Online dating is one of those things – like sailing – that force newbies to learn a whole new vocabulary, from “catfish” (people who misrepresent their physical appearance on their online profile) to “benching” (the practice of putting the people you just met in a sort of limbo and ‘bench them,’ so you date around and see what else is out there).
Aside from the language, there are many things that people who use online dating apps should know – and local startup Icebrkr says it has the answers for them.
Based in North Attleboro, MA, Icebrkr is currently running a service that aims at helping online daters by providing them with real-time counseling via SMS. By subscribing to the service for $19.95 per month, users can get, for example, reviews of their photos and their profiles, as well as suggestions about conversation starters and meeting places for a first date. So far, the service is free for the first five days.
According to Kevin Murray, who co-founded Icebrkr with Mark Brehaut, it’s a social norm for people being on multiple dating sites at once to maximize the possibility to go on dates. However, when things don’t go as they expect, they tend to blame the online dating game instead of themselves. “People want to blame everybody else,” Murray said. “But the name of the game is creating a unique avenue to start conversations.”
In addition, dating websites don’t do a great job in suggesting how users can improve their profiles, according to Murray. To fill this gap, he said that Icebrkr will cater more to people who are looking for serious relationships, from age 24 to 44.
The origins of the company are all in Murray’s background and academic interests. Murray, 35, said that he’s been on and off online dating for around ten years, starting in 2004. It’s worth reminding that in terms of digital ages, these times were like the Middle Ages compared to today. Facebook was on the verge of exploding, Twitter was two years away to be born and Instagram’s co-founder Kevin Systrom just got the legal age to drink. “Tinder wasn’t even around back then, it was pretty much just Match and OKCupid,” Murray said. “I actually met women on MySpace.”
In 2010, when Murray was accepted into a grad program in communication at Rutgers University, he decided to focus on research on online dating and self-presentation. Then, after working for digital dating counseling platform Eflirt for almost three years, he decided to start his own company.
According to Murray, the ultimate goal of the SMS campaign is to create user traction to leverage with potential investors. Eventually, Murray said he’d like to turn the service into an app, but the company needs the funding first to build the beta version. So far, the company raised $75,000 with a goal of $200,000.
What Murray usually recommends to first-time online daters is choosing carefully four core photos: a mid shot, a full body shot and then two travel photos that can serve as a conversation starter.