Digital Yenta: With Three Day Rule integration complete, now offers white glove matchmaking

By Michael Carney , written on June 25, 2014

From The News Desk

Today is the day that upgrades its platform to the year...500 BC?

It may seem comical, but Match recently entered into a strategic partnership with Three Day Rule (TDR), an old school, human-powered matchmaking service. You know, the kind that's been commonplace for millennia. The online dating giant simultaneously led a Series A round (of undisclosed size) into the Los Angeles-based startup.

When news of the deal was first reported, most of the discussion focused on the seemingly scandalous details of the price tag – $5,000 for six months of high-touch, personalized service – and on TDR’s use of facial analysis technology to augment its matchmakers and verify compatibility. But neither of these are the most interesting aspects of the service, or what it could mean to Match’s role in the assisted dating sphere.

What’s interesting is that Match, a mass-market, technology-driven online dating platform that costs its users between $15 to $20 per month (depending on commitment length) is moving up market. If the experiment works it could mean a big shift in the way the $460 million-plus per year business views its most valuable customers. For TDR, of course it means an enormous platform and new resources with which to build out its dating concierge service.

“I was hesitant at first to work with such a big company, but when I sat down with [Match CEO] Sam [Yagan] I came away feeling like he really understood our values and had a great vision for how we could work together,” says Three Day Rule founder and CEO Talia Goldstein. “We’re happy with where we’ve grown to on our own, but there are definitely things we can do to grow faster and make our business more efficient.”

Currently operating in four markets -- Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago -- TDR relies on a handful of live, flesh and blood matchmakers in each market, most of whom are graduates of elite universities and have left professional careers to do this full time, to recruit and vet its clients and their prospective matches.

Unsurprisingly, given that it’s a venture-backed startup, TDR isn’t entirely an analog service. Goldstein has been working to systematize and automate as much of the repetitive tasks conducted by her matchmakers as possible, including everything from building a mobile recruiting platform to enabling CRM automation to the aforementioned machine vision algorithms used to analyze photos.

On that topic, Goldstein is adamant that everyone has a type. But it’s not the attributes we first think of – short/tall, light/dark, long/short hair, curvy/skinny, etc. – that really move the needle. At the core of our attraction, she finds are similarities in our mates’ facial structures. Something as seemingly trivial as a particular jawline, chin shape, or the spacing of one’s eyes can apparently be enough to get the right person all hot and bothered. Don’t fault Goldstein; evidently it’s biology. By looking at photos of a client’s exes, TDR’s computers can tease out these attraction patterns and help their human yentas deliver better matches.

But TDR doesn’t rely solely on face shape analysis to deliver its service. That would be the kind of digital-only approach that one might expect from legacy, Web 1.0 dating platforms – such as its new partner. Rather, the company only uses this tool to filter already curated applicant pools, which have been manually assembled based on characteristics like personality type, career, religious compatibility, family planning goals, and so forth. Together, the analog and digital approaches combine to make TDR a rare kind of service.

Match and TRD have been working closely together for nearly a month on the technical integration of their two platforms, with the larger incumbent lending its technical workforce and expertise to the significantly smaller upstart. Under the invite-only program, Match users fitting undisclosed target demographics will get early access to the high-end concierge experience.

TDR’s matchmakers meet with their clients in person, learn their preferences (and bad habits), offer relationship coaching where necessary, and occasionally even go on pre-dates with potential matches to save their busy members from wasting time. Prospective mates will be chosen from a combination of Match’s and TDR's databases as well as the personal rolodex of TDR’s matchmakers. Just as importantly, they’ll be informed by Match’s impressive hoard of profile data.

“The thing that stood out to me the most when we started working together is just how good [Match’s] data is,” Goldstein says. TDR COO Jill Druschke James, who joined the company two months ago, adds, “It’s been years since I’ve been on Match and I was shocked how accurately they know me.”

It may sound creepy, but when you’re looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, be it through old school or new school methods, the devil (or Cupid?) is really in the data.

The price of TDR’s service may seem steep at first glance, but given the emotional and opportunity costs of remaining single -- presuming you’re searching for a mate -- it’s hardly outrageous. More importantly, the company’s net promoter score is through the roof, according to Goldstein, although she declined to offer specific figures. The fact that 80 percent of the company’s clientele has reportedly come through referrals adds credence to this claim. She was similarly coy about TDR’s success rate (a measurement of the number of clients that end up in long-term relationships), but said that it far exceeds traditional dating sites, pointing to Yagen’s interest in TDR as evidence of that fact. The presumably juicy margins on the premium service surely sweetened the appeal of that already attractive business.

"We know there is a segment of busy professionals on Match who would love to have a high-touch service to help them find a compatible partner," says President Amarnath Thombre. "People come to Match because of the quality and scale of our membership base, and now with Three Day Rule as a partner, we can combine the convenience of a white-glove matchmaking service with our huge community of high quality members."

The Match partnership offers TDR the resources (financial and technical) that it needs to scale its business beyond the two dozen or so matchmakers is has in it four current market. Ultimately, the goal is to grow nationwide – Dallas, Boston, and D.C. are on the horizon for this year – a task that will require Goldstein to further automate her business, not only around matchmaking, but also recruiting, hiring, and training matchmakers.

If she proves up to the task, its not too far fetched that TDR will become the latest acquisition in a Match dating portfolio that now includes OkCupid, Tinder (incubated), People Media, and a number of other assets. It’s a low risk proposition for Yagan who, for a presumably nominal price, gets a look under the hood of a complementary but largely foreign business model creeping in on his domain. You could say the two companies are in the early courtship phase.