Singles are tired of left swiping and are turning to new matchmaking services

A smartphone with various dating apps.

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Swipe left to continue searching is easy. So swipe right to like someone.

But some people can only swipe so much, especially when they don’t have anything to show for it. As a result, more and more singles are choosing to trust an older source of date finders: matchmakers.

Professional matchmakers have been around for decades and are ingrained in our culture. Just look at the show Millionaire Matchmaker, which ran for eight years starting in 2008.

Unlike the app economy, traditional matchmaking services often cost thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to broad sections of the population.

There is a growing number of apps and companies looking to bring matchmaking to a new generation by blending ancient methods with modern technology.

A newcomer is Lox Club, a members-only dating app founded in 2020 by CEO Austin Kevitch.

Lox Club operates on a subscription model and charges $96 for 12 months. The company offers all of its members access to matchmakers that can connect users to each other or provide feedback on the person’s profile. Kevitch said thousands of people have used the service, but he didn’t get specific.

“Professional matchmakers charge anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 and aren’t as familiar with the dating app fights as a colleague,” Kevitch wrote in an email, without giving details of Lox Club’s success rate. “I couldn’t afford it, nobody on our team could afford it, so we knew we had to make it more affordable and rebrand it to feel like a friend helping you find dates.”

The company currently has three matchmakers and is hiring more.

Interest in matchmaking coincides with a rise in online dating burnout. The Covid-19 pandemic meant a lot of dates were reduced to online options. Businesses began investing heavily in their audio and video capabilities to allow users to go out from home.

But with pre-pandemic activities opening up, not everyone wants to rely on hours of swiping to find a date. Instead, they outsource this work to experts.

“I think people are looking for other options and I’ve seen a lot more people talking and thinking about matchmakers,” said Ali Jackson, a dating coach who has built a large Instagram following through the name @findingmrheight , to CNBC.

Lily Montasser, co-founder of New York speed-dating startup Ambyr Club, put it differently.

“Everyone is just exhausted,” she said.

Launched late last year, Ambyr hosts two to three events a month in trendy locations across the city for a select group of 10 men and 10 women. Montasser and co-founder Victoria Van Ness screen and pair the 20 people for the event based on who they think is a good fit, though they occasionally throw in a wildcard.

Ambyr draws on its broader pool of members for the events. All of them have gone through an interview and a background check. Applicants pay a $60 registration fee and an additional $150 for each event if selected. Ambyr says it has an acceptance rate of 15% and around 200 members in its database.

Matchmakers also take on the role of part-time dating therapists with their clients.

“I didn’t realize how much trauma there is in today’s world, just in the general world of dating,” Ari Axelrod, a 28-year-old from New York, told CNBC. Axelrod has worked with Cassie Levine, who recently started her company called Inquire Within.

Axelrod has had two dates so far while working with Levine.

“Even though the actual matchmaking is unsuccessful, what it has achieved is that I feel so much more validated and confident,” he said. “A few hundred dollars to be reminded of something I didn’t even know I needed to be reminded is worth it.”

Levine, who launched Inquire Within in April, currently charges $150 an hour.

Niche gamers aren’t the only ones behind this matchmaking resurgence.

Online dating giant Match Group has dived into matchmaking via its eponymous app. In November, the company introduced a human matchmaking element to its dating service. For $4.99 per week, Match staff will tag two profiles per week to narrow down options. Match has not responded to a request for comment on the feature’s success.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in people looking for love on dating platforms like Match Group’s Tinder app.

Beata Zawrzel | OnlyPhoto | Getty Images

By definition, matchmaking is often a lengthy process that requires the labor of costly humans, not artificial intelligence. That’s not the focus of bigger apps like Tinder and Hinge, which are owned by Match or Bumble. The next thing Hinge offers is a “outstanding” profile feature that shows who a user would likely be interested in based on their swipe history.

“While matchmaking requires a lot of manually moving parts, we’re seeing our members using it and requesting more of it,” said Lox Club’s Kevitch. “We were surprised at first, but our members want it to exist, so let’s make it.”

Van Ness said there was a certain irony in the idea that “we’re just trying to reintroduce that personal aspect.”

“We laugh because when the apps first launched, it was so alien and everyone was like, ‘Wait, do you want us to meet a potential partner from an app?'” she said. “And then when we started addressing Ambyr, people had exactly the same reaction. They said, ‘Wait, you want us to meet up in person again, that’s so weird.'”

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