The App That Smiles Back

By Frances Clause

If Youngstown State University students have tried dating apps without success, SmileBack aims to end ghosting, dead-end conversations and “swiping culture” so users can find a true spark with their matches.

When using the SmileBack app, potential matches are revealed in batches of four and a user can “smile” at another user, initiating a guessing game. If the user that was smiled at guesses the potential match correctly, both users are offered free drinks on their first date.

Dan Berenholtz, CEO of SmileBack, said this incentive encourages users to end wasting time on their phones chatting behind a screen and experience actual chemistry in real life.

“The thing with most dating apps is you gets dozens of matches, but in most cases, you don’t meet with the person you get a match with,” he said. “On SmileBack, you can’t just swipe hundreds of people, and we work with local bars and restaurants to give users who meet $10 to $15 gift cards.”

In Youngstown, users can redeem their alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks at Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s.

“What we really want for our vision is to work with local spots and not chains, but SmileBack is a new app so we’re just starting to form these relationships,” Berenholtz said, regarding Youngstown’s bars.

The app is available for Apple and Android and is being tested at other colleges, including Cornell University, Ithaca College, University of North Carolina and Miami University.

Berenholtz said he is satisfied with the progress of the app in its early stages.

Photo by Frances Clause/The Jambar

“[SmileBack] is finding that people are feeling overwhelmed with other dating apps, so our message has really resonated with users,” he said. “We’re constantly listening to users and incorporating changes based on feedback.”

Ryan Kronauer, a sophomore criminal justice major and SmileBack user, said he decided to download the app after receiving an email about it on his YSU account.

“I like when you match with someone, [SmileBack] shows your common interests with that match so then you have something to possibly talk about,” he said. “The drink coupon is also a plus.”

Kronauer said he believes when more people hear about the features of the app, it will gain as much popularity as Tinder and Bumble.

Dimitry Knyajanski, SmileBack’s co-founder, said he decided to partake in the production of SmileBack because the idea seemed to solve all of the problems that accompany most dating apps.

“I always felt that whenever I match with someone, it would most likely end up being a waste of time,” he said, in reference to other dating apps. “When my cofounder Dan told me about the idea of creating a fun way to meet new people, while at the same time keeping the meaningful matches aspect, I felt instantly that this was the exact issue I was frustrated about.”

To keep matches meaningful, SmileBack shows users a limited number of people each day, chosen based on the user’s interests. However, if users wish to receive extra smiles and batches, they can upgrade to SmileBack Pro for extra tokens.

Plans to add more features are in progress, according to Knyajanski.

“A cool feature we are thinking about is to give our users drinks not just for their first date, but also for their second and third,” he said. “Many successful love stories started with a bad first date but a successful second one.”