Connecticut Entrepreneur Reinventing Online Dating — One Meme at a Time | #tinder | #pof


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When Nikos Diakogiannis first ventured into the world of dating applications, he found that they were all too similar. That’s why he’s attempting to change the game altogether — one meme at a time.

Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Match — the list of options goes on. But Diakogiannis has created an app that brings a breath of fresh air to virtual dating.

It’s called Picme.

“Picme is sort of like a hybrid between Tinder and Snapchat,” Diakogiannis told The Pappas Post. “You swipe on users and if you get a match, you message them only with picture messages.”

How it all started

Years after receiving a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Connecticut in 2012, Diakogiannis returned to the school to begin graduate studies in the medical field.

Similar to many graduate students, the Bristol native spent most of his time in the books, limiting opportunities for in-person interaction.

“I used dating apps a lot because I didn’t have much time to meet people. But I realized that most dating apps were similar,” Diakogiannis said. “You just match with someone and text back and forth until you meet them.”

The missing ingredient? Engagement.

“I thought the card swiping game was fun, but the thing I hated about traditional dating apps was the interaction after matching with another user,” he said. “The whole idea of texting a stranger some random pickup line seemed awkward and ineffective to me.”

Diakogiannis’ app Picme allows users to swipe, match and exchange “memes,” which refer to images that are often humorous in nature and include descriptive text. (Photo courtesy of Picme)

Bringing more interaction to dating apps

Diakogiannis’ first attempt came through Spark, a video speed-dating app which allowed users to interact through FaceTime-style video chats. The app included search filters such as distance, gender and age.

But location became an issue, as users with large distances between them faced the challenge of coordinating video calls while being in different time zones. This prompted Diakogiannis to take another approach.

“It was not very practical to get people in the same geographic location online at the same time to set up video calls,” he said. “The pool of potential users was too small.”

Diakogiannis’ latest app, Picme, came in response to that problem.

“The new app strikes a balance between being interactive without forcing people to be online at the same time,” he said. “After you match on Picme, you can take snapshots, tag them with text and hit send.”

Picme takes inspiration from Snapchat insofar as its photo-based format while its “card swiping” feature follows the Tinder model. Diakogiannis said these details were consistent with his goal to produce an interactive app without completely reinventing the wheel.

“Picme was a hybrid of my idea for Spark,” he said. “You get to see people and interact with them on a more personal level without changing the dating model that’s already worked.”

The video below shows how the app works in real time.

The long, grueling process

Diakogiannis had a computer science degree, but this didn’t mean he knew how to build an app.

The UConn alumnus read a 1,000-page textbook on computer systems. He sat learned the ins and outs of programming for iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system which powers many of the company’s devices, including the iPhone and iPod Touch. He learned new programming languages, formal languages which are used to implement algorithms and provide instructions for computers.

These tasks and others amounted to a full-time commitment of approximately 11 hours per day, and sometimes more, to complete Picme.

Diakogiannis then faced the app’s review process for Facebook. This meant creating his own LLC and submitting business documents to become a Facebook-verified business. Then he signed a contract promising not to misuse user data.

Apple came next.

“Apple has a large set of rules you must adhere by when submitting to the app store. I didn’t have a ‘Sign in with Apple’ button the first time I submitted the app and they rejected me,” Diakogiannis said. “I had to completely change the login system to get it to work with both Facebook and Apple.”

Picme received four rejections before qualifying for the App Store, where it is now available for download. The app also has a website.

“It was extremely difficult, but I got it done with the help of my amazing family and friends,” Diakogiannis said. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”

Picme
Nikos Diakogiannis edits code while working on his app. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Connecticut.

Inspired by family

“The moment I decided to pursue entrepreneurship was a very difficult time for me,” Diakogiannis said. “My pappou on my mother’s side, who helped raise me, was bedridden with dementia. I felt hopeless and extremely hurt and sad.”

But seeing his grandfather during his final days motivated the young entrepreneur, who said he started thinking that “life was too short” not to take a risk by developing an app.

“I wanted to swing for the fences and hopefully hit a home run,” Diakogiannis said. “I wanted to make my grandfather proud of me, so he could look down at me and smile, saying ‘I’m proud I took my family to America, the country of opportunity.’”

Diakogiannis pictured with his grandfather, Konstantinos Kousournas, at the Diagoras Airport on his ancestral island of Rhodes, Greece. Kousournas died in May 2017 at the age of 82. (Photo courtesy of Nikos Diakogiannis)

Diakogiannis, who was his late grandfather’s first grandchild, said the two shared a “special bond” that shaped him as an individual.

“Pappou took me everywhere with him just to get me out of the house and spend some quality time together. He was the man who first took our family to America from Rhodes, Greece in 1969,” he said. “He was always proud to be an American and he loved this country.”

Diakogiannis said that one day he hopes to sell his app and pay off his parents’ business.

“My parents have been working hard for almost 30 years in the dry cleaning and tailoring business,” he said. “They instilled that same hard work ethic in me. I want to be able to give them a break after all these years and help them retire.”

Picme
Diakogiannis (far left) pictured with his family during his brother Kostas’ graduation from the University of Connecticut in May 2019. (Photo courtesy of Nikos Diakogiannis)
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