Matchmaker gets up to date

money-glitz | 26 Mar 2018

Joyce Chen

Hong Kong singles need to be less decisive and be more vulnerable when it comes to dating, the chief executive of Lunch Actually Violet Lim advises.

As the founder of the first lunch and date company in Asia, Lim finds that Hongkongers rush to decide on a possible second date even if they have barely got to know each other.

"I think it's a bit premature. Based on many dates we have arranged and successful couples we have seen, my advice is always that, if the first date was ok, it doesn't need to be fantastic, go on a second date."

Also, singles in the city are reluctant to open up about themselves and to act vulnerable.

"I think the challenge is, if you want to fall in love, if you want a relationship, you need to be able to be vulnerable, you need to remove that wall," the experienced matchmaker suggests.

But Lim has also found some interesting things about those eager for dates in the city.

Based on a survey by Lunch Actually, Hong Kong women are more open to males who have a lower education level compared with them, or those who earn less. Lim believes this may be because of the gender imbalance in the city.

Lunch Actually, which started in 2014 in Singapore, operates a mobile dating application LunchClick, a quiz-based matching site Esync, and the offline Lunch Actually Academy, which offers coaching on dating.

A site using artificial intelligence, VIOLA.AI, is to be introduced this year. Lim says dating platforms need to go to the next level with information technology.

VIOLA.AI, which adopts artificial intelligence and blockchain, does not only match users with their Mr Right and Mrs Right, but also give dating advice.

"After being in the industry for a while, we realized that finding the right one is not just about meeting the right one, it is also about being the right one and choosing the right one as well. That is what most of the dating platforms do not provide, and we feel there is a gap," Lim says, adding that many people refuse professional help on personal issues.

"We feel that, with AI, which is just an app on a person's phone, it is very confidential [It] is where they can start and feel more comfortable to reach out."

The ultimate goal for VIOLA.AI is to evolve with users, that is, after guidance by AI, users will be able to go from being single, to dating, and hopefully getting married.

Lim admits that time will be taken to train AI, so at first, the site will have questions answered by dating experts or even community members.

However, unlike other Q&A forums which normally only give a "best answer" award, VIOLA.AI will give tokens that can be used to buy gifts, or flowers.

Blockchain will be used in the app to prevent scammers and bot chatting, which she claims is a "billion-dollar industry."

"This is a deep, dark, dirty industry secret. There are quite a number of dating sites or even mobile dating apps that created bots to chat with users ... Because they want to get users to subscribe," Lim says.

VIOLA.AI decided to hedge information that has been identified with real identification and social media into blockchain.

Lim says that a matchmaking firm in New York has signed a partnership with Lunch Actually for the app.

Lunch Actually is not yet prepared to give up its offline personal dating coaching school, Lunch Actually Academy. "We foresee that of course there will be people just happy to interact with AI, but there are also those who still prefer face-to-face interaction," Lim says.

The academy charges between HK$10,000 and HK$40,000, depending on the number of sessions.

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