Who hasn't been the victim of a really bad blind date or the participant in a truly torturous speed dating event? Ever feel like there was something missing — a more relaxed environment, perhaps, or maybe more personal information before the date?
Well, one man has decided to fill that void by creating a singles dating company with a touch of psychology, a tinge of technology and a whole lot of fun.
"I'm a commercial real estate underwriter, which is the most fun job in the world [but] … I'm in a room with no windows, so I created OneKeyAway so I could meet other professionals," says its founder, Edwin Duterte, a 37-year-old banker by day, matchmaker by night.
"We want people to meet each other, … have fun, and interact, because sometimes, you get lost on the back of your keyboard … that's what OneKeyAway is about — we want people to meet face to face."
Here's how it works: You log on to the OneKeyAway Web site, and complete a questionnaire, which, in turn, generates a personality profile.
As with other dating sites, you can add a photo to your profile, browse other member profiles, send messages to them, and meet up at live dating events.
Pretty normal so far, right? Well, what makes OneKeyAway so unique is what happens during the mixers.
"When you go to our events," Duterte explains, "we hand you a little gadget that has the person's individual personality embedded in it. Basically, what you do is, you go up to somebody, say, 'can we zap?' I press a button, she presses a button, point the gadgets at each other, and then, within a second or two, it tells us how compatible we are."
If a green light pops up on the gadget, it means most compatible, yellow means moderately compatible, and red — not so much.
A little strange, yes. But, what's even stranger is this new method of mixing and mingling is actually working.
"The people that have been in my green and yellow category on this thing have been people I've really enjoyed talking to," says Marybeth Armbruster, a participant at a mixer in Los Angeles.
Cool Conversation Starter
Though the gadget isn't always accurate, daters are still able to find good matches. "I've been talking to someone for about an hour, and we're having a good time," says participant Winter Melgar. "This thing said we weren't too compatible, but we seem to be."
No one ever said the system was foolproof. If nothing else, the gadgets serve as great conversation starters.
People's responses to the online questionnaire are kept private, because "we want people to talk," Duterte says. "It's up to the two people to find out how compatible they are together."
And, apparently, it's up to Duterte to do some digging after every mixer to learn how his participants fared. Overall, he finds 25 percent of them end up going on first dates. "Twenty-five percent," Duterte proudly states. "I think that's pretty high."
But he always strives to make that number higher, which is why he has introduced yet another element to the OneKeyAway dating experience — workshops.
Duterte realizes that many participants struggle less with the technology part than with the actual dating. So, before every mixer, he holds separate workshops for the male and female daters who, he feels, are often faced with different challenges.
He says that the men have a relationship coach to teach confidence, and women have workshops that teach them how to flirt.
As with most startups, Duterte's reason for creating OneKeyAway came from his own experience.
"I created OneKeyAway because I concentrated on my career so much that I forgot what a relationship should be," he admits. "I was focused on school and work, then career. … Four years ago, I was, like, 'now I want something more. I want a relationship.'"
OneKeyAway has been going strong since 2003, with mixers for straight, gay and lesbian professionals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. Duterte hopes to expand these events throughout the country.
"You show up, we break the ice," is the mantra. "Hopefully, you'll walk away with a phone number or two — perhaps a date."
If Jeff Daly is any indication, then OneKeyAway is doing its job. After attending one of the mixers, he said, "[There are] maybe three people that I would go out with, and two that wanna go out with me. … It's fun. It's a great way to meet people."