4 Ways To Find Your Perfect Match Today (We're Serious!)

UPDATE: Love really does make the world go 'round — and here's how to find it. This story was originally published on February 14, 2013.
As much as we complain about technology's impact on our lives — from the accidental over-share to the inability to "unplug" — we have to admit that it also makes dating a lot easier. Seriously — if you wanted to, you could set up a date with a total stranger in the time it takes to read this article. Crazy, huh?
But sometimes, it's hard to know how to navigate your soulmate search in the digital age. That's why, in honor of Valentine's Day (Reality check: It's today!), we're breaking down four of the newest dating sites making waves in the District. In the process, we're giving you the down-and-dirty on how each one works and why it could work for you. Hey, just call us Cupid. (Oh, and pass that quiver of arrows, will ya?)
The latest match-making tool to hit the District, Hinge is an iPhone app that integrates with Facebook and searches through your friends-of-friends for potential matches. Each day at noon, you get a new batch of suitors, and you can rate your interest in each one. If the feeling (i.e., the rating) is mutual, you'll be introduced through the app. We asked Bennett Richardson, cofounder and CMO at Hinge, for the lowdown.
Give us the 30-second pitch for Hinge — what's it all about?
"Hinge is an app that helps you meet dates through your friends. When you use the app, we show you friends of your friends — their picture, mutual friends in common, and a little about them. Rate how interested you are on a scale of 1 to 5. If you rate them a 4 or a 5, we add them to your favorites. Then we'll sneak you into their next batch. If they rate you highly, too, we'll introduce you. [It's] a fun, simple way to meet better dates."
Why is Hinge the right app for D.C. singles?
"Everyone in D.C. has multiple circles of friends: work friends, school friends, friends from events, friends from home, etc. All these friends know other people who might be great for you, but you don't always have the opportunity to meet them. Hinge is like the perfect cocktail party host: We're constantly introducing you to the people you like who like you, too."
Any insider tips you can offer for getting the best use out of the app?
"The best way to get the most out of Hinge is to invite your friends to play. When any friend joins Hinge, you'll get access to their friend network, so invite people who have friends you think you'd like. Also, have a hot profile picture."
Photos: Courtesy of Hinge
If you're a more comfortable with group hangout sessions than intimate, one-on-one rendezvous, you'll find it easy to get on board with Grouper. It also utilizes your Facebook network, but instead of single matches, Grouper sets up you and two of your pals with a trio of potential mates (who also all know each other). We enlisted Kristen Badal, director of operations, to give us the skinny.
Give us the 30-second pitch for Grouper — what's it all about?
"Grouper is an invite-only social club that pairs up two groups of friends (three guys and three girls, three guys and three guys, etc), and sends them for drinks at some of the hottest bars in the city. Grouper's not exclusively a dating site, and our goal is to introduce you to people you don't know, but we think you should. We're basically putting a better spin on the normal night out."
Why is Grouper the right site for D.C. singles?
"In D.C. in particular, it's hard to make friends outside your university and work circles, so Grouper is introducing you to fun, new people you wouldn't normally meet otherwise. Since D.C. also tends to be an earlier city, we're adding an innovative twist to the average post-work happy hour or average night out with your friends."
Any insider tips you can offer for getting the best use out of the site?
"The best thing you can do is go into a Grouper with an open mind. You never know who you're going to meet, and worst-case scenario is that you don't hit it off. But then you're already out with your friends, at least a round of drinks in, and you have a good story — so you're guaranteed a fun experience. And best case? Check out Groupergrams for social proof!"
Photos: Courtesy of Grouper
What happens when you combine luxury, exclusivity, and dating? You get Sparkology, an invite- and referral-only dating site aimed at young, college-educated professionals. Men on the site must be verified graduates of what Sparkology deems "top universities," and there's a team of concierges in each city who can help boost your online profile and even set up your entire date. President and founder Alex Furmansky answers our burning questions below.
Give us the 30-second pitch for Sparkology — what's it all about?
"Sparkology is the only invite-only, exclusive singles community for young professionals. The entire platform was built around one purpose: quality. All members are invited onto the site, and all men are required to be verified grads of good universities...so no riff raff here! Men are also required to pay to start conversations, which eliminates spam and makes each conversation meaningful again. Finally, the team of concierges helps compose your profile, take your photos, and even plan custom dates. [The site] already has its second confirmed wedding only a year into operation."
Why is Sparkology the right site for D.C. singles?
"D.C. singles are driven and motivated — they work hard and deserve to meet a quality match. They deserve better than the mass-market online dating sites of the world. They deserve an exclusive experience built specifically for well-intentioned young professionals."
Any insider tips you can offer for getting the best use out of the site?
"First: photos, photos, photos! If you don't have a set of four to six high-quality photos, please use our concierge (or ask a friend with a DSLR!). Specifically for Sparkology, we have a 'Discover' page, which is like a news feed showcasing the lastest activity by our members. By uploading a new photo every couple of days, you can ensure you'll get highlighted here and contacted more often. Second, our matching algorithm requires usage data to perform its scoring...so make sure to actively View, Like, Smile, and Message so it has ample relevant data points. Third, more than 30% of our members are first-time online daters. This is great, because we are bringing in folks who otherwise would have looked down upon the concept of looking for love online...but it also means we have to educate them a bit. We find that women sometimes assume that they should sit back and let the men do all the work. But in today's metro areas, we're seeing our most successful women send as many initial outbound messages as the men. Breaking courtship traditions has its benefits! And fourth, being an invitation-only club, Sparkology relies heavily on personal referrals to grow numbers without sacrificing quality. As such, we heavily incentivize referrals by unlocking features, giving out free memberships, and even sending out gifts, like our CEO's current favorite bottle of wine."
Photos: Courtesy of Sparkology
Coffee Meets Bagel
When it launches in the District next Wednesday, March 20, CMB will definitely be the quirkiest of the bunch. The site connects with Facebook to send you one match per day at noon; you can "like" or "pass," and mutual "likes" will be connected via secure text message. Once you're ready for date night, CMB sweetens the deal by offering up a free appetizer, dessert, or coffee at a participating nearby restaurant or cafe. In advance of the launch, cofounder Dawoon Kang dishes on the site.
Give us the 30-second pitch for Coffee Meets Bagel — what's it all about?
"We make it easy for singles to meet new people. Think about those chance encounters at your friend's party, where you meet this great guy who is your friend’s friend. You have a lot of things in common and you hit it off. It’s a great story, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. Basically, we make that possible every day."
Why is CMB the right site for D.C. singles?
"Many D.C. singles are smart, ambitious, young professionals who want to have it all — they work hard, party hard, love trying new restaurants and activities with friends. So they just don’t have a lot of time left to meet new, interesting people! CMB is perfect for them, because it's so simple and quick. Just check your Bagel at noon and 'like' or 'pass' — 30 seconds."
Any insider tips you can offer for getting the best use out of the site?
"Yes! We are not servicing D.C. yet, but we definitely will be launching in the first half of 2013, so sign up now so that you can be notified as soon as we launch. You can browse the site and start collecting Coffee Beans, which will come in handy when you start receiving your daily noon Bagels. You will be able to do things like unlocking the identity of the mutual friends you share with your Bagel, or requesting a second chance with your Bagel after you forget to respond the first time around."
Photos: Courtesy of Coffee Meets Bagel

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