A classier Tinder? New app ‘Hinge’ comes to Canada

Hinge launched in Toronto Feb. 26, 2015 and is touting itself as a "classier Tinder.". Hinge handout

CALGARY – A new dating app that’s touting itself as a “classier Tinder” has come to Canada. What could be classier than Tinder, you ask? It’s called Hinge, and 30-year-old CEO Justin McLeod said it’s more like meeting people at a “friend’s house party” than the random matching that goes on in many other apps in the marketplace.

“It’s all friends of friends, and you’d have the same sort of information like a friend setting you up would have,” said McLeod. “Where they went to work, where they went to school…and your friend understands your taste: you like lawyers, you don’t like bankers, you don’t like people who aren’t over 5’7, et cetera.”

Instead of using your location to show you matches, Hinge shows a list of about 20 potential dates once a day that’s curated from friends of friends (of friends). You’ll see their full name, school and other information from their Facebook profile—which is how you sign up—but updates aren’t posted to your Facebook timeline.

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You might wonder: If your potential matches are curated based on who your friends think you might like, why not just wait for a real-life introduction?

“People don’t proactively think which friends of theirs can actually get together,” suggested McLeod. “Some people don’t feel comfortable actually doing the ‘setting up,’ which is why you meet  close friends’ friends through a house party or dinner or something like that…where it just happens.

“But there’s just not enough house parties. Before Hinge came along there was a really limited opportunity to connect people.”

Though they don’t disclose how many people are using Hinge, it secured $12 million in funding from Shasta Ventures in December 2014, and has launched in more than 20 markets. Ninety per cent of U.S. users are between 23 and 36 years old, and Hinge says 99 per cent are college-educated.

Toronto is the first Canadian city where Hinge launched Thursday, and the company says the waitlist is growing four times faster than in its other international cities. McLeod said it will be in other cities north of the border soon, including Calgary.

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But is there room for another dating app? Some say yes.

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“Yes, the market is saturated by dating apps, but I think there’s an appetite for different digital environments, different contexts, and different ways of meeting people, even online,” said Ramona Pringle, assistant professor in the RTA School of Media and Creative Director of the Transmedia Zone at Toronto’s Ryerson University. “Just as people could meet in the library, or in a coffee shop, or at a club – and all of those would be different contexts – there is an appeal to meeting people in different ways online.”

Watch below for a sneak preview of how Hinge works:

Pringle said Hinge is betting on familiarity, taking some of the best components of user experience from Tinder, but within a circle of friends. She says they’re betting on people looking for relationships, rather than sexual hook-ups.

“One on hand, it limits the pool to choose from, but on the other hand, it creates more commonalities, and perhaps more chance of friends, schools, or past experiences in common, all of which are quick bonds in the early conversations with a new suitor,” she said.

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Pringle is also the writer and director of Avatar Secrets, which is an interactive documentary that explores connection online and off. She says ideally, Hinge will foster serendipity.

“You can meet someone totally new, but also be very likely to discover you have friends in common, or other similarities based on the network and how matches are made,” she said. “That idea of enhanced serendipity – meeting someone on the street or in a coffee shop and then discovering that you went to camp together as kids, or that your cousin knows their boss …  a chance encounter – and the app is designed to create more of those experiences.”

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