Finding new friends is hard, especially if you’ve graduated and have washed your hands off schools and universities. Sadly, graduation also means you no longer have the luxury of being able to meet new groups of people every semester. There are, thankfully, clubs and groups you can join to get out and socialise with people who have similar interests — be it chess buddies, book club friends, or drinking kakis.
The same cannot be said when it comes to love, however. Finding a potential love interest is a complicated ritual that usually leads to awkward questions and meetups. Two Canadians travelling across Asia found that finding love is somehow even harder in this part of the world. In a bold attempt to simplify the process of finding love, Ken Truong and Eric Wu worked together to develop a new app, Sparka.
We got in touch with the co-founders and got them to clear up some questions we had about this app that plays Cupid.
Another Version Of Tinder?
Looking for love via apps is not a new thing. Tinder has been around for years and is widely known as the go-to app for finding potential partners, or even a one night stand. We wanted to know what Sparka can do that Tinder can’t.
“There are several things that make it different from Tinder,” Ken started. Unlike Tinder, you don’t have to make a choice immediately. Sparka has an Instagram-style scrolling interface that means you don’t have to make a decision immediately. “This also prevents accidental direction swipes,” Ken added.
“In Tinder, users can only chat with each other once they’ve been matched mutually,” Eric said. “Sparka allows users to directly message another user but in a limited messaging form (limited to free 3 messages). The idea behind this is two-fold: firstly, users gets less bombarded by messages and secondly, users can try to connect with exactly who they want, but with messages that may be more quality-based since they only have 3 messages.”
Sparka also offers stickers, a marked difference that sets it apart from Tinder. “Stickers act as icebreakers users can send to each other to lighten the mood. We use local designers to draw the stickers so every set is differently drawn. The artist is displayed on the market screen with a description of the set as well as the artist so users who download the set can see and read the artist’s bio.”
A Safe Dating App
“Asians are extremely busy,” Ken shared, “so much so that they have literally no time to date. Note only that, but many people in KL have expressed that they don’t even know where to go if they wanted to find singles.”
“Existing events either put too much pressure on the people (because of that date aspect), or are very underground and not publicly known,” Eric added. “We were actually travelling around South east Asia the year prior and one thing we discovered was that it was very hard to connect with people, they are generally more shy and quiet compared to North Americans. People here are more willing to talk using a screen rather than in real life.”
“We put an emphasis on making sure we create a safe environment for the users. Users essentially police themselves, if they see anything derogatory, a harmful or just plain bad, they can block that particular user or report it. We want to promote Sparka as a nice, friendly and safe way to meet singles.”
The Conservative Asian Society
We wondered if only particular (less conservative) Asians are the ones using mobile dating while others are more keen to get to know potential dates via personal introductions and face-to-face meetings.
“We think that people would much rather meet a person in front of a screen (virtually) rather than in real life! That way, they are less likely to stumble or accidentally do something embarassing,” Ken shared.
“We would also like to add that more and more Asians are starting to use mobile dating as a means to meet singles. Due to the conservative nature of Asians, mobile dating didn’t really catch on as fast as in North America. Currently though, SE Asia is opening up and dating apps are now starting to gain traction,” Eric said.
Like Tinder But Better?
I gave the app a try. There’s currently only one sticker available on the sticker store, a cute Ickey package that’s available for free. Sadly, since the app is brand new, there is nobody around me to talk to. I did what any good writer keen on trying out an app would do… I got my boyfriend to download the app so we could use it to flirt with each other.
There was one big problem though. Even sitting side by side, we couldn’t find each other on the app.
I maxed out the radius to 500km, amped up the age range to show age between 18-70 and opened up the app to both male and female and found myself a grand total of one cute guy who’s… not my boyfriend. I’ll take what I can get, and used one of my 3 messages on the new person using the app. The app is slightly laggy but the user interface seems easy enough to work with. I am allowed to talk to the person without being mutually matched (as promised). I am a definite fan of the stickers. Like co-founders Ken and Eric said, they are a great way to break the ice.
I still think that there are some kinks to work out, such as unexpected crashes, better discover function, and more stickers! Okay, that last one isn’t a bug, but it’s definitely something to work towards. This additional feature, along with the limited messaging function is what lets Sparka set itself apart from other more well-known dating apps. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what more it has to offer and how the team further improves the app and its services.
Meanwhile, it might be time for you to spark someone’s interest.