Here’s the thing about online dating: Not all of us are good at it. But if you, like me, suspect that you could benefit from a helping hand, a startup called Ona is offering professional support.
After all, I’m guessing that many of you have already asked friends for advice on how to improve your Tinder profile, or what to say in your first message, or what to wear on a date. You can think of Ona as taking that idea to the next level.
“It’s about learning how to date better, using specialists,” said co-founder Eric Berkowitz. “We want to change the idea of what a dating app is. We didn’t want an algorithm smashing people together … We wanted something that really was deeper and gave people a real chance at having a connection.”
So Ona has brought on specialists in four categories — date coaching, date consulting, therapy and matchmaking. (What’s the difference between coaching and consulting? Well, Ona says coaching can involve multiple one-on-one sessions and include secondary services like stylists and photographers, while consulting tends to be one-off, like assessing your profile or serving as a wingman/woman.)
These coaches, consultants and therapists don’t work for Ona, but they have been vetted by the startup’s team. (The therapy is provided by licensed psychotherapists, for example.) And they might specialize even further, for example focusing on matchmaking for LGBT users.
Ona users can browse general tips in the app and search the provider listings in each category. You can even get matches (more on that in a second) and chat with the providers for free, but if you’re interested in availing yourself of one of the paid services, then the specialist will name a price and accept payment in the app itself.
Co-founder Mark Zuppe said the company encourages providers to charge prices between $75 and $200 for their “core service,” with possible premium services for an additional charge.
And yes, you can also end up getting connected with other users for dates. However, these connections happen through Ona matchmakers, which mean that you’re not just going through a stack of photos and swiping left and right. In fact, Zuppe said your profile is only visible to the specialists, not to other singles.Zuppe also said that when he and Berkowitz first came up with the idea, they assumed it would appeal mostly to people in their 30s and 40s — “people who put their careers first” and now want to get serious about finding a relationship. However, he said they’ve seen interest from younger users too; you can be in your 20s and already feel, “I need so much help.”
One more thing about that user base: They’re required to connect through their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, and Ona also performs criminal background checks, so you can feel a bit more safe in going on that date.
The app is currently available for iOS users in New York City.