Thursday, February 14, 2019
Dating apps can be a huge pain in the tuchus for those truly searching for love. But, worry no more my beloved singles, Forj, a new Jewish dating app, is here and ready to help you find your bashert. Orthodox millennial couple Yossi and Shira Teichman created Forj as the Jewish dating app for serious daters. As the first dating app fully powered by A.I., Forj is described by the Teichmans as the technological equivalent of the world's best-personalized matchmaking service — without the expenses, awkwardness or inconveniences associated with hiring a human matchmaker.
"Forj's popularity has grown 100 percent monthly, with a 95 percent match success rate and users are reporting a 95 percent that the A.I. truly understands them for who they are," the Teichmans noted.
Forj has launched a plethora of new features including user verification – picture, age, gender, etc. all via just a selfie – powered by A.I. and a click-to-highlight anything and everything about their profile feature.
I interviewed the CEO of Forj, Yossi Teichman to learn more about the exciting ride through creating the dating app.
JJ: How did the idea of Forj come about?
By the time I met my wife and Forj co-founder Shira in 2014, we'd both been burned by dead-end dating in New York. Singles mixers, apps and matchmakers alike, were failing us–and, like thousands of others, we were starting to experience dating burn-out. The scene was getting old fast, and we knew it was time to innovate. The dating coaching company we founded, "Breakthrough Dating," garnered widespread attention for its innovative focus on helping Jewish singles get to know each other authentically. It yielded astounding results, with a 90% success rate. With a refreshing new twist on modern love that de-emphasizes superficial presentation and restores true connection, Breakthrough Dating proved the need for a serious dating app. I left my career in finance two summers ago to attend coding school, at which time Forj was born. Today, as a married couple, Shira and I help others forge their own paths of lasting love. Five years ago, I never imagined that our search for love would plant the seeds for the world's first dating app powered by Artificial Intelligence.
JJ: Explain the experience and tactical process that led you toward developing Forj?
Shira and I both had PhD's in dating. As discussed in the previous question, we had experience dating, for a very long time. We had gone to all the matchmakers, the so-called dating coaches, singles events, mixers, weekends, dating apps, workshops, you name it. But, aside from meeting hundreds of new faces, nothing was actually working.
Moreover, we saw that many of these "experts" or matchmakers, gave advice freely or techniques to use to date better. Nothing was research-based or had any concrete basis. Almost always it was, dress like this, look like this, not like this. Basically how to market yourself more effectively. (Similar to what almost all dating apps promote).
I realized that based on what I was seeing from myself and my friends, that it's not just a numbers game. It's not just about making introductions, there's something more.
We decided to actually do research as to what tools are available to be able to move forward in dating. We met with a couple of top experts in the field, and conducted research, which they reviewed, critiqued, honed, and that is how we were able to create "Breakthrough Dating." A program that was designed to give singles the tools they need to get "unstuck." We created a small event and out of 40 people that applied the program, four ended up getting engaged. Since then we had 41 marriages.
To understand the difference between our approach and everything else out there requires a shift in mindset about what the purpose of a singles event is. It's not about throwing people together in a room or actually trying to match people up based on similar Hashkafa or Jewish like observance level, age or all other "matching qualities." All of these criteria are completely arbitrary and have very little to do with the success of a long-term relationship. It's not about working people into an event because they are all "modern orthodox" or they're all "traditional" and between the ages of 20 and 25 or 30 and 35.
What we discovered, is when you actually shift the dynamics in a room, people start to connect naturally. The three main components which we derived from our research that are critical to dating success was: vision, empowerment and connection.
As Shira's client base grew, her clients kept telling her they were tired of dating apps, since all you get is just a picture. Dating apps have been around for a while, but within the last two to three years there has been increased disappointment with people feeling like they are meeting millions of people but nothing is happening.
That is where we thought of Forj. Let's synthesize our research which we know works into an app so that Jews no matter what background, age, degree earned, etc. can actually meet someone who is truly compatible in a safe space, and get the support they need to move on to the next step.
And that is how Forj was born!
JJ: Explain how the themes of vision, empowerment and connection that you mentioned above help with reaching dating success?
Vision: We look at the long-run. If you were to look 20 years down the line, and envision how your life would be, what do you see? This is exactly what we have incorporated in the app to give to you. It is the core of the sign-up process and A.I. to give you the amazing life you deserve with the most amazing someone for you.
Empowerment: Our app has no judgment. We have designed it in such a way that each user can truly represent in their profile who they are in the most authentic, and true-to-self way without having to try and market themselves. That is the core of our collage, favorites, and auto-generated profiles.
Connection: Because we represent the true you in the profile, you are able to really connect to the other users in a very meaningful way. To help the users further, we have the ice-breakers and soon A.I. dating coach, to really take you to the next level!
JJ: What is the meaning behind the name Forj?
It's a play on "forge" with the "j" for "Jewish." This is actually how it's pronounced. We are all about forging healthy happy productive relationships. This is one of our key goals in the app.
JJ: What makes Forj different from other dating apps?
People are really, in certain circles, tired of chasing matchmakers or waiting for a middleman to call for a suggestion. They complain that once they do get suggestions, if they get any, that the suggestions are not compatible. Which is why they understandably feel really burnt out from years of dead end set ups, which ends in a lot of dead end dating.
None of the websites or the few Jewish dating apps out there suggest anyone that's relevant to you or have any real way of discovering who would be relevant or compatible. The ones who are looking for a real relationship complain that they find that these apps are very frustrating and very draining. Current apps present you with endless pictures and endless swipes, but not serious prospects.
On top of that the app weeds out people that are just looking for hook-ups. If you're just looking for a hook-up app, this is not the app for you. The questionnaire is very extensive. Our app really gets to know the user, something which is uncomfortable if you just want a hook-up. Other apps would say that they're kind of geared towards everyone, whether you're looking for a hook-up or you're dying to get married. This is, of course, problematic if you want a serious relationship. There is no way to find out.
A.I.: The only app that constantly learns about you after every match on a deeper level. The click-to-highlight feature really enables the A.I. to learn from every aspect of your matches in terms of what you really want and need. Some of the other apps learn about your look preferences (but even then most prefer not to, since they want you to constantly swipe and stay in the app).
JJ: What's your main goal with Forj?
Forj's goal is that our users are happily engaged in healthy, happy, loving and long-lasting relationships. It's not just randomly getting married or hooking up with someone. We really want our users to find that someone who is extremely compatible with them, and that they will be happy together for decades to come.
We want to provide the tools to make that happen!
JJ: Explain what a day in the life looks like for you as the CEO of Forj?
Where do I begin !! As a startup there is no "typical" day. In general, we try to introduce at least one new enhancement each week and major feature once a month. So I will spend time going through those features. Our main designer is in Israel, so I'll discuss with her what she believes should be the next big changes in design. Our outreach coordinator is in Chicago, and we'll go over any new partnerships with influencers, media, or Jewish organizations. And lastly, our head of content is in New York, so if there is any new improvements, new questions, or other nuances to the content we'll go over it with her. As we are looking to partner with a tier-1 influencer and bring them to join the team, I will have conversations with several to see if they are a fit.
JJ: What's the biggest lesson you've learned while creating Forj?
People want to be seen for who they are, and are tired of continuously marketing themselves and trying to guess how others perceive them. They don't want to be treated like objects. They want to be appreciated for their own values, beliefs, outlooks, and perspectives.
JJ: Anything exciting coming up for Forj that you'd like to give the inside scoop on?
The main feature that is in the pipeline at this time is the A.I. Dating Coach which will not only guide users through the dating process, but will also recommend for dating spots based on who they are.
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