Dating app Wingr aims to take the digital search for a kindred spirit beyond the surface level

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Unhappy with the conventions of popular dating apps, two Houston natives are looking to change that with a new platform designed to better translate conversational nuances into virtual methods of communication.

Winger, spear by Jaeron “Jay” Cooper and Howard Edwards in January 2022, is a free dating app with features aimed at adapting more elements of the in-person dating process into the digital space, ultimately fostering clearer, more natural interactions .

Photo credit: Stephanie Rowe Photography

Cooper, 34, said leGrio he conceived the concept nearly five years ago during an “aha moment” after noticing a surface-level pattern of conversations with dating app matches and determining that meaningful human connection “only comes not swipe left and right”.

“It happens more organically,” he added, “when you can actually take time and process things, not try to get as many likes as possible, or try to get as many swipes as possible in a day to try to maximize your results.

Using Wingr, friends can help their friends identify potential matches based on their personality, and additional features allow users to express their mood through visual cues throughout their conversations.

Edwards, 32, said these features are designed to foster transparency and trust between users and better reflect the intricacies of an in-person chat.

“You have to take those processes and try to translate them into an app to mimic what happens in the real process of meeting, getting to know someone, and then moving that to a date,” Edwards said.

Cooper, whose professional background is in business and technology, first discussed the possibility of co-launching the app with Edwards, whose background is in biochemistry and marketing, when the two were out. have a drink as the city of Houston began to reopen from the start Covid-19 lockdown.

Finding themselves aligned with the frustrations of dating apps already on the market, the two then began thinking about ways to add more human elements to the online dating experience. Over several months of development, they’ve also gained feedback through virtual focus groups and surveys – in addition to their full-time careers, which they both maintain.

“It was really us trying to dive in and figure out, for people who use these apps and are actually in the dating scene, what do they like about dating and what [are] the challenges?” Edwards said.

“What we’ve found to be one of the biggest challenges is that people don’t connect because they can’t pick up on subtle cues, and then there are communication issues,” said Cooper, adding: “It became increasingly clear that the apps were just focused on creating matches and getting people in, but the added value after a match was created was not there.

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Through the app, Edwards said users can register as “Wingr” to play matchmaker for their friends and suggest potential matches as a trusted source, similar to something that might occur between friends during an informal conversation.

“Friends often know what your dating style is and who you like sometimes better than you actually know for yourself, or they may see something you don’t necessarily see,” Edwards said. “What better way than to have someone you know and trust suggest people to you?”

The app’s “Set the Mood” feature allows users to indicate how they’re feeling, whether happy, amused, hungry or a range of other mood cues that, when selected, instantly change the mood. chat room color – which Cooper says can help users navigate around the lack of body language cues.

“Even though I can’t see them, I can feel their expressions, I can sense their mood, and that lets me know how to perceive the conversation in a much better and clearer way,” Cooper said.

Via the Wingr dating site

Online dating, which studies show were already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic, is now the No. 1 way to meet a romantic partner in the United States, according to Liesel Sharabi, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and director of Relationships and Technology Lab, in February 2022 report from school.

According to an Aug 2021 Tinder poll of Gen Z users, 76% of respondents said they were dating more often than the previous year, with average daily swiping and messaging activity increasing by 13% and 12% respectively, and duration conversation up 38% compared to April to June 2020.

Edwards said that as dating apps become more ubiquitous, he’s noticed that it’s easier to “downgrade the relationship-building process” because many popular apps make it easier to speed up dating. process of seduction without committing efforts for each interaction.

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“I find that because of the virtual world that we find ourselves in now, when you have this idea of ​​’There are all these people that I think I could potentially correspond with’, you never make that effort to move past that surface level,” he said.

“With Wingr, we’re on a mission to turn that around and help try to build that human interaction and really enjoy that nuance that people bring to the conversation,” he added.

Cooper and Edwards said user feedback has been “very positive” so far, with the team continuing to market the self-funded app in target cities across the country, while testing the app’s success locally. among the many diverse communities residing in Houston, the the fourth largest city ​​in the United States by population.

Photo credit: Adonis Asberry

Cooper said he and Edwards hosted a launch party for Wingr in February, which had “incredible attendance,” and in the months that followed, they continued to do strategic outreach and workshop assets. to improve and expand the app’s functionality, which Edwards says could have utility beyond the simple dating scene.

“The goal is, at the heart of it, more effective communication, so you can actually understand the other person online,” he said. “So we definitely thought about how we can translate that into things like helping you find a new career, or having a better interview and things like that.”

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Cooper and Edwards, who are both black, said another of their main goals as they progressed in their entrepreneurial career was to inspire others from similar backgrounds to never doubt themselves. their ability to pursue their passions.

“I want to make sure that I use Wingr or whatever time I have here with whatever I do to also make sure that I inspire people there, especially people who look like me. , who need that push or inspiration to believe in themselves,” Cooper said.

Edwards added, “Especially with tech people — because black people are really, really underrepresented in tech, as well as women,” he said, continuing, “I don’t think not that there is a major dating app where anyone on the development board is black at all.

“If we can be successful and be able to say ‘Hey, we’ve created a successful dating app that appeals to everyone’, I think more people will want to be interested in developing things and understand that they can enter in this industry,” he added.

“One of the amazing things is knowing that [Wingr] is, right now, entirely funded, entirely created by people of color,” Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter where things go with Wingr, whether it becomes the next Tinder, or not, or somewhere in the middle; the proof is there that we can unite and that we can do things together.

Wingr is available for free on the App Store for iOS devices.

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