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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Valentine’s virtual speed dating connecting solo Canberrans

For solo Canberrans experiencing swipe fatigue, a new digital dating format may offer a Valentine’s Day reprieve, in the form of a virtual speed dating mega-party.

The hosted Valentine’s Day event will stream through the City Swoon website simultaneously in Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, but matches will stay localised.

With some two-million single Australians, including 35,000 lone households in Canberra, the more options for romance and personal connections, the better.

Former finance worker Brett and his software developer wife Louise returned to Australia from London six years ago with no desire to work nine-to-five, but “mad keen” to start something of their own.

They went into the love industry, announcing their arrival with a Guinness World Records-breaking, blind dating event at the Sydney Opera House.

Feedback from the 700-person hour-long blind dating event informed the pair that they needed to speed things up.   

For the past six years, their company has been running hosted speed dating, complete with patented machine learning and matching algorithms, based upon participants’ attributes and previous pairings.

They have even expanded into the US, Canada and the UK.

How it works

  • 30 people at each event check-in using their smartphone
  • Two hosts introduce themselves, set the tone for the evening and facilitate the conversations
  • The algorithm makes seven or eight matches
  • The pairs have timed conversations of four minutes, including ice-breaker questions
  • At the end of the evening, mutual matches are given the opportunity to text or video chat through the platform, meaning at no point is personal information released.

The company was well on its way to delivering virtual events before the pandemic, after Brett’s “light bulb moment” at a dating conference in LA in 2018.

“Luckily, we were three-quarters of the way into developing the software when the pandemic hit,” Brett said.

“So, when the restrictions came in, we just put everything we had into finishing it and it’s been successful for the last nine months, which is nice validation.”

While they don’t know exactly how many people they’ve helped find love, they have had some “really lovely” feedback about their success and very little experience of anti-social behaviour.

“The people that attend have bought into the concept and are there to have fun,” Brett said.

“It appeals because you don’t have to go on two or three dates a week; you can date a number of people in one night.

“People are people. They like the social nature of the event, it’s fun.

“Everyone is nervous for the first date or two, but it’s nerve-racking meeting people in most situations.

“A couple of dates in, the conversations usually get going and there is a friendly buzz going on and people find that what might not necessarily spark interest on paper is completely different in person.”

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