When New York-based digital marketer and creator Zach Schleien launched his video speed-dating app, Filteroff, in early 2019, there were no video chat dating apps in existence. One pandemic later, with apps like Zoom and Google Chat suddenly and instantly changing the way the world communicated, Filteroff became a global phenomenon in the online dating landscape practically overnight.
We sat down with Schleien to discuss this new breed of online dating and the perks of the date before the date.
Tell us about Filteroff and how the concept was born.
I was very passionate about online dating. I used to run a dating blog called topromp.com where I reviewed dating apps just to learn about the space, and I ended up selling that dating blog. The one thing I always noticed was this difficulty creating a connection in online dating. Oftentimes, you would have 500 matches on your phone from dating apps, and they just wouldn’t lead to in-person first dates. If you did go on an in-person first date, it was often a really bad date, because they didn’t look like their photos or you didn’t have chemistry. I quickly realized that dating apps and dating profiles don’t translate to success in terms of good first dates or even many matches that you end up meeting in person—which is the whole premise of online dating. You wanna meet someone.
I saw this opportunity where instead of going on all these bad first dates, why don’t I just ask my dates beforehand if they’d be open to going on video chat, and that way we get to see if there’s an attraction. If we have chemistry. Like a first date before the first date. There were no dating apps in existence that offered this, so I decided to start one. We launched one month before the pandemic. The pandemic hits. Everyone turns to Zoom, and online dating is suddenly transformed. We became a global app literally overnight.
And the speed-dating aspect?
When we launched, we never had enough users, so we did it based off regions. Everyone in California could match, or the West Coast could match; people in the Northeast could match. Then when the pandemic hit, we thought, now we can make it more specific so people could actually match nearby. That developed into these three-minute online dates.
How it works is: you go to one of these online events, get multiple dates—three minutes each, back-to-back. If you both like each other, you’re matched. At the end of the event, if you’re a match, you can message them or set up a call. You can just do it casually, go on ten dates, and out of those ten, maybe you like two, and now you’re chatting with two men or two women, or whoever you like, afterwards.
Is it specifically a three-minute time limit? Or can you do ten-minute dates if you want?
Our events are three-minute dates, but we’ve recently added that now anyone can create events in our app and set the date duration themselves. So, let’s say you’re into running, you could actually create an event in the app for runners, or make it private with a code, or even optionally sell tickets if you wanted to. And it’s just a way for runners to meet other runners who are single. You can change the settings from anywhere from a two-minute date up to a ten-minute date.
We also host virtual events for any festivals or concerts. We are not sponsored or affiliated. It’s more a way for singles that are passionate about a specific festival, who want to meet other people who are passionate about the same thing. For example, on May the fourth, we run a Star Wars singles event. On 4/20, we do a marijuana event, and so on. We also host in-house events every week in New York.
What’s the difference between a virtual and in-person event?
Our in-person events are like parties. We’ll do them at bars, clubs, lounges [in New York]. We’ve done yachts. But again, it’s similar, they’re all around a community. We pair our virtual speed-dating events one day before the in-person events, so they can actually meet the people that are going to the in-person event. It helps break the ice.
Do you have access to the success rate of the app?
We encrypt all of our messages in transit and in storage. So, we take privacy super seriously. We can’t access any of those messages. And typically when someone enters a relationship, they’re not gonna be like, “Hey, Filteroff. We met thanks to you… ” Sometimes it happens. I have had a number of people send me wedding photos. But the average user who enters a relationship doesn’t share that information with the dating app.
What I can share with you is our retention rates are higher than Tinder’s. I can also share that the average user probably goes on one video date a month on typical dating apps. On Filteroff, they go on close to one a day. So we’re the top dating app that provides the most video dates compared to any other app out there.