Lifestyle People

Online Dating with a Real-Life Connection, Ziinkle

After finding online dating frustrating, co-founders of dating platform, Ziinkle, Melanie Leahy and Elisse Alexander decided to create their own dating app designed for users to match and meet in real life and in real-time.

Encouraging meaningful and long-lasting relationships, the platform lets you see where other singles are out socially so you can make decisions on where to go based on the people you want to meet and be around.

We catch up with Melanie and Elisse and find out more about Ziinkle.

Tell us about Ziinkle and how it started.

Ziinkle was born out of frustration and the belief that there had to be a better experience for singles. In 2019, Melanie came out of a long-term relationship and didn’t know how to get back into the dating game or where to go out to meet people. She had no choice but to download dating apps but quickly found the experience shallow and gamified. She found her online matches lacked meaningful connection and rarely eventuated into anything in the real world. The whole experience on those dating apps left her feeling like a digital commodity, disposable and frustrated.

As Melanie’s best friend and support person during this time, Elisse lived vicariously through her and could see how frustrating these 2D digital experiences were. So, Elisse decided to be Melanie’s ultimate wing woman and take her out into the real-world to meet someone in real-life. As both Melanie and Elisse had been in long term relationships, neither of them knew where the places to be for their age group were. So, they’d spend their weeks researching the best hotspots and go there. Frustratingly, all too often, they would find the crowd was either too old, too young, or non-existent. They would then jump on Instagram Stories to see where people in their age group were in real-time and the vibe at different places.

This went on for months and months, until they had a thought – what if there was a platform that would allow you to see where the people you wanted to meet were and what the vibe was at different social venues, so you had a better idea of where to go out. An app that would facilitate more than just meaningless online chat, but rather a chance to have a real-life organic connection. Now there is, welcome to Ziinkle.

Ziinkle founders, Melanie Leahy and Elisse Alexander

What makes Ziinkle different from other dating apps?

Ziinkle is all about in real-life, real-time connections. Other dating apps have a pure online focus and are highly gamified. Users get a dopamine spike when using these apps (similar to what people experience whilst using poker machines), which keeps them swiping for hours, leading to quantity over quality and the paradox of choice. Matches are also held back until the user subscribes so that these apps can generate more subscription revenue.

Ziinkle is here to revolutionise the dating experience. We aren’t gamifying our experience, and we won’t hold back matches if you don’t have a subscription. Instead, we want to help facilitate organic, meaningful connections for our users.
Ziinkle allows users to see where other singles are out and about socially. Users can search areas/suburbs to see which venues have singles that match their criteria.

They will see on a map view, in numbers, where other singles are in social venues based on the preferences entered. This will allow them to decide on where to go out and potentially meet someone in real life so they can form a meaningful connection in person, as opposed to the faceless digital interaction available on current dating apps.

Ziinkle can be used at home to plan a night out, showing users only as numbers at social venues. Once at a venue, singles will see users’ profiles, giving them the option to meet in real life or send an introduction nudge first, helping alleviate issues around confidence and approaching new people.

By meeting a potential partner in real life, singles can assess the connection and chemistry quickly, meaning they aren’t wasting weeks of their lives chatting via an app, and they can form more meaningful connections in real-life.

As female founders, safety is paramount. We have proactively built several safety features to prevent catfishing, fraudsters and keep our users safe. We’re using Google’s hospitality data to only show singles in registered social venues, ensuring that users use Ziinkle how they feel most comfortable. We’re also providing three modes of visibility, including:

Incognito: where a profile is switched off to all users and in return, the user isn’t able to see others; · Anonymous: where only generic information is shown such as gender and age.
Visible: where a complete profile is shown to other users when in a social venue. We’re also building a purpose-built ‘Validation Video’ feature for additional safety purposes. Once users are at a venue, they can signal their interest via the app or approach people in a more organic way.

For example, suppose the user wants to signal their interest first. In that case, our optional validation video feature allows users to request a short video proving they are who they say they are before joining each other for a drink. When users aren’t out and about socially, Ziinkle will still offer the usual profile matching and chat functions to match and connect with other singles.

How widely used are dating apps in Australia and are all ages using dating apps now?

Ten years ago, when the major dating apps came onto the scene, they were seen as taboo. Nowadays, dating apps are the most common way for people to meet, with millennials leading the charge on transforming the dating industry and making dating apps universally accepted.

When these major dating apps launched, they had a goal of helping singles connect with people they typically may never come across. However, this inadvertently created a new problem – the paradox and perception of choice, so over the last ten years, singles continue to become increasingly frustrated by their experiences. 84% of millennials would prefer to meet potential partners in real-life; however, they have no choice but to be on these apps. Australians spend $197m annually on dating apps, growing at 4.2% in 2022.

There are currently 2.2m Australians who use dating apps, and with COVID and lockdowns, that number is only growing. Dating apps are popular across all age groups. Generally speaking, each age group has a different reason for using them. Those aged 25 – 40 are more likely looking for a serious long-term relationship and something that aligns with their future life plans.

Over 50s use them to find companionship, rather than a full-blown relationship, as most likely they have been married in the past and have adult children. The younger generation generally prefer to use the apps for more casual dating experiences.

We love the real-time connection angle, can you please share with us why that is so important to Ziinkle. After experiencing firsthand what so many singles go through, we know that the dating experience is broken. Although we’re more digitally connected than ever before, singles feel increasingly disconnected. Their social wellbeing, mental health and communication skills are being drastically impacted.

There’s been almost no innovation in the dating space over the last ten years, and Ziinkle is the next-gen dating app to get singles connecting in real-life and in meaningful ways. We know that nothing is better than locking eyes with a (potential) special someone from across the room and feeling a connection. That’s the feeling we want more singles to have, and a real-life connection is the foundation of a strong, meaningful relationship.

We value quality over quantity. This is something the other apps don’t offer because of their online focus, and this is how we are up-dating the dating experience. Connecting in real-life means that you’re no longer just a 2D digital profile on an app that can be ghosted without a second thought. You’re both real people, in real-life, in real-time, having a real connection.

What are some tips we can all use to keep safe when using dating apps online?

Offline Safety

Don’t give out personal and private information about yourself right away, such as your home or work address. Make sure to keep your phone, purse, wallet, and anything containing personal information on you at all times.

If you’re drinking, always keep an eye on your drink. If you do have to leave your drink, even for a short time, you should order a fresh drink. It is important to know where your drink comes from, so you should only accept drinks poured or served directly from the bartender or server. Many substances that are slipped into drinks to facilitate sexual assault are odourless, colourless, and tasteless.

Know your limits when it comes to drugs and alcohol because they can inhibit your judgement and make you less alert. If your date/match pressures you to consume more drugs or drink than you are comfortable with, stand your ground and walk away.

Always put yourself first and trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable or feel unsafe, politely leave.

If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation, get the attention of the bartender or waiter and ask for their help. They can remove you from the situation and can help you organise a way to get home or call the police if required.

If you feel unwell, stay home. COVID is still around. Do a rapid test if in doubt.

Online Safety

If another user on any dating app asks you to send money, especially over a wire transfer and even if they claim to be in an emergency, don’t! Report immediately. Wiring money is like sending cash, so it’s almost impossible to reverse or trace where the money went. It is essential that you never share any information that can be used to access your financial accounts. For more information on avoiding romance scams, check out the ScamWatch website.

Never share personal information, such as your driver’s licence, home or work address, or details about your daily routine (e.g. that you go to a particular cafe every Saturday) with people you don’t know. If you’re a parent, limit the information that you share about your children on your profile and in early communications. Don’t share details such as your children’s names, where they go to school, their ages or genders.

Keep conversation on the platform while you’re getting to know someone. Users with bad intentions often try to move the conversation to SMS, messaging apps, email or phone right away.

Be aware of anyone who will not meet in person or talk on a phone/video call, as they may not be who they say they are. It’s a major red flag if someone avoids your questions or pushes for a serious relationship without meeting or getting to know you first.

Block and report users who violate any terms of service, such as:

  • Making requests for money or donations
  • Underage users
  • Harassment, threats, and offensive messages
  • Inappropriate or harmful behaviour during or after meeting in person
  • Fraudulent profiles
  • Spam or solicitation, including links to commercial websites or attempts to sell products or

Want more? Click here for How to Reignite the Spark in Your Relationship and here for How to Stop Arguing with Your Partner.

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