Friday, August 21, 2015
All's Fair In Love and War: Textpert's Love and Texting Advisor
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
In the dating world today, your ability (or inability) to text someone with the right words can be the difference between a hot date, and no date at all. However, what if you're no good with texting your potential date, and wooing them so they actually will go out with you? A new, Los Angeles startup, Textpertapp (www.textpertapp.co) has created a new app, where you can crowdsource your texts--and love advice--next time you are trying to woo that potential date. We caught up with co-founder Ray Christian to hear about how the app--which would make Cyrano de Bergerac proud-- came about, and why the startup thinks it's the next thing in mobile dating.
What's the idea behind Textpertapp?
Ray Christian: The simple idea, is if you've ever been confused on how to text a guy or girl back, whoever you are dating, you can use Textpert. It's for the iPhone only. What you do, is you take a screenshot of your text messages, Tinder, or Hinge, or whever you met a person, and upload it to the service. Within seconds, you'll get responses that are crowdsourced on what to text back.
How'd you come up with the idea?
Ray Christian: About a year ago, I was going out with a reporter here in LA. She was a bombsheel, smart, funny, and beautiful. I went on two dates with her, but just couldn't get the third date. The thing I'd do, is I'd text her, and wouldn't get a response until an hour or two later, or five hours later. I figured I must be off my game, or maybe I was out of my league. I was going nowhere fast. Fast forward about a week, and I'm with my younger sister, Kerry. She's beautiful, savvy, and really good with this stuff. I handed her my phone, and told her she had carte blanche to text the reporter. She responded in five minutes! I thought that was interesting, and I told her to do it again. Again, the reporter responded instantly. Finally, I told Kerry, text her again. Amazingly, the reporter texted back saying--I want to see you tonight. The light bulb went off for me. I knew this was something that is a pain point for other people, and we need to scale this. I wanted to help other people with the service, like my sister had helped me.
Isn't using your service kind of cheating in the dating game?
Ray Christian: (laughs) Yes, that's definitely common criticism if there is one. Our simple goal, is to help you get to the next date. Whether there is any chemistry or not, that's up to you, and who you are sitting next to. The main complaint people have now, because texting is the common thread that we communicate with each other now in dating, is there is lots of miscommunication and misunderstanding. It's tough to show tone, it's tough to show your body language, it's tough to show context, which is typically how people communicate. What we're doing, is giving objective advice on how to respond back. People are already doing this--they might be sitting next to their friend, and they will ask--what do I say? We allow you to do that, even if a friend isn't nearby.
How does the crowdsourcing work?
Ray Christian: The way we keep everyone honest, is you are rated every time you submit advice. That way, we avoid trolling, and people being jerks. The rating system accomplishes that. If you want to give advice, you turn it into Textpert mode, and you get hits, whenever someone has a screenshot uploaded. You can view that screen shot, and also see any optional context--such as how many times they have gone out, if they are or aren't really into you, if you just want to keep it casual--just some general advice and context. You can read those text and context, and give some suggestions on what you should say back. In some cases, rather than putting in some text to send back to the person, you can also give advice--such as, this person really isn't into you. Or, you need to pull back a little, or this doesn't look like a strong connection. It's kind of like having a buddy nearby at all times, to give you some objective advice.
Do those people providing the advice get any feedback on how their advice worked?
Ray Christian: When you request advice, you get up to five responses. You tap the one you like the most, and that chooses the Textpert. They get a notification that they liked your advice the best.
How long has the app been available?
Ray Christian: It's been up for a up about two and a half weeks.
Has it been tough to get enough people to make that crowdsourcing work?
Ray Christian: Thankfully, it's a sticky idea, and people really enjoy talking about it in the dating world. We've enjoyed a viral coefficient, if you will. A big part of this is getting the word out. We started with friends and family, and a lot of it now is social media, building up our base on Instagram, Facbeook, and Twitter. We've also run some app install campaigns, and we're also doing a lot of outreach to media, both journalists and bloggers. We've also been submitting this to app review sites. Our big push next is on campus, which is going to start in the next couple of weeks. We've got a campus program to roll this out in key colleges, and build our user base on a college-by-college basis.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned so far with the startup?
Ray Christian: The thing I keep hearing, is that traction trumps anything else. There are probably millions of pieces of advice you get on who to bring on board, tactics, from mentors and advisors. But, the key is traction0 is king, and it's a good deodorant to help cover up any other issues. That's what we're focused on, making sure we are adding users every week. We've been talking to users every week, doing focus groups, figuring out what the complaints are, what features they want to see, and we want to have a new model of our software every week, which has been upgraded based on the feedback we're getting. As you imagine, it's a lot of work to gather that information, and make it actionable, and be able to implement it on the computer programming side.
Finally, how are you funded, and what are your next steps?
Ray Christian: We're self funded right now, between myself and my co founders, Kate Edwards, our marketing co-founder, and Nick Gainer, who is my technical co-founder. The next steps for us are the rollout of the campus program, and starting a funding round.