October 22, 2013

SmileBack: More Than Your Average Dating App

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By RACHEL ELLICOTT

Which makes you all warm and fuzzy inside – smiling at someone you have a crush on, or swiping his or her picture to the right on your phone?

Cornell alum Dan Berenholtz ’09 believes that it’s the former.

Deciding to leave grad school at Stanford University, Berenholtz began to work on a website that would help people meet each other on college campuses. Whowentout.com listed every party that happened on a college campus one night so those who attended them could log on to the site the next day and send a smile to someone they had seen at the party and wanted to get to know.

Berenholtz and his partners later figured it would be beneficial to allow everyone from the same school be able to meet each other, rather than focusing on specific parties. Instead of a website, they turned their idea into an app for smart phones, and SmileBack was born.

So why a smile and not something a bit more suggestive?

“We don’t like to think of SmileBack as a dating website; it’s more of a game,” Berenholtz said. “Initially, it was like you would smile at people that were at the same party as you, and in real life when you see someone you’re interested in, you smile at them naturally… So it mimics real life in a way. Plus, nobody winks these days; maybe, like, in the 80s.”

Berenholtz believes SmileBack to be less superficial than apps like Tinder, which sets it apart. “…With ours, you’re sending a smile to someone; you’re not just swiping them to the right.” There is more room for personal information to be presented about oneself on the app, so people can send smiles that are more based on personality.

Currently available in Ithaca, Binghamton, Washington D.C. and New York City, SmileBack allows users to send a limited number of anonymous smiles to other students at their schools each day. Once a student receives a smile, he or she has two guesses and five options as to who the sender could be. If the student guesses wrong twice, he or she is allowed to use a token to get a third guess. If there is a match, there is an option for the users to send each other a message and to receive free drinks from a randomly chosen local bar. Our options in Ithaca are Moonshadow Tavern, Dunbars and Loco.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead; make someone smile.

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