IN­NO­VA­TORS

Match mak­ing sites area dime a dozen, but Karan Dhanju and com­pany are us­ing some old-fash­ioned skills to get a step on the com­pe­ti­tion

National Post (Latest Edition) - Financial Post Magazine - - COLUMNS & DEPARTMENTS -

How Dat­ingFound.com co-founder Karan Dhanju kick started his ser­vice when the in­dus­try was in tur­moil.

Jus tab out any­one can start a dat­ing ser­vice. Put up a web­site, do a lit­tle mar­ket­ing and away you go. Sin­gle peo­ple who want to date are will­ing to try just about any­thing to do so. But it’ s much harder to sus­tain such a business. Un­suc­cess­ful dal­liances lead to cus­tomer dis­il­lu­sion­ment, which leads to them leav­ing one site for an­other, or get­ting out of the scene al­to­gether. And, per­versely, a fully sat­is­fied cus­tomer is also likely to leave, so dat­ing busi­nesses are al­ways on the hunt for a few good men and women to take their place.

Karan Dhanju was in the for­mer group. “I went on a lot of on­line dat­ing sites like Plen­tyOfFish and Match.com, but it turns out that what I was re­ally look­ing for wasn’ t what I was get­ting .” The al­go­rithms de­signed to pick out that spe­cial some­one were sim­ply not get­ting it right, which isn’t sur­pris­ing given that hu­man be­ings are com­plex at the sim­plest of times, never mind when it comes to mat­ters of love. But in­stead of try­ing yet an­other ser­vice, Toronto-based Dhanju and Mani Gill in 2015 de­cided to start their own, Dat­ingFound.com, which com­bines tech­nol­ogy with a lit­tle old- fash­ioned hu­man match­mak­ings kill.

“There are a lot of vari­ables that come into play and we be­lieve these match­ing al­go­rithms are good at match­ing num­bers, but there’s no pos­si­ble way that they can take into ac­count all the mov­ing vari­ables and ac­cu­rately give you matches,” Dhanju says. “A lit­tle hu­man as­sist can make the whole process of find­ing matches so much bet­ter, so that’ s what we did .”

The com­pany’s prospects, gen­er­ally busy Cau­casian pro­fes­sion­als, fill out ques­tion­naires just as they would for other sites, and then a pro­pri­etary al­go­rithm sorts them out. But com­pany em­ploy­ees — Dhanju calls them dat­ing ex­perts — val­i­date the pro­file and choose a match that takes into ac­count a per­son’s val­ues, be­liefs, phys­i­cal­ity and likes/dis­likes. Cus­tomers get one match ev­ery four days and can chat within the site’ s web­site if they want to see if a date is in the off­ing. Whether it’s a good match or not, cus­tomer feed­back is used to help re­fine the pro­files for fu­ture matches.

But a big­ger sell­ing point might be that Dat­ing Found. com pro­files are pri­vate. They can­not be searched and users aren’t trolled by other peo­ple, real or other­wise. That’s im­por­tant given that the site was just start­ing out when the Ash­ley Madi­son cheat­ing site was hacked, re­veal­ing the names of thou­sands of users. Launch­ing a business when the in­dus­try is em­broiled in scan­dal may seem like a bad idea, but Dhanju says it can be turned into an ad­van­tage if new en­trants ad­dress and solve the prob­lem .“We ac­tu­ally ben­e­fited from the scan­dal be­cause our whole value propo­si­tion also de­pends on pri­vacy ,” he says, adding that there were and still area lot of con­cerns about pri­vacy.

Dat­ingFound.com was up to 6,500 clients as of De­cem­ber after of­fi­cially launch­ing four months ear­lier, but Dhanju says the com­pany is also get­ting ready to scale up in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a huge video mar­ket­ing push in Fe­bru­ary. So far, Dhanju and his part­ner have in­vested $40,000 of their own money into the ven­ture and have plans to seek out­side in­vestors, in­clud­ing one to raise money through Ma RS Dis­cov­ery Dis­trict, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion de­signed to bring en­trepreneurs, re­searchers and ed­u­ca­tors to­get her—kind of a match mak­ing ser­vice for busi­nesses. A dat­ing ser­vice may not seem par­tic­u­larly in­no­va­tive, but Ma RS sup­ports a wide va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries and, to be fair, get­ting dates for peo­ple is tricky work, one that to­day re­quires tech­nol­ogy as well as a hu­man touch .“A lot of peo­ple mis match what they say they want and what is re­al­is­tic, and that is one of the hard­est jobs for our dat­ing ex­perts to fig­ure out,” Dhanju says .“We’ re in the business of match­ing peo­ple; we’re not in the business of man­u­fac­tur­ing peo­ple .”

Karan Dhanju and Mani Gill, co-founders of Dat­ing Found.com

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