Noses are red, windows are frosty: It's the so-called cuffing season, a term for searching for a significant other to cuddle by the fire through the holiday season. Even if you're tied down, you may still have a single friend in need a date for a New Year's bash.
Enter Spritzr: A matchmaking mobile app that allows you to suggest acquaintances — or even random profiles — to your friends as a potential match. Then it's up to them to make the next move if they are interested, by swiping left or right.
Matchmaking is an art as old as time — but few things are more awkward that a blind date, even if arranged by well-meaning friends. Entrepreneur Manshu Agarwal, Spritzr's founder, figured that with today's technology there had to be a better way.
It's all based on the idea that humans are still better at spotting chemistry than machines, though not perfect.
"The human eye is a better matchmaker than an algorithm," Agarwal said. "Even if somebody doesn't know you, they can still pick off things about you. If there's enough people that think the same thing, then there's a good chance that it's going to be high quality."
In addition to connecting people in your network, you can also view abbreviated versions of strangers' profiles, and suggest them to other users, a feature Agarwal calls "crowdsourcing" dates. If three strangers from the Spritzr community suggest you should see a profile, it shows up in your inbox, the way a friends' suggestion would.
Since its Aug. 27 launch, Spritzr has seen 5 percent growth per week, Agarwal said, with around a quarter to a third of users considered active. Though currently free, he said the app will monetize through a "freemium" model where users can search-optimize their profile, and will expand suggested date options that come with discounts on activities.
The dating services industry as a whole is expected to generate a revenue of $2.4 billion in 2015, according to analysts at IBIS World, who predict it will grow at 5 percent per year as mobile internet proliferates.
Like Spritzr, Match — the parent of Tinder — has freemium models that operate mostly on paid subscriptions with some help from targeted demographic information and advertising. But Spritzr has a couple of special features.
First, even once someone is coupled or married, they can still participate in the app as a matchmaker, so Spritzr doesn't lose its core audience as it gains success. Indeed, Agarwal estimates that about a third of Spritzr's users are married.
And using Spritzr doesn't require a minimum core number of users in each city, since members of the "crowd" can make matches in other cities, even if no one nearby catches their eye.
But most of all, Agarwal said, there's a sense of reciprocity when a friend sets you up on a good date that makes you want to come back. Indeed, research from Harvard suggests matchmaking behaviors lead to higher happiness and well-being.
Though he hasn't come across Spritzr in the crowded field for dating apps, "Date-onomics" author Jon Birger said he anything that makes dating more efficient is better.
"Dating can be messy and unpredictable," said Birger, whose book explores how demographics challenge the dating business. "Having a third party obviously adds a layer of comfort to the whole thing."