The Beatles once sang that we all need a little help from our friends.
SparkStarter is a new startup applying that mantra to the crowded world of online dating, with the promise of a better way to make romantic matches in a digital world.
As you may know, there are already a ton of online dating sites and apps out there. Tony Kramer, CEO of SparkStarter, readily acknowledges that. But he and his team spent months studying the market landscape, and they believe that their unique method can set them apart from the rest.
Unlike the majority of online dating platforms, which rely simply on shared interests and calculated algorithms to connect people, SparkStarter puts mutual friends in the position of match-maker for other friends.
Here’s how it works: you sign up, connect to your Facebook account, then use the interface to introduce two friends who you think might hit it off. This means that even if you’re already married or in a committed relationship, you can still use the app, increasing the size of the potential user base considerably.
On the flip side, if you’re looking for a match yourself, you can sign up and search yourself or request introductions from friends.
“We often refer to it as the LinkedIn concept for dating using Facebook,” Kramer says, pointing out that people often use the popular professional networking site to connect with others through mutual acquaintances.
Kramer, a serial entrepreneur whose educational background is in chemical engineering, said the idea for SparkStarter came about after he moved back to Minnesota four years ago. He was single, and having a difficult time meeting the right woman, so a friend of his put him in touch with a Facebook connection who had some common interests.
Last year, he married that same gal.
Undoubtedly, this friend felt a sense of pride and happiness over connecting the two. And Kramer believes that is a driving force behind SparkStarter’s setup. The match-making aspect adds a new social element to the mix, and puts the selection process in the hands of a person you trust rather than a machine.
“Everyone has a single friend that they’re dying to set up with somebody,” he says.
SparkStarter is undergoing a soft launch this month to start organically building a local user base before going national in March. After that, Kramer says the company plans to hold an angel investing round.
Despite the crowded market, Kramer believes that dating sites and apps must fundamentally evolve. He also thinks that the company’s differentiation will make it an attractive investment target for growth or future acquisition.
But first, he and his team of seven must demonstrate that SparkStarter can gain traction by attracting users… and their friends.