Flowroute sponsored two challenges at the DeveloperWeek Hackathon, which is the nation’s largest challenge-driven hackathon and boasts over $100,000 in prizes from more than 20 different vendors. Our first challenge was for the most innovative use of our calling and messaging capabilities and our second was for the most innovative use of our number masking capabilities. With apps that worked improve the safety of dating applications to apps that monitor mental health needs, we were incredibly impressed with the creativity and thoughtfulness of the developers at the hack.
The winner of our Number Masking Challenge was the dating app Type.Me. Type.Me was created by Nil Thacker, Kevin Huang and Mia Lehrer. They did not set out to revolutionize the dating app market, but through a combination of personal experiences and innovative tools they came up with the idea for Type.Me. We caught up with them to ask 12 essential questions so we could better understand their development process.
How did you decide to work together on this app?
Nil: We’re all students of Dev Bootcamp. We didn’t really plan to go in together as a team, it sort of just fell into place and we loved it.
Mia: Nil isn’t mentioning that we are both users of and complainers about certain “other” mobile dating apps. As engineers, we’re always looking to optimize. Before Dev Bootcamp I was a geologist and marketing coordinator.
What inspired the idea for creating this particular app?
Mia: Well, since I got here, I’ve been spending a lot of time on dating apps, and I can’t help thinking about how to make them better. Nil and I had already been talking about how we could integrate Flowroute’s communications services into a dating app; Flowroute’s number masking API provided a safe and efficient way to schedule in “real life”. Then Kevin was describing Microsoft’s machine-learning APIs, and the idea of a machine-learning-optimized dating app just clicked.
Kevin: What Mia said! It all just came together when we were talking about the problems with dating apps nowadays and the tools we had available to answer those issues. We found that by utilizing machine learning and number masking to optimize choice and privacy, we could solve many of problems users face in modern online dating apps.
Do you have a feature or particular capability that you really love?
Nil: I really love the idea of having a dating app where you can actually call and talk to the other person on the phone, while feeling secure in the fact that neither of you have the other person’s phone number – until you want them to.
Kevin: I love that we were able to make the app do the heavy lifting for users – optimizing preferences for physical appearance, matching interests through textual analysis, and number masking to make communication easy while preserving privacy and security.
Is there a feature that you very intentionally left out of the app?
Mia: The app never shows you someone who has already “passed” on matching with you; if you see someone on TypeMe, they’ve either liked you already or haven’t seen you yet. The Bay Area’s male/female has made me feel “popular” on dating apps. I think the best possible user experience is for everyone to feel that way; the optimized matching by TypeMe allows that to happen.
What was your technology stack for building the app?
How do you think the ability to utilize number masking differentiates and adds value to your app?
Nil: It’s important that we let users feel safe while using the app. We read that most dating apps fall apart when it comes to actually moving off the dating app platform and communicating directly with other users. Being able to privately speak to the other person on the phone without having to expose your personal information adds in the safety that users need.
Mia: Yeah, safety is paramount. As a woman, I’ve often felt uncomfortable giving out my phone number to someone I haven’t met yet, but scheduling without phone numbers is kind of a pain. I think with that extra layer of security, more matches can get off the app and into the “real world.”
Kevin: I think that having number masking adds a tremendous feature to our app that many other dating apps don’t have, which is the ability to take communication off the app, while allowing the user to retain control of what they want to share.
Anything next on the horizon for the team or the app?
Nil: We’ve been approached by Microsoft to take the app from an idea with some core functionality to a fully functioning application and we’re excited to build out Mia’s idea into something that people can actually use!
Mia: A very mistreated Dell
Nil: A Dell laptop that I broke by trying to upgrade the (permanently attached) video card.
Mia: iPhone 6
Nil: An iPhone. #iPhone4Life
Transporter, time machine or cloak of invisibility?
Mia: Transporter, for sure. Lake Tahoe whenever I want to go? Yes, please.
Nil: Invisibility cloak, so I can hide from Mia.
Mia: Would it be sacrilegious of me to say Tinder?
Nil: Probably Instagram
I once waited in line for…?
Mia: The Pokemon X & Y midnight release, WORTH IT.
Nil: I waited 1 hour for funnel cake.