In May 2013, Tinder introduced Matchmaker, a way for users of the popular dating app to introduce their Facebook friends to each other.
“Right now introductions are a very difficult process,” Tinder Ceo Sean Rad said at the time. “They’re slow, they’re socially awkward. This is socially a acceptable environment for you to make introductions in an easy way.”
Matchmaker has since been phased out of Tinder, but a new startup, Mashr, is resurrecting the feature as its central thesis. Rad’s quote about the friction of introductions still rings true over a year later, and Mashr co-founder Brian Nichols argues that Matchmaker did not succeed because it wasn’t a true piece of the core Tinder experience.
Mashr is straightforward: a user pairs two of their friends together and offers a quick explanation on why they should meet. If both agree Mashr makes the connection much like Tinder.
Nichols is counting on the fact that I might actually go out with Rachel if my friend Lindsey introduces us and explains why we’re compatible, instead of if we just swiped right for each other on Tinder.
“I know Tinder is all the rage these days, but does it really make sense to meet up with a complete stranger?,” Nichols argues. “Wouldn’t it make more sense (and be safer) if you were connected by a friend to your future significant other?”
Will Mashr really be able to succeed with an experiment that Tinder abandoned?
“People are on Tinder for themselves, to play the game of tinder,” Nichols argues, explaining that he is in a relationship but has many friends who are looking for dates who he’d like to easily introduce.
Nichols co-founded Mashr with Michael and Will Perl, two brothers who attended Stanford and also co-founded a company called Naquatic, whose apps have accumulated over 35 million downloads. Nichols, who met the Perl brothers through mutual friends, convinced them to step outside of building games to take a shot at creating a new dating app in Mashr.
Besides Tinder, Nichols says Mashr primarily competes with Hinge, which connects users because they share a mutual or third degree Facebook friend, and CoffeeMeetsBagel, which restricts users to one match per day in order to make those matches more meaningful. He argues that Mashr’s human matching can do better than other app’s algorithms.
Users on Mashr can pair any of their Facebook friends together, even if those friends haven’t downloaded Mashr yet; those friends will then get a Facebook notification about the proposed match, which the team hopes will drive app downloads.
In addition to the primary one-to-one matching aspect of the app, Mashr has a few gamification aspects to galvanize users to mash their friends together. MashPlay is a timed game where you try to match as many friends together as quickly as possible. MashFeed shows a list of all the mashes people are making–not just the successful ones. This aspect of the app is intriguing, but could backfire. The team hopes it will cause people to check the feed regularly to see who of their friends might be getting matched, but many people wouldn’t want others to see who they’re being matched with.
“We want a really casual, fun and funny experience that also has the opportunity to make meaningful connections between two people,” Nichols says. “We’re trying to strike that balance.”
Disclosure: I have accepted a role at Khosla Ventures beginning later in September. Since accepting this job, I am not covering any of the firm’s portfolio companies.