A lot of women are uncomfortable with the idea of dating a complete stranger they meet on a dating app. In addition to the fear of the unknown, women are turned off by guys who are only looking to hook up, or who leave unwanted flirtatious messages hoping for a response.
Many women are looking for a different kind of online dating experience – where they could meet the type of guy they could introduce to friends and family. Better yet – a dating app where the women were in charge and had to vouch for their male friends before the guys could even use the app.
Ladies, meet the newly launched dating app Jess, Meet Ken.
The company introduced its online dating service first via a website, and now have relaunched Jess, Meet Ken as a dating app. I got a chance to sit down with founder and CEO Ken Deckinger, who got his start in the matchmaking business by founding popular speed dating service HurryDate, which was later sold to JDate. He was inspired to create the new app from his own personal love story. A long-time female friend posted his profile on an online dating site, vouching for what a great guy he was so women would be more inclined to respond. And they responded – it’s how he met Jess, his wife IRL.
Here’s what Ken had to say about his app, Jess, Meet Ken.
Kelly Seal: Jess, Meet Ken started as an online dating site, but now you’re relaunching it as a dating app. Why the switch?
Ken Deckinger: We initially launched Jess, Meet Ken as a website to test the concept and learn what worked and what didn’t work. The website was an easy proving ground for us – We always planned to add a mobile component to the website once we got going. But, once we started working on mobile we quickly realized two things; (1) nobody wanted the website, they all wanted mobile and, (2) our user experience could be executed so much better on mobile. So, instead of launching a mobile product along with a web product we decided to get rid of the website completely and go 100% mobile.
KS: What are some of the main differences in features between the site and the app?
KD: At the highest level the concept is the same – women nominate their best guys for other women to meet (guys can only be on the app if nominated by a woman). There are two big changes we implemented into the app though… First, nominated guys can now use the app. They can browse women and swipe left or right if they like someone. On the website the women did *all* of the work. Guys weren’t even allowed to use it. On the app, we let guys into the driver’s seat a bit more. The second change is that once a match is made between two people, they can chat or the the woman can chat with the guy’s female nominator. On the website only the women could talk.
KS: There’s a lot of competition in the dating app space – especially people trying to compete with Tinder’s market share and name. What sets yours apart?
KD: From a product standpoint we’re set apart because the guys on our app have been invited by our community of women. We also let the women chat with each other to learn more about each guy – this is quite different from anything else in the marketplace. What makes us really different though is that our guys are just simply “good guys.” Women are putting themselves out there to recommend them. They take this seriously. The end result is a curated group of guys that are impressive, are looking for something more than just a hookup, and frankly, are solid human beings. The guys kick ass.
KS: Bumble has received a lot of media attention as a “female-friendly” app. What would you tell Bumble users about your app?
KD: We’re very different from Bumble. Mainly because on Jess, Meet Ken, all of the men have been selected to participate, by the women. So, if a guy’s on Jess, Meet Ken, it’s because he’s been deemed worthy. Each guy has a written recommendation from the woman who nominated him. This lets women learn more about him from the perspective of another woman. A woman who knows his most endearing attributes, and specifically those attributes which are appealing to women, better than he knows himself. ;-)
KS: How does Jess, Meet Ken work for the guys? What if they don’t have a female friend to promote them?
KD: If you’re a guy you can join the app and browse for ladies. But, we won’t show you to any of our female members or show you who likes you until you get nominated. Once you’re nominated you can meet all of the women. Guys who don’t have a female friend to nominate them are kinda out of luck. That’s part of what makes our guys such high quality – if they’re on Jess, Meet Ken, it’s because someone vouched for them as being fantastic. Of course, there’s always “mom” if a guy can’t find a female friend!
KS: It seems intuitive – we like getting referrals on everything from plumbers to vacation rentals. Why not dates, and why not through a dating app, where our chances are greater than in real life? How has the response been?
KD: So far the response has been awesome! People are meeting and dating. From a usage perspective, it’s better than anticipated. We started off in Boston with a very small test group. We opened it up and expected the engagement to quickly drop off to zero once we launched. It never did though. Instead it just stayed steady, with people staying engaged and using the app on a daily basis over the course of six weeks, without us doing anything. We then added more people and they stayed engaged too. We’re really encouraged.
KS: Do you feel that running a speed dating company better prepared you for what daters really want? Was this inspiration for the app?
KD: Our experience with HurryDate and JDate was extremely valuable. We spent nine years talking to daters, in person, while running our events and our online dating platform, around the world. It certainly gives us a unique perspective into what singles want in a dating product. Having this background is extremely helpful but our inspiration comes from our own true love story – Jess, Meet Ken is based on how Jess and I met. My best friend Adele posted me online, Jess saw the post, emailed Adele and the Adele introduced us. “Jess, meet Ken…”
KS: Where is the app available?
KD: The app is available everywhere. Anyone can join the beta. Right now, since we’re only a few weeks old, Boston’s our first activated market. Anyone can, and should join the app though so we can open their market!