It may look like Tinder, and work like Tinder, but Meld founders Raïssa Tona and Wale Ayeni want to be clear that their new dating app is not the Black Tinder. “We are more than a hookup site,” explains Ayeni. “It is a platform for people looking to date and find somebody special.”
Like Tinder, this mobile application uses your Facebook name, age, photos of your choice, mutual friends and the pages you’ve liked to create a member profile. Meld finds your location via GPS, then presents you with profiles of potential matches based on the geographic and age range you’ve selected. If you like a profile, you hit the “meld” button on the right; if not, go left to “pass.” If that member has also “melded” you… cheers, it’s a match (!), and you can start messaging.
Unlike Tinder, members must additionally be vetted through their LinkedIn profiles, have a bachelor’s degree, and be Black. Instead of 150 characters to explain who you are, Meld shares your current job title from LinkedIn. Though the platform uses your Facebook and LinkedIn info, it never shares your activity with those platforms, so discretion is maintained.
“We use LinkedIn as well as Facebook because it is a trusted source,” explains Tona. “Where you work and what you do is a big part of who you are, it is where you spend most of your time.”
Raïssa Tona and Wale Ayeni met while pursuing MBAs at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, and came up with the idea for this platform to fill a void they saw amongst their peers who were underwhelmed by their online dating experiences. According to research from dating site OkCupid, men often don’t write Black women back when it comes to first-contact attempts, even when Black women write back the most. Other data revealed that, overall, Black men and Black women got the lowest response rates for their respective genders.
Tona and Ayeni’s solution is a space where the under-connected blend socially. The Meld mission is to bring these disparate groups of Black professionals onto a single platform for social and romantic discovery.
On one hand, the first mobile dating app for the African Diaspora is both clever and timely. We’re all on the go, so who better to connect a busy professional to a potential mate than our constant companion: our cellphone? Where there’s much hysteria about Black men not dating Black women these days, a recent census revealed that only 10.8% of Black men marry outside of their race, proving that most Black people are interested in same-race unions.
Once popular online platforms like BlackPlanet are past their peak, so where do Black people go to connect with other Blacks outside of their immediate social networks? When professionals look for a significant other, finding someone equally yoked is often a priority, so vetting through LinkedIn provides intel that many consider important. Similarly, knowing common friends and interests care of Facebook gives you valuable insights you might not otherwise discover for a few dates. The mutual-acceptance programming means you’re only contacted by people you’re interested in, eliminating the bother of unwanted advances that burden real life and online dating.
On the flipside, is racially based dating a dated concept in 2014? Do a few Facebook pictures, pages liked, and job titles provide valid reasons to select a potential mate for a serious relationship? Does sharing occupational information before even meeting a person create a climate of opportunistic dating?
The best way to answer all these questions is to give it a try. Meld is currently beta testing and free for iPhone, until they launch later this year and begin charging a subscription fee. So if you are a single early adopter, now is the time to give it a try. The brand is currently building its membership by targeting Black professional organizations like National Black MBA Association, the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and HBCUs.
The community is currently small, but real. “Unlike most dating sites, all of our profiles are actual people,” explains Ayeni. “We are more focused on growing right than growing fast.”