“The most powerful robotic pickup artist on the planet” is being developed in Tampa, and one local executive thinks the technology has potential well beyond getting to a first date.
Casanova is an add-on program for the dating app Tinder, designed to have more self confidence approaching women than most single men do. (Swipe left on a user’s Tinder profile and it goes away; swipe right and you can make a connection.)
PartPixel’s Paul Terentev and his business partner, Alex Kessler, both 24, are working out of Tampa Bay Wave, a downtown Tampa nonprofit that supports local entrepreneurs launch tech startups. Both are students from the University of South Florida: Terentev, the designer, is studying business administration; Kessler, the developer, has a USF degree in physics.
Here’s how it works: Connect Casanova to your Tinder account. The robot reads a woman’s bio and sends her a message, the “small talk,” Terentev said. “[Guys] just don’t know what to say first.” Example: “You’re too pretty for this.”
What about single women looking for men?
“It’s a numbers game,” Terentev said. In beta testing, men’s response rate using Casanova is 75 percent; women’s response rate is 99 percent.
“Guys using Tinder are pressing ‘like’ on every girl and trying to talk to all of them,” Terentev said. “We initially thought girls were going to be pretty angry about this, but [girls] said, ‘We kind of like it because it doesn’t really matter what they say in the beginning, they just have to spark my interest and say something interesting.'”
Their bottom line: Every single man is using the same pickup line anyway, so why not let the robot do it, and potentially do it better?
Released in 2012, Tinder has created 9 billion matches, according to its website. Terentev said Tinder doesn’t know about Casanova yet, but there are other bots in use already.
“As far as Tinder is concerned, they can’t tell the difference between our robot and a normal human being,” he said. “It’s more like an add-on; it’s not against their rules.”
For now, Casanova’s capability is limited to heterosexual men seeking women on Tinder. That’s because, Terentev said, Casanova is created from the perspective of two straight men. They would need help to expand Casanova to be useful for the LGBT community or heterosexual women.
“We would love to include people of different sexual orientations on our team to create specific methods for the LGBT community and for straight women,” he said.
Casanova is in beta testing with in New York City, Los Angeles and Tampa. Terentev and Kessler plan to launch it fully in February 2016.
They’ve funded the project themselves, and though Terentev wouldn’t disclose the amount, he said it doesn’t need that much investment at this stage and they aren’t looking for an investor.
“It kind of grows itself,” he said. Word of mouth is a strong tool for Casanova. “As soon as someone tells someone about it, they tell someone else. When you tell a guy, ‘Hey this robot will pick up girls for you on Tinder,’ they kind of go crazy because they don’t know how to talk to girls.”
After three trial uses, users purchase 10-cent “gems” to activate certain features.
Alfred Goldberg, secretary of the Tampa Bay Wave and president of Absolute Mobile Solutions in Tampa, saw Terentev and Kessler working on the program during a visit to Wave. Though he’s a married father and doesn’t use Tinder, Goldberg said eventually he was intrigued.
The more they talked, the more Goldberg was able to look at the technology differently and extract the potential.
Regardless of whether you agree with robots talking to people through a dating app, investors and business owners may see long-term potential for this type of technology.
“What they’ll see is we use all these online tools and algorithms to solve problems, whether it’s selling or discovering new music,” Goldberg said. “What would give me a better chance to get that job? Or what would give me a better chance of hiring the right person?”
Tinder, the California-based startup, recently reworked its algorithms to give users more meaningful potential matches, according to L.A. Biz. Tinder’s success with monetizing in 2015 positions the app to make more money in 2016.
Tinder parent company is Match Group Inc. (NASDAQ: MTCH), which owns OkCupid and other online dating services.
No word yet on whether Tinder would swipe left or right on Casanova.
Source: Upstart Business Journal, Pam Huff
Photo: Auto liker option in Casanova