Online dating can be creepy, and that's just a fact. But Meexo—a new app selected as a finalist for the SXSW Accelerator Competition—wants to change that assumption. CEO and co-founder Romain David walked me through a demonstration this afternoon, and I have to admit that the way the app is built is surprisingly thoughtful, even sensitive to a lady's usual apprehensions when it comes to the online dating space.
Here's the first thing that's different about Meexo: The platform is completely mobile. "We wanted ownership of a smartphone to be the lowest common denominator," David said to me. Thus, the app does away with the entire website portion of a social network, offering users the dating experience exclusively on the phone.
Meexo also emphasizes privacy. "Each person's account is tied to their particular device," David explained, "and they're only allowed to make one account per device—although they can sign in through multiple devices." This acts as a safeguard against people making multiple accounts and posting fake photos and details about themselves. And when a person messages another within the network, no actual phone number is shared—so there's no risk of getting that crazy 4 AM phone call from stalker types.
But what about the biggest reason people still recoil from online dating like it's the plague—the fear of being discovered by someone they know? Meexo addresses that issue, too. You can connect the app to your Facebook account (other social networks to come) in a kind of reverse "find friend" feature. The app uses this data to ensure sure your contacts never accidentally come across your profile. Ah, those mortifying moments: eliminated.
What's more, the more a user explores the app and selects profiles they're interested, the more the app learns about one's dating preferences, and the more it matches the user up with their type. David described it to me as the "Pandora" of online dating—that is, the app gets smarter the more you use it.
The app also attempts to solve the problem of getting too many messages from others, especially women from interested men. When users join the network, they receive virtual currency, but spend some of it when they message other people. This forces them to be more selective about who they (virtually) approach—although replying to a message costs nothing. But what if you need more credits? Taking a leaf from the Dropbox incentive, those who convince others to join the network via their personalized code get their credits boosted.
Lastly, Meexo includes a number of extra geeky features to help kick off those awkward first conversations. For instance: comparing music tastes. When you and your partner both have your phones out, you can place them side by side and connect them via Bluetooth. Meexo scans both libraries on the phones and starts an animation of the cover art of songs or albums you share, floating seamlessly from one screen to the other. It's a detail nerds (ahem, admittedly, me) would definitely appreciate. And in the future, David tells me, their engineers plan to add in other ways to view what you have in common with a potential match—mutual contacts, for instance.
Meexo isn't perfect. It's iOS-only, there's no way to uncouple a profile from a device (besides a tedious manual process), and you can only block your Facebook friends for now. But in a world where online dating still carries a stigma, Meexo makes a sincere effort to do things better.
The app went live yesterday, and is available in the iTunes Store for free.
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