Vidya Madhavan always wanted to pursue business. Growing up in India, he thought he might be in the business of running a factory, given the power and influence of costumes like the Tata group, the Indian multinational conglomerate.
He certainly had an affinity for school, graduated from the top of his high school, earned a degree in mechanical engineering in India and most recently landed in business school in Stanford. Except that, instead of creating the more traditional business she once had in mind, Madhavan found herself playing with a completely different idea: a dating app called Schmooze that combines machine learning and memes to connect people based on in what Madhavan calls a humor algorithm.
The idea dates back several years when, as a McKinsey analyst in India, who was debating whether or not to attend graduate school in California, Madhavan emailed 10 people on LinkedIn who he could see. attending American business schools and hoping for help. Only one of them responded, but over the next two days, he says, “we exchanged, like 200 emails, all of them basically jokes.”
Reader, she is now married to this person. In fact, he says it’s because he believes their shared sense of humor united them that he started playing with Schmooze’s idea, initially as a way to foster new friendships. It was when he saw the trend of things (people were really looking for a love match) that he refocused the idea as a dating app for Gen Z users who already communicate largely with memes. .
Since then it has been taking off, Madhavan says. Although it has not yet spread similarly to Facebook on college campuses, a beta test in late summer with 200 Stanford students has resulted in more than 10,000 downloads nationwide, where people go to the right or left to over 5,000 memes. which are completely removed by Schmooze still in beta (until it’s big enough to handle content moderation).
About 200 memes are currently being added every day, while others are being deleted. “No one cares about the U.S. election anymore,” Madhavan points out.
Through tagging and machine learning, combined with the bios that users create for themselves, Schmooze gets to work. Some users may show a predilection for specific topics, such as physics or finance. Some who say they are interested in entrepreneurship may reveal an even stronger passion for music through their decisions. There are similar fractions when it comes to dark humor and people who really love puns and those who hate them.
If the algorithm really works, it will take you a while to know its time and lasting connections. Madhavan claims that 90,000 matches have been made so far, but naturally a much smaller number has gone from matching messages to messages built into the app.
Meanwhile, Schmooze has a lot of competition, both from traditional dating services and from more recent dating apps and questionnaires that seek to pair people based on shared interests rather than using them as a starting point.
It’s also easy to imagine more meme-based dating apps popping up all of a sudden, especially for today’s market. (More crazy things have happened.)
Still, Schmooze looks promising. It recently closed with $ 270,000 in initial funding from Ulu Ventures and others to play with its product. The company has found success reaching its audience on TikTok. There is also a lot of money to be made in the world of online dating, as industry observers see it over and over again.
As for Madhaven, she is in love, to her surprise, with its launch. Partly because of her formative years and partly because she never went online before meeting her husband via LinkedIn, she says with a laugh from Schmooze, “It’s unexpected, in many ways.”