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Is it time to try speed dating?


“We think you’re all sitting at the table because you’re bringing something to it,” Lily Montasser said in the room at the Jane Hotel in the West Village on a Thursday in late March. The group – 10 men, 10 women – had come for an evening of cocktails, getting to know each other and hopefully some romance.

To secure a place at this metaphorical table, guests had paid a non-refundable $60 application fee (part of which covered a background check), answered a series of questions (for example, “You are most likely to ‘be found… A. sweating at Equinox B. “at a 5-star hotel in Cabo or C. in the summer in Montauk”), sat down for a virtual interview and paid an additional $150 for admission, all to meet a handful of singles who had also been vetted by Ambyr Club, a speed dating company in New York.

Founded in December by Ms Montasser, 29, and Victoria Van Ness, 25, Ambyr Club is positioning itself as a counterbalance to the current generation of dating apps, where the options are plentiful but “the energy”, as the saying goes. the company’s website, is more difficult to read. Ambyr hosted seven events at hip Manhattan bars — a callback to a time when first impressions weren’t based on cluttered, curated digital profiles, but on instant answers to questions from the aquarium.

“What’s old is new again,” said Julie Spira, a dating coach who runs a company called Cyber-Dating Expert. She noted that the first documented speed dating event took place at a Beverly Hills cafe in 1998. The host, Rabbi Yaacov Deyo, was “trying to bond with Jewish singles so they could stay within of the tribe,” Ms. Spira said. , “and it took.”

Online dating was already popular, but even after the advent of Match.com (where Ms Spira met her current partner) in 1995, “there was still a stigma towards online dating”, she said. said, “and if you met someone online, you definitely wouldn’t tell someone in the 90s.

Speed ​​dating, on the other hand, was a socially accepted way to check out potential partners in person, not to mention wildly effective. Using data from a speed dating company called HurryDate, a 2005 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that most people rate attraction within three seconds of meeting.

“If you look at swipe apps, it’s less more than three seconds for a person to decide whether to swipe right or left,” Ms. Spira said. “It’s a millisecond! After Tinder came along in 2012, she saw several speed dating companies shut down, including HurryDate and No Waiting Dating. “They got old and stale because dating apps were the shiny new way to meet someone,” she said.

But as with all things shiny and new, dating apps have grown old for some users. So old, in fact, that some of the companies behind them started hosting bar get-togethers where strangers met (gasp!) in person. Responding to disgruntled online dates has remained a marketing tactic for these companies. It was only a matter of time before speed dating returned.

Maxine Williams, 26, founded We Met IRL, a speed dating company for people of color, in January. “I came up with the idea in December after attending a speed dating event in Manhattan that wasn’t very diverse,” she said. His attendees at the event seemed to agree; Lauren Williams, an influencer, attended a We Met IRL event in February because, she said, “going out in New York is a sham.”

CWAQ, which stands for “connect with a qutie”, was also inspired by disappointment. Kevin Rabinovich, 24, a freelance event producer, was disappointed with the lack of structure and diversity at such events. During a singles mix in January, he noted that for “anyone who isn’t straight or cis, there’s nothing here.”

CWAQ events are open to people of all gender identities. (Ambyr and We Met IRL both say they aim to host LGBTQ events in the coming months.) They’re also priced on a sliding scale; attendees can enter for free or pay up to $20.

The founders of Ambyr honor their $150 entry fee, which covers an open bar. As Ms. Montasser said, “If you had to go on a date with 10 different people, how much would it cost you?”

Ambyr’s biggest challenge now is gender parity. Ms. Montasser said women make up 75% of the pool of applicants. Both founders regularly seek out men to apply for, but the hunt often comes at the expense of their own love lives.

“We’ll find a really great guy who’s perfect, and we can’t even get him,” Ms Van Ness said. “We’ll send him to Ambyr for the greater good of the company.”

Ms. Montasser agreed. “Now I can’t take a good guy without feeling guilty,” she said.

Towards the end of an event at Primo’s in TriBeCa in late April, Ms. Montasser struck a gold singing bowl (she thinks its vibrations “activate the throat chakra”) to announce that it was time for attendees to choose. their three best dates. Matches would then be connected via email.

One couple, however, opted for the expediency: making themselves comfortable at a table in the next room, where they would finally be alone – and off the clock.