Sparkology Puts Elite Spin on Dating and Competes to Enter Y Combinator

4/24/12Follow @jpruth

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interview. He believes the metrics Sparkology has collected from the website, such as visitor conversion rates, may give him an edge in getting into Y Combinator. “One thing we have that a lot of companies going in might not is we have a track record of several months of data,” he says.

And there is more technology at play within the website. In addition to screening prospective members, Sparkology uses an algorithm to sort potential dates based on how the users interact on the site. Activities such as responding to messages and liking other users’ profiles help shape the list of matches that members see. Currently Sparkology is only available in New York, though Furmansky plans to expand to cities such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles within three months.

Still, the challenge of making tangible headway in the online dating market is huge, given entrenched websites such as eHarmony and Match.com. Furmansky believes there is room for Sparkology, which hopes to position itself as a kind luxury service in the dating world. “Our pool of men versus [other sites] is like night and day,” he says.

Of course such service comes at a cost. Sparkology charges men about $2 to $3 for each new conversation initiated with a woman on the site. Message access is sold in bundles priced at $15 to $30. The expectation is that conversations will be more meaningful if men must pay for each first message. Meanwhile women pay rates for unlimited messaging that range from $25 for a single month to $60 for a six month package. The strategy, Furmansky says, is to cut down on users who send copy-and-paste e-mails to all their prospective dates.

Such spam-like messaging found on some other sites was part of the drive behind the creation of Sparkology. Prior to founding the startup, Furmansky worked in investment banking at Evercore Partners and UBS, and most recently was director of business development for OpenPeak, a Boca Raton, Fla.–based provider of tablets and software to telecom carriers.

After its founding last April, Sparkology had its soft launch last October and an iPhone app followed in January. Widespread marketing of the site began in February. Furmansky has no immediate plans for an Android-version of the app because he says more than 80 percent of the site’s users log in with iPhones when they go mobile.

Although Sparkology is going after a niche audience, Furmansky says the platform can scale up quickly. “With the click of mouse I can enable a new city,” he says. He will have to prove he can make good on that promise and much more if Sparkology wants to secure a spot with Y Combinator. “Odds are very tough but it’s very exciting,” Furmansky says. “I look forward to meeting [Y Combinator founder] Paul Graham.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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