Originally featured in at: https://collectively.org/en/article/in-pursuit-of-the-hirsute-then-this-dating-app-might-be-for-you/
Finding a niche in the dating app world is a hairy business. Unless you are razor sharp, like 28-year-old bearded wonderboy John Kershaw (pictured below). Sitting some 14 inches above his impressive knot of chin-fuzz are the brains behind Bristlr, the app and dating website for men with beards – and people who love beards. To mark the Movember facial hair celebrations, leading UK dating expert Charly Lester sat him down for a chinwag about facial-hair hotness.
What made you come up with the idea for Bristlr?
It all started as a joke one afternoon, while I was procrastinating at work. I was trying to think up a really silly start-up idea, and then I came up with Bristlr’s tagline – “Connecting those with beards to those who want to stroke them”.
From there I made a fake landing page, and to my surprise people started signing up! A couple of weeks later, I created a prototype of the app in a couple of weeks, launched it. And it’s been a roller coaster since then.
What has the response been like from users?
Overwhelmingly positive. We get emails from people all over the world who’ve met their soulmates – their words, not mine – through Bristlr. But that’s never been our focus. Bristlr was designed to give you a fun means of introduction. People tell us that the dates they go on via Bristlr feel a lot more relaxed because of it. And as someone who gets nervous on dates, this is all good news to me.
How is Bristlr different to other dating sites?
People want to use simple dating apps but they also want to match with people they have something other than proximity in common with.
We sit at a really interesting overlap between the cool and simple apps out there like Tinder andHappn, and sites which ask you loads of questions to match you with people who share common interests. Because there’s a definite kind of person who loves Bristlr. We’re able to match people up really well, but without all the junk you normally have to fill out on bigger sites.
We’re also a tiny team of people making it, so we can kind of write our own rules. We can gear things for a better experience for users, rather than aiming at a strong bottom line for investors. We don’t, and never will, use fake accounts, for example.
“We built a ‘Lothario detector’ which tells you if the person sending you a message has used the same opener on other people”
In what ways is Bristlr making the experience better for daters?
Being small means when people request stuff, we can build it for them. Users asked us to add in an age filter, so we did! Some people wanted more precise location settings, so we enhanced that. It’s really nice to be able to just chat to people using Bristlr and work together to make the platform better.
We’re dedicated to, and take a real pleasure in, weeding out the kinds of people who you just don’t want on dating sites but who seem to pop up all the time. As an example, we built a “Lothario detector” which tells you if the person sending you a message has used the same opener on other people. That dude sending the same message to dozens of women suddenly has his plans ruined.
You can also rate the messages people send, and report people if they’re unwantedly sexual. Nobody should have to put up with crappy people online, and we’re in a fortunate position to be able to help.
You don’t ask users to gender-define, what was the reason behind that?
Gender is super-complex and any dating app which limits people to two genders – or worse, makes people put themselves in some kind of ‘other’ category – is cutting out a large section of people to save development costs.
We don’t want to exclude people from our service because of their gender, so we don’t. We realised early on that we’re a service all about beards, so why not just split people based on their facial-fuzz, or lack thereof?
We will be adding gender options at some point, but we’re working closely with the people our decisions affect so we can avoid the clichéd drop-down box of a few options. We’ll be making all our work around gender-stuff public, hopefully inspiring other companies to fix their limited gender-related options.
So what’s next for Bristlr?
Bristlr’s going to get bigger, more polished, and generally kick more ass over the next few months and years.
We’re also going to launching more niche sites – think tattoos, coffee… basically everything we love, and we’ll have some exciting news in the next few months around some partners who want to work with us to make their own niche sites. It’s a very exciting time for us!
Read more about Charly Lester’s adventures in dating on her blog, 30 Dates.
The UK Dating Awards 2015 are being held in London on 26 November.