Like most people who are single and looking for a relationship, Erica Sinner is familiar with the dating apps. She's swiped and messaged with men in her area, but has little to show for it other than comically lazy responses from not-so potential soulmates.
Then, Sinner had an idea. What if there was a platform that encouraged meetups and group dates and limited in-app conversations? An anti-dating app platform that took users off their phones, paused endless swiping, and also gave local businesses — bars, restaurants, etc. — a chance to host events or generate new business?
She then thought, why not create it herself? Sinner started DanceKard to fill this need within the dating app landscape. After a soft launch a couple months ago, the app has over 170 users on the platform and recently joined gBETA's early-stage accelerator program.
"I think people forgot how great an in-person meeting is whenever you're getting to know someone," Sinner tells InnovationMap. "I love the fact that dating apps have made it easier to meet people, but at the end of the day, after you spend three days or a week talking to someone and then you meet them in person, and there's just something you don't like."
Sinner explains it like reading the book before seeing the movie — everyone is going to seem better when you build them up in your head.
"I've found, personally, there are guys who I met in person who are amazing, and I just wouldn't have thought that if I saw them online first," she says.
The name is a callback to when women connected with their suitors at a local dance. Women penciled in dances with their gentlemen callers, and that's how they got to know them — through a spin around the dancefloor.
"We're the modern day version of that type of dating," Sinner says, with less dancing but right in line with generating in-person connections.
A proud Houstonian, Sinner, whose background is in commercial real estate, was interested in bringing in local businesses from the start. DanceKard has several different offerings — all geared at driving in-person connections. Users can join the app to find events — not necessarily singles-specific events, although those are an option, but meetups where you know a certain number of singles will be in attendance.
"We focus a lot on group dating," Sinner explains. "That's something nobody does."
Singles, along with their single friends, can indicate on the app that they are interested in four, six, or eight-person dates, and see if their are other groups of friends looking to connect.
DanceKard also provides discounts and deals at its business partners' establishments. This drives business while also making deciding where to meet up a lot easier — and affordable.
"Everyone knows dating can get expensive — especially for the guys," Sinner says. "So, daters can go out on these dates and use a discount."
At the end of the day, DanceKard and Sinner are laser focused on creating relationships for their users. Modern dating has been defined by swiping on apps or drinking in bars, but that doesn't have to be your only options. DanceKard's events and opportunities will be more than just at bars — users can meet at the museum or the zoo and have an activity to connect with others over.
"People are looking for things other than drinking," she says. "They're realizing that if they are going to a bar where there are singles, that doesn't equate to a relationship."
For now, she's also focused on her hometown of Houston and is really being intentional about supporting local businesses and Houstonians themselves.
"Houston is a great opportunity," she says. "It's not about me, it's about this town. We have great people and great businesses."