A Scottish tech entrepreneur aims to stand out in the crowded dating app market by encouraging people to make “real connections” by meeting each other socially instead of through electronic messaging.
Soda, which launched last month, is billed as a social dating app that encourages individual users to meet up in person, rather than first spending hours exchanging virtual messages on often banal subjects.
Creator Blair Waller has taken the bold step of not installing a chat facility on his product, with the aim of to encouraging potential matches to meet naturally while socialising, and hopes to see a surge in members ahead of Valentine’s Day on February 14.
Users can check themselves in to one of 50 venues in Edinburgh, based on their plans for that day or night, and view profiles of other members who have also checked in. They establish contact by liking each other’s profiles and are then encouraged to connect with each other in a social environment.
Soda, which takes its name from the term ‘social dating’, is the latest dating app attempting to take on UK market leader Tinder, which last year boasted 26 million “matches” per day globally.
Matchmaking may be an ancient art, but it has become an increasingly profitable one in the 21st century thanks to an explosion in websites and apps.
A 2016 report by Marketdata Enterprises found dating services to be a $2.5 billion business in the United States alone.
Last year, a survey by smartphone maker HTC found 37 per cent of UK adults had met a partner via dating apps, with 35 per cent of those in Scotland adding that it had led to a meaningful relationship.
Second in the UK market is Match, which also owns leading brand names OKCupid and Plenty of Fish, but Waller believes there’s plenty of scope for indpendent start-ups.
The Edinburgh University graduate thinks Soda offers singletons “a more organic solution” to making connections with people.
“My experiences with dating apps involved investing a huge amount of time in building up an online relationship to an actual date, only to realise that the spark just wasn’t there,” he said.
“Soda helps people discover other singles easily by integrating handpicked, safe venues into the app to allow users to connect socially at the best venues in Edinburgh and avoid wasting time with online connections.
“In an age where digital convenience triumphs over social interaction, we are missing out on all the benefits that come with a real world experience. Whether it’s online shopping, banking or dating, you always get a better end result when it is done in person.”
“Soda rewards users for choosing social interaction over digital convenience, not only with better and faster connections but also the offering of brilliant venues, events and exclusive promotions. Soda makes life better if you’re single”
Since its release in mid-January the app has attracted more than 500 users and is currently only available in Edinburgh, with plans to expand into more cities in the near future.
Waller believes Scotland’s capital is the obvious destination to launch the app.
“I studied in Edinburgh and absolutely loved the social scene in the city because of the number of unique and beautiful venues on offer, there really is something for everybody,” he added.
“The city is very cosmopolitan with a great mix of people who have moved there for work or studies. If they don’t have a network of people in the area, Soda can really help them become more social and hopefully make real connections with people.”