Project Fixup Plays Matchmaker In The Digital Age

There are almost as many singles in the U.S. as there are singles who’ve tried online dating. But all those winks, pokes, nudges and swipes are a waste of your precious time in looking for love, according to new dating site Project Fixup.

This new “digital matchmaker” site aims to use online dating technology to hook people up with their potential mates, but use real humans as the matchmakers.

Project Fixup first takes you through the typical process of uploading pictures and putting in your dating preferences. It then asks you to take a simple quiz about your interests, likes and dislikes (see pic below.)

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But then here’s where Project Fixup diverges from other online dating sites. It sends your info off to an assigned “fixup specialist.” This is an actual human that looks at your pics, your profile, your preferences and, just like a good dating doyenne, sets you up on a blind date with someone they think you’ll mesh with. They coordinate the date, time and location for you two to meet and then let Cupid do the rest.

Co-founders Sarah Press and Jason Skicewicz came up with the idea while in Techstars Chicago this past year. The two beta tested the concept with over 2000 people in the Windy City with what seems to be some good success. As they tell it, 95% of members in post date fixup surveys expressed an interest in trying Project Fixup again. The concept is now launching out of beta and into the San Francisco singles scene this week.

Press believed singles of our fair San Francisco to be the ideal candidates for the launch of Project Fixup, “You are all busy and work long hours. We let [SF singles] cut to the chase and spend their time meeting people instead of cruising profiles,” Press says.

According to a study from Matches That Matter, people spend 12 hours a week trying to get a first in-person date. Lots of swiping, clicking and back and forth happens in between and most of that probably never leads to an actual in-person meeting. Press clocked Project Fixup beta users at getting a date in less than 12 minutes.

None of the “fixup specialists” are professional matchmakers, mind you. And neither Press nor Skicewicz have studied relationship psychology either. One could conclude that getting set up this way is a bit of a gamble. But, according to Press, at least 30% of participants wanted a second date with their match. But then, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that 35% of those married from 2005 to 2012 met online before entering into a relationship. Online is just a good way to meet someone looking for a relationship (or a hookup) in general these days.

Press believes her site will do better at getting people together because it’s the opposite of easy hookup apps like Tinder. “If you want a hookup or to browse people, you can use Tinder,” she says. “If you want to meet someone in person who shares your love of TechCrunch on a Tuesday night at a bar in your neighborhood, Project Fixup is the easiest and best way to do that.”

It’s also not the first attempt at digital matchmaking. Author of “Love in the Time of Algorithms,” Dan Slater is the product of one of the first computational matchmaking services, Contact, Inc. The now defunct service debuted in 1965 with a computer algorithm that paired couples in the Boston area together for dates. He writes in his book about digital matchmaking counterparts, old and new such as the “29 dimensions of compatibility” used by eHarmony or the percentage of “match,” “friend” or “enemy” on OKCupid. None of those sites rely on human curation for the date set up, however.

It’s not just humans doing the matchmaking with Project Fixup, either. There is also a computational element involved. And, according to Press, that part was a bit of a surprise. “We basically copied what every other dating site was doing, asking people what movies they like, etc. but that wasn’t what matched people up the best.” Press and her co-founder found matches worked better when they had the same interest in tech or both wanted kids or not. “Those were much more important questions for us to ask,” Press says. They had to change a lot of how they paired people up and change the algorithm a bit to get the right people together.

Each matchup costs $20 and comes with a 100% “Awesomeness Guarantee.” That basically means if you had a bad experience, you get your money back. Fixup specialists set the date, time and location for you, but it’s up to you to pay for the date. Project Fixup is offering free matches to the first 500 people to join in the San Francisco area.

“We heard the rumors all the way in Chicago about the challenging dating scene over in SF,” says Press. Here’s to hoping for more meaningful matches in the city by the Bay than what’s offered in some shallow app.

Correction: Press came up with the idea with Alan Illing. The two particpated in Techstars Chicago last summer. Current co-founder Jason joined the team shortly after Techstars.