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This is a story that involves dating, rejection, and a little blue owl named “Hootie.”
Icebrkr (IceBreaker) is Born
Mark and I first met in grad school in 2010 at Rutgers while studying communication in relationships. We formed a strong bond and a mutual respect while working through various projects. So when I came up with the idea for Icebrkr, Mark was one of the first people I called to hear his thoughts and opinions. Fast-forward a year and a half later and we’ve been on quite a journey.
But in all honesty, that journey is really just beginning.
Why Are We Here?
Online dating can be a complicated and confusing situation to navigate.
For the past year, we’ve been helping online daters find dates on other apps/sites to directly learn more about their pain points with our ‘Text Icebrkr’ on-demand SMS service. This service is focused on optimizing the online dating experience by offering people personalized expert assistance in things like photo selection, profile writing and messaging.
We’re helping people boost their confidence and remove the slippery slope of uncertainty and frustration in online dating. Because we saw so many recurring issues for daters during the SMS campaign, we’ve decided to begin development on our own app (super excited!). This is due to numerous flaws we’ve experienced ourselves and our clients have experienced with today’s platforms (Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Match, etc.).
Yes, a new online dating app comes out what seems like every other day. Singles are bombarded with countless apps and sites that all promise to deliver love in a gift basket. If you have a friend who’s been single for a while you’ll often hear them say “online dating sucks” or “there are so many weirdos on there.” We’re not going to lie, some of that is true. Buuuut, you might want to look in the mirror.
We wouldn’t be working to change the dating industry if we didn’t think many online dating sites “suck.” Are there a lot of “weirdos” on dating sites? Sure, there are people you’ll find strange anywhere (i.e. bars, coffee shops, walking on the street), and online dating sites aren’t exempt from that.
However, we believe the first problem lies with you. Yes, you. Not them. We also believe we can change that.
Why are we the guys to do this? Glad you asked. We’ll give you 3 reasons:
Reason #1: Our Personal Experience
You can say I’ve had a very unique journey when it comes to gaining online dating knowledge.
From about 2004 to 2016 I made myself an online dating test dummy. What do I mean by that? I went on dates to literally just go on dates (more than I can count). I used online dating as a platform to go on “practice dates” and tried to learn what the hell I was doing through trial and error.
I have no problem admitting that I didn’t know how to interact with women – fully believe that most men don’t, they’re just too proud to admit it. But that’s a blog for another time.
I came up with my own personal online dating rules of engagement. These rules were put in place because the “practice dates” didn’t have a lot of rhyme or reason to them. At some point I got tired of wasting my time with people I didn’t connect with or wasn’t attracted too. It was time to take dating more seriously.
Eventually, I never went on bad dates, I just went on good to great ones. Meeting new women online I liked became very easy for me due to the “rules of engagement” I strictly followed.
I’ve always been very inquisitive, so dates were also case studies to learn about what women did or didn’t want.
I got to hear about their good dating stories and bad dating stories. I never kept it a secret that I was studying this stuff in school, many of my dates really opened up to me because they found the whole process fascinating and they too wanted to learn more.
Much like Kevin, I’ve gone on my share of crappy get-me-out-of-here dates and some memorable ones I’ll never forget. But the dates themselves were never really the issue when I first started. My problem was getting the date.
Kicking off my online dating career on OKCupid, I was the guy who wrote quirky page long messages that took a half hour to come up with only to rarely get a 4-word response (not a high ROI).
My natural reactions usually came in the form of “that girl sucks anyway,” or “this site is useless,” or “damn, I can’t be that ugly.”
For the most part, none of the 3 were actually true (at least I hope the last one isn’t). The real culprit in my successive failures was my approach: trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I wasn’t necessarily insane, but I was certainly inefficient.
I started following Christian Rudder’s blog, founder of OKCupid (here’s his book), where he took data from user behaviors and outlined what worked and what didn’t for online daters. Bingo! I’m an analytical guy and data resonates with me. From there I popped on my nerd helmet and began testing everything from messages to what was in my profile.
It wasn’t quick, but my success rates started to improve as I threw out what didn’t work and built on what did. First, in getting responses, then, getting dates.
Since then, I’ve applied this A/B testing approach to the other major dating apps out there and have helped a lot of friends with their dating lives along the way.
Reason #2: Our Academic Experience
Besides going on dates, I somehow found a way to focus most of my academic studies around courtship communication in online platforms.
There were six professors in my program who met their significant others on online dating sites. Furthermore, Professor Jennifer Gibbs, who became my mentor, was one of the leading researchers in the country when it came to self-presentation in online dating platforms (yes, that’s a thing).
Throughout my years of online dating, I’d formed many thoughts and opinions. It was critically important to ground these beliefs in researched academic studies to learn about trends and back them up with statistics. As Jenn used to always say to me, “No, Kevin, you can’t cite yourself.”
Damn right you can’t cite yourself, Kevin.
I was working toward a career in marriage and family therapy, thus, my focus in the classroom targeted relationship conflict. Specifically, I looked at how people’s uncertainties and insecurities affected their relationships from early courtship all the way up to years of marriage.
For example, I once lead a study on how jealousy could have positive influences on relationships. Who knew?
Those years of intensive study provided me a unique perspective on the dynamics of relationships – how they come to be and how they crash and burn.
Reason #3: Our Professional Experience
I worked for a company called eFlirt Expert. I had many roles, but the one that gets people’s attention the most is how I assisted our VIP clients.
At eFlirt, we had detailed files of what type of person fit our client’s interests . I would take this information and search Match.com daily for potential matches. One hour I’d be searching for 40-45 year-old men in San Francisco, the next I’d be searching for 28-35 year-old women in New York City.
To perform this job correctly, you need to get into the mindset of the client. It’s an eye opening perspective to feel what it’s like to be a divorced mother of three, single for the first time in 20 years.
You work them through their insecurities and uncertainties all while trying to build their confidence.
There’s a lot of pressure, but it was a very rewarding process when you found a match that made your client happy. It’s also an experience that’s safe to say 99 percent of the world will never experience. You don’t truly learn customer pain points and frustrations until you’ve attempted to live in his or her shoes.
Using all of the personal online dating and the academic experience that I accumulated for years, I turned that into a career as a… software developer. Yea, there was really no segue except that I went from falling in love from one profession to another (longer story in there somewhere).
Anyway, over the past 6+ years I’ve worked as a web and mobile app developer and designer. I’ve helped build dozens of apps and websites that include boring business software to games and eCommerce.
Dabbling in many side projects over the years, I discovered I’m an entrepreneur at heart who loves creating cool shit that people actually enjoy… and hopefully provides some value.
Building Icebrkr brings it all back full circle. Now, all of the personal, academic, and professional experience between Kevin and I merges into an industry shifting idea that will not only help you find a compatible partner, but help you become a more confident person in yourself and the way you communicate with others.
We’ll use this blog (and eventually other platforms) to dive into a lot of the issues that come from online dating and relationships in general.
Our approach will be two-sided: the personal storytelling side and the nerdy science and data stuff. We’ll interview experts, respond to your questions, and give you actual tools to help you improve your relationships.
Our overall goal will be to help shed some light on how to improve your experiences and help navigate you through this fickle world.
Oh, and here’s Hootie. More on him later…
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