile through natural conversation with a custom-built AI chatbot – Simila – and get matched to another user by describing what kind of person you want to be matched with.

Then comes the matching – how are you meant to find a match if profiles are private? Let’s say I’m looking for “A tech-savvy person who likes films and karaoke”, but in my conversations with Simila I also mentioned how much I like cooking and going to Italian restaurants. The best part about Simily is that it’ll present my match by pulling out all the details about them which make us a great fit, instead of giving me a full run-down of their profile. Something like “Your match is a film-buff who studies computer science, and they love Italian food.” That keeps the profiles private without sacrificing a perfect match.

There’s a lot of um-ing and ah-ing about just how AI will be used by companies in the future, and oftentimes seems to be ethically dubious at best and downright dystopian at worst. But complex conversational capabilities offered by new Large Language Models like ChatGPT (and like Simila) give rise to products which solve big problems in simple ways. There’s no creepy algorithm involved here, it’s just a way to increase individual autonomy through AI.

The second big benefit here is prioritising mental health and emotional energy. Swiping through dating profiles is designed to be addictive, and it is draining

For us, removing profiles was the best way to build a more comfortable dating app experience: there’s something really uncomfortable about scrolling through an endless loop of nearby singles, especially when you remember that’s exactly how your profile will appear, too. Friends, family, co-workers, professors etc. could see your profile, and that has a massive impact on the kind of information you include and the way you present yourself. Matching should be all about honesty, a genuine attempt to find a compatible partner, and that’s made a lot harder when you’re trying to balance it out with social expectations.

The second big benefit here is prioritising mental health and emotional energy. Swiping through dating profiles is designed to be addictive, and it is draining. Burnout from using dating apps aka ‘swiping fatigue’ isn’t uncommon, with research from Singles Reports finding that 80% of dating app users experience this swipe-driven exhaustion.

Ready to match?

Simily is now launching through PalatiDates, keeping true to the PalatiDates tradition of blind dates with another student, but with a twist. Durham students (that’s probably YOU) have the opportunity to try out Simily to find the perfect date.

You can sign up to join the waitlist right now or find out more at Simily.uk

Image: Simily Ltd

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.