Meet the Woman Behind MELD — A Dating App for Black Professionals11/04/2015
In a sea of dating apps and websites catered towards Black people, MELD emerges as a distinct op...
In a sea of dating apps and websites catered towards Black people, MELD emerges as a distinct option for black professionals. The dating app is designed to bring like-minded singles together in a safe environment.
Like many popular dating apps, MELD is location-based and uses Facebook data to validate users’ profile information, but MELD doesn’t stop there. The creators are able to curate a group of “sophisticated black professionals” with detailed profiles by requiring users to also link their LinkedIn profiles to their MELD account.
This double layer of legitimacy provided former MELD user Jade the security she needed to give the app a try. “It creates a safe atmosphere knowing that you’re amongst people like yourself and the way that they pull your information from LinkedIn makes it legitimate,” she said in an interview with For Harriet. Jade's experience is one of the many success stories MELD’s innovative model has forged.
We spoke with Chyreé Wilson, Head of Strategic Partnerships at MELD, to learn more about the app and how the team hopes to change online dating within the Black community.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For Harriet: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, how you got involved with MELD, and what do you at MELD now?
Chyreé Wilson: I am the Head of Strategic Partnerships at MELD. I was drawn to the simple but yet enviable value proposition of MELD, which is simply that “Successful Black people need love too.” As you know, MELD is niche dating app designed for Black professionals. There are various organizations, such as NBMBAA, NABA, MLT, NSBE, NMA, NABJ, etc. (and I could go on), that were created to support Black professionals. However, there are very few platforms out there catering to “matters of the heart” focused on Black professionals. Our hope at MELD is that we can start to re-orient the conversation back to love, happiness and fulfilling long-term relationships.
We also realize that we can’t do this alone. We are only a start-up and my day to day activities at MELD as Head of Strategic Partnerships is to figure out which partners share our vision, and how we can work together with these Partners.
FH: How and when was MELD founded?
CW: MELD was founded in 2014. The rationale behind MELD has remained the same since its inception, which is to create a safe environment for black professionals to re-discover each other romantically.
The interesting thing is that the black professional demographic, while enjoying significant economic power, is actually an “underserved” market. I would loathe to pontificate about the reasons behind this, but if I were to take a guess it would be mostly because of the media portrayal of our demographic which varies from “non-existent” to “pitiable.”
I grew up watching the “Cosby Show” which was both uplifting and inspiring compared to our portrayal in today’s shows like “Being Mary Jane” and “Scandal”. In a nutshell and without trying to be controversial, promoting the family life as portrayed in the Cosby show is the larger vision which MELD is aiming for.
FH: How has MELD grown since its founding?
CW: MELD has grown immensely in many different areas since inception. Both membership and matches have grown and continue to grow exponentially. We are particularly proud of our snowballing number of “matches” - a key metric we track religiously. While we lose members as they match, hopefully start serious relationships, and leave the MELD platform – we actually optimize for these matches. As the founder likes to say – that is the entire point.
This is not to say everything has been smooth sailing since inception. As anyone who has been involved in a start-up understands that it is a constant tussle and we made our share of mistakes in the early stages. The product has evolved overtime with significant product and feature enhancements.
FH: What separates MELD from Tinder, Soul Swipe, Bae App and other dating apps?
CW: First of all, I would like to say that we at MELD have tremendous respect for an individual or a group of individuals who has ever created a mobile app that people actually download & use. Our hats go off to Tinder, SoulSwipe, Bae App etc.
Having said all that though, MELD is different - very different. If you permit me to be unpolished for a moment, I would say MELD is not about simply “hooking up,” it is “beyond the hookup.” We aim to cater to individuals who are looking for, and appreciate the finer things in life. Our members are accomplished individuals who are focused on meaningful long-term relationships. The other day on twitter, Oprah Winfrey asked the question “Do you believe in Soulmates?” Our answer to that was an emphatic “Yes.”
Call us naïve, but we at MELD believe in what we believe in - and we believe in LOVE.
FH: Does MELD have more female or male users? What is the companying doing to make sure there is a balance?
CW: MELD does indeed have more females than male members. The split is about 60% females: 40% male, which is not totally surprising given the general statistics of our core demographic. MELD does engage in selective gender based advertising/marketing schemes to ensure that the gender proportion on the platform does remain equitable.
FH: It's proven the Black women have the most difficult time online dating, how does MELD change this?
CW: While I won’t go as far say it is “proven” that Black women have the most difficult time online dating, I would say there has been a lot of research that point to the fact that Black women are not typically successful on generic online dating platforms like OkCupid, Match, e-harmony etc. There are studies out there performed by these generic online dating platforms themselves, which show that both black men and women get the lowest response rates on their online dating platforms. We don’t pass any judgement, but the data is simply that data.
MELD was created partly to address this unmet need. Given that MELD is niche dating app, and like any other niche dating app, you know exactly what demographic you’re attracted to when you join; hence success rates are inherently higher. Like my mother always says, if you feel like you’re unwelcomed to a party, you can create your very own party. For Black professionals, MELD is your own very own party.
And we do have data to prove this. We are over indexed on the amount of “Likes” members receive on the MELD platform.
FH: Is MELD LGBTQI friendly?
CW: While we fully support the LGBTQI community, MELD is focused “solely” on members seeking “heterosexual” relationships.
We are from, and headquartered in the Bay area, and support diversity in all of its beautiful forms, but as a niche product we simply can’t focus on too many things simultaneously. There are several products focused on dating in LGBTQI community, and some focused exclusively on blacks within the LGBTQI community such as SheMeetsHer, Thurst, etc.
FH: I read about MELD's proprietary profile index algorithm on your website, can you explain what this is?
CW: That’s an interesting question that we get a lot, but if I told you that information I would have to kill you. But seriously though, the proprietary profile index algorithm is a trade secret just like the ingredients that make Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola.
There are several stochastic models and algorithms that are fired in the background to determine who a member is most likely to be matched with, and you should know that the profile index is individualized. Which means a person might appear as one-star to one member and simultaneously appear to be a three-star to another member.
FH: I have another feature related question. Why are the profile views limited based on time?
CW: Franky, it is most psychological. The MELD app aims to switch the mindset beyond frivolously swiping right and left. Our members are not simply profiles but an eclectic collection of individuals. We encourage our members to pay attention to the profile before passing and there is nothing that focuses the mind more than scarcity.
The reason why matches on these other platforms do not necessarily lead to actual dates is mostly because people decide without paying too much attention. Hence you get a lot of matches and no one writes each other. It is different on MELD. You should give it a try.
FH: What age demographic is MELD targeting?
CW: Anyone as young as 20 years old to as old as 65 years can create profiles on the MELD app. There are features in the app that enable members to decide which age group gets to see their profile. Our largest audience so far has been members between the ages 25 years and 45 years but ultimately, MELD wants to afford all black professionals with the opportunity to find their soulmate.
FH: Where do you see MELD in the future?
CW: I see that you left the best question for last. However, this is actually a simple question. And I believe I speak for the entire MELD team when I say this. If in the future we can say that a lot of happy “Cosby” families as portrayed by the Cosby show were created due to MELD, we would be extremely satisfied. It is that simple.
MELD aims to change the story about, and for, Black families. We can’t do this alone, so if there are partners that share the same vision, we would love to hear from you. If you’re interested in partnering with us please feel free to reach out to me.
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