Daterly: a new social dating network emerges from the African startup scene

Online dating sites like Match and eHarmony use matching algorithms to identify romantic partners, but this approach is believed to be flawed. The New York Times cites a study that divulges 80 years of scientific research on what makes couples romantically compatible. It turns out, the core of traditional matching algorithms, similar interests and personality traits, are not key to predicting happy relationships.

So what works? Well, good old fashion dating is still the best way to tell if you’re a match, but a new “social dating network” called Daterly, believes that by building “an online social resume,” couples could be more prepared for real world introductions.

Currently in beta, Daterly launched in late 2011 and is what Facebook would be like if the world’s largest social network decided to rebrand itself as a dating service. Users are encouraged to share their experiences on an ongoing basis by posting status updates as they would do on Facebook. In doing so, founder of Daterly, Robin Jones, believes that users are creating their social resume — a way of showing potential male or female suitors what their lives are really like.

“Sharing what you do on a daily basis, what book you are reading, what movie you saw last night, sharing what you just read in the news, what restaurant you ate at last night or where you met your friends for drinks. All these activities describe your lifestyle and the type of person you are. You will have plenty in common and lots to talk about on your first date. I wanted to translate this idea into a way to meet like minded people, a LinkedIn for dating if you like, where you can build your social resume,” says Jones.

Daterly has a one-two punch approach to online dating. While it employs traditional matching — you are required to divulge information about yourself and your preferences — at its core, it encourages you to follow people you find attractive. When you follow someone, their posts will show up in your news feed.

Daterly users can however, display varying degrees of interest in each other. You can add users to subgroups, where you can select hotlist, follow, friend or just leave them in the default group connections. Users can get to know each other by following posts as well as by commenting on updates and photos, but without the expectations, pressure and possible disappointment that might come when hotlisting someone on a conventional dating site.

Learning about people in this way is nothing new — think Twitter and Facebook –, but it’s a novel approach in the context of online dating. Some argue that Facebook, who’s news feed takes center stage, is the world’s largest dating site, but it is not generally perceived to be that way. In fact, you’d sooner be labeled a “stalker” than a suitor should you be candid about friending someone purely for romantic purposes. There’s none of that on Daterly. It’s a dating service. If someone is following you, they probably have a crush on you.

For as long as Facebook has existed, it has fought against revealing profile viewing activity — resisting its dating culture undercurrent. Not so with Daterly. When someone views your profile you get sent an email, something that can be perceived as both a plus and a negative. In order to learn about a person, it’s necessary to view a profile. That puts you in a precarious chicken and egg situation. If there’s no subsequent desire to connect, a false sense of interest is created. It would be better to send the email after three or more profile visits.

At the time of writing this article, there are 750 users in total, 480 male and 270 female registered on the site, predominantly from South Africa, Daterly’s home country. Jones says that South Africa and more specifically Cape Town and Johannesburg are Daterly’s main focus right now. “Having lived in London for 15 years, that would be the next logical step before targeting the USA, where I would focus on New York initially,” he says.

The service is self-funded and works on a freemium model. The majority of the service is free to use, but a Silver Membership can be purchased for three, six or 12 months. Most notably, the Silver Membership enables a member to instant message and mail other users.

Jones tells Ventureburn that elements of gamification are being added to the site. Members will be awarded badges for certain site milestones and actions which will translate into Daterly credits. These credits can be used to purchase memberships and other site services like virtual gifts.

Jones sees Daterly operating in a different space as competitors. “There are literally thousands of dating sites. Sites like Twoo and Badoo would be seen as competitors although, they both operate in a very different space to Daterly. The old established me-too dating sites like Match and Datingbuzz are bland and two dimensional. Hookup sites like Badoo have a niche audience. Daterly aims to bridge the gap between these two paradigms with an element of fun, while being sincere. By sharing what restaurant you ate at last night or what movie you went to see also brings an element of social discovery and location based recommendations to online dating,” he says.

According to Jones, Daterly was developed through the process of working on other projects that have failed to get traction and it has been a great learning curve, finding out what works and what doesn’t. “It’s a kind of pivot or persevere question. Daterly is still in beta and has a long way to go, with more features and a mobile app still to come this year,” he says.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Ventureburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.