This woman entrepreneur went on 250 dates before launching her AI-powered dating app in the US

Priyanka Sehgal has launched Sparkles, an AI-powered dating app, to foster authentic connections and empower singles to form meaningful relationships via shared experiences.

In a career spanning over 20 years, Priyanka Sehgal worked in TV and digital media in strategy, product, growth, monetisation, content, programming and partnerships in major media enterprises like Network 18, Times Television Network, and NDTV.

In 2018-2019, Priyanka attended Columbia Business School’s Executive Education, Digital Business Leadership Program, and found an opportunity to start up in a space quite different from the one she had pursued so far.

Priyanka Sehgal

She launched Sparkles, an AI-based, experiential, hyper-personalised matchmaking platform this year for the US market.

Sparkles did not want to be just another “swipe and match” platform in a world of conventional dating sites.

“When it comes to dating in the modern world, there is a rampant cognitive overload. The journey to seeking and building something meaningful is taxing and filled with uncertainty, therefore an inability and unwillingness to commit. In so many cases, people were uncoupling, and because of a previous painful relationship, they didn’t know how to move forward. In most cases, the choice of partner was wrong for them. Everyone needed solid support and real-time guidance. Amid endless swiping, texting, dating, and brokenness – the essence of dating or meeting new people was losing its meaning,” Priyanka explains.

A keen observer of online and offline human behaviour in dating for years, she decided to research more and understand if this was a problem that could not be fixed or otherwise.

Personalised research

She went on 250 dates with people of different nationalities to understand what they went through on dating apps.

These insights led to discussions with her Columbia Business School batchmates, where she found the support to move forward and build and test Sparkles. During the testing, she says, she had 20-year-olds grab her phone and ask for the app, and she had to change her plan of building this only for the 30+.

The big break came when the then Tinder CEO validated her concept at a conference.

Priyanka breaks down the dating process on Sparkles.

She illustrates, “Sparkles uses AI to hyper personalise matchmaking. At every step, there’s assistance. Users need to select what they are looking for; we call them Moods. They then select their partner preferences and the kind of experiences they would want in that Mood. Their selections aren’t displayed on their profile, and hence users are more honest about what they want. They see a compatibility score, their match’s pictures and bio and can use any four swipes and the ability to redo swipes to set expectations right. This removes ambiguity as most users know what the other person wants from them. Also leads to clarity of intent.”

She continues, “Once they ‘sparkle’ each other, they can chat, make a date plan, the app will throw up common experiences between them, and they can buy experiences at discounted prices, both can split the cost, or one person can buy it. Once an experience is paid for, ghosting is unlikely. When they return from their date, we offer a Predictive Score to tell them which way their relationship is likely to move and tips to steer it in that direction.”

The Sparkles Experience

Also, an influencers platform

In essence, Priyanka believes she’s building a community on the app where users will earn while they date, and get dating advice from each other and influencers.

Influencers will also be able to share/sell their favourite experiences here.

The app is also in the process of offering profile verification before singles meet each other for a shared experience/ date. Sometimes, users just want to know their date isn’t a felon.

Going beyond dating, Priyanka states that Sparkles integrates fintech and addresses the financial aspect when two people get together along with content marketing and a robust digital strategy.

Priyanka works with Richard Davis, her CTO, who has previously worked in IBM, Lulu and has experience in AI/ML products. Apart from her savings, her family and a friend have invested in Sparkles with $125,000 so far.

Launched in North America, Priyanka has plans to take the app globally.

“We’re offering to date and how to get it right while we assist every step of the way by using technology for the larger good. It is imperative to address the fallouts of relationships, and Sparkles aims to help its users with their mental and financial health while they date,” she says.

Shared experiences

Sparkles is free to use, and Priyanka does not believe in offering some features for free and then retracting and making users pay after they get habituated to those.

“We want them to go on shared experiences, so when they buy those on the app, they are paying for something they will get to do. We have partners who offer these experiences, and a dating economy buildout is where I see us heading. So, anyone who wants anything to do with dating/ relationships can find it on Sparkles. Apart from this, we will be bringing in influencers for dating advice and building their own experiences for users,” she adds.

So far, the response has been outstanding, says Priyanka.

“We had an event in Austin and had over 400 signups in one night. There has been a constant growth trajectory of 211 percent. Our biggest testimony is from those who use the app, and I have people writing in on various platforms and mailing me about how much they love it.” It has garnered over 25,000+ early users.

Priyanka works across four to five time zones on a single day, with her day beginning early and ending late at night.

“I work closely with other entrepreneurs and help them with their startups, and that gives a deep sense of purpose. We are opening up Sparkles to smaller businesses in the US, and everyone who is an experienced provider can list their services,” she says.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta


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