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Online dating: 3.0

Apps, consultants, grow next-generation romance economy


Tiny coverLasting Connections
Lake Oswego

Money can’t buy love, but it can buy a curated introduction. That’s the gig of professional matchmaker Sameera Sullivan, whose company, Lasting Connections, provides “concierge” matchmaking services to elite singles.

Sullivan expects to take that concept to the next level in March 2017 with the launch of Love Atlas, a smartphone app that will let high-income, low-free-time singles outsource the hunt for a mate to professional matchmakers. For $299 a month, paying customers will get access to a Zillow-like geodatabase of potential mates vetted by Sullivan’s nationwide network of matchmakers. To weed out flakes and not-really-singles, the matchmakers conduct background checks and income verification and interview all candidates personally by Skype.

Sullivan sees Love Atlas as a solution for busy professionals who want to skip online meat markets like OkCupid or swipe-left-or-right hookup sites like Tinder.

“Technology has made meeting people so efficient that the grass is always greener on the other side,” Sullivan says. “With apps like Tinder, people can meet somebody and hook up anytime they want, so that commitment mentality is not there anymore ... Atlas is all about quality, and having access to people that you’re not having access to on Match or eHarmony.”

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Fern
Portland

Too tender for Tinder? Fern helps singles of all ages put their best digital face forward. But don’t call Ladan Radafshar a matchmaker. “That’s such an old-fashioned term,” she bristles. As founder of the startup, Radafshar won’t necessarily find your lifelong mate, but she will make navigating and succeeding in the online dating world easier. “Our mission is ‘No bad dates.’”

Radafshar offers an a la carte menu of services to singles looking to cut through the cluttered world of online profiles. For a base price of $875, she and a duo of part-time employees will redesign a profile. The service includes a photo brief, a photo shoot, personal styling, professionally written copy and placement on appropriate dating sites.

If a client needs more, Radafshar is there. Fashion challenged? She offers a total wardrobe reboot. Shy? She will help craft messages and responses to potential dates. Just too busy? Radafshar will personally sift through hundreds of profiles, curating half a dozen or so possibilities.

Formerly a social media specialist with Nike, Radafshar spent the last decade giving this service away to friends and family for free. She founded Fern a year ago, after meeting with a career counselor, and business has grown since, thanks to word of mouth and positive Google and Yelp reviews.

“We’ve gone from a couple of clients a month to a couple a week,” she reports. Clients range in age from 26 to 74 and work in a variety of fields. The list includes: a dentist who owns his own practice, a director of sales at a local tech firm, an attorney and an artist.

“It’s everyone because everyone is online dating,” she explains. While there are no marriages or Fern babies on the horizon yet, customers appear satisfied with better-quality matches. “My formula is about compatibility,” she insists. “Lots of my clients stay friends with their dates even if the chemistry isn’t there.”

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