Need help with your love life? This app calls in the experts

Dating app Ona wants you to get dating help before you get a date.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
Expertise Erin has been a tech reporter for almost 10 years. Her reporting has taken her from the Johnson Space Center to San Diego Comic-Con's famous Hall H. Credentials
  • She has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Erin Carson
3 min read

Ona matches you with dating experts, not other singles.


You need help.

That's the premise of the latest dating app hoping to hit screens of the lonely, lovesick or languishing.

Instead of matching daters with local singles, Ona, which launches Tuesday, matches daters with dating coaches, stylists, therapists, and matchmakers. By swapping professionals in for the usual online dating service algorithm, Ona wants to make the online dating experience a little less awkward. The hope is that these specialists will spare daters from a sea of bathroom selfies, duck lips and dead ends.

"The prospect of courting someone used to be exciting, and now it's like this terrible, hair-pulling situation," said co-founder Mark Zuppe, who drew inspiration for the app, in part, by trying to help his brother date online. On a broader scale, he saw his brother trying to win a game against filters and mixed intentions from other daters. Zuppe had to intervene when his brother listed the much-derided band Nickleback as his favorite.

The course of true love doesn't always swipe right.

Ona is the latest twist in online dating, which has been around for decades, but exploded in recent years thanks to the convenience of your phone. Of the US's 54.3 million singles, 90 percent have tried online dating, according to Statistic Brain Research Institute. And yet, Pew Research found that one third of users haven't actually gone on a date with someone they met online. Only one in five will ask for help with their profiles. People are looking for love online, they're just not always doing it successfully.

Ona is free to download. Users can read dating advice and the like, and, after clearing a background check, find a specialist to help them out. When building a profile, it's about finding the right specialist, which means this might be the only dating site where you can post that "most dates end in flames" and get responses.

"If someone who is a date coach sees that your dates are ending in flames, and your bio has certain kind of language, they might reach out to you," Zuppe said.

Once you've found a specialist, you can chat with him or her to figure out the next step, like a counseling session over the phone, and then pay for it through the app. Ona takes a percentage of what the specialists charge. These specialists can make introductions to other singles, or even just hop on a video call and tell you not to wear that shirt out.

Ona isn't the first service to try and clean up the often messy affair of dating. Though not a mobile app, Dating Ring will set you up with a matchmaker. App Hinge relaunched in in October 2016 and got rid of swiping altogether.

So far, Ona's only available in New York. Zuppe said the company's got plans to expand to other cities like Boston and Philadelphia, followed by San Francisco and Chicago by the end of the year.

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