UI startup launches app to reinvent (campus) dating


Photo Courtesy of Josh Jay James

Sylly is a new dating app created by Josh Jay James, senior in Business and Sathwik Reddy, UI alum. The app launched its first beta release on Sunday.

By Jessie Wang, Staff Writer

Dating app Sylly, founded by Sathwik Reddy, a University graduate, and Josh Jay James, senior in Business, launched exclusively for University students on Sunday. 

Sylly requires a University email to register and hopes to address a key problem in the online dating market — poor match-to-date conversion. 

“(Sylly gives) students a time, a place and a person for a date at a local business through something called a swipe session, an event hosted on the app,” Reddy said.

The purpose of the swipe session is to facilitate a date. During these 15 to 20-minute sessions, held at designated times throughout the week, Sylly users swipe through other participants in the session. At the end of the swipe session, the user is given a match to go on a date with one hour afterward. They are also provided suggestions, such as local restaurants, for the date’s location. 

The first swipe session, limited to about 100 invited users, will be held on Friday. After the initial test, the founders hope to expand swipe sessions to relevant events such as Valentine’s Day or Homecoming Weekend. 

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Unlike traditional dating apps, Sylly’s swipe sessions reduce the number of decisions the user has to make. 

“(In a regular dating app), users have to figure out … who to talk to first or who to ask out on a date, and that gets very confusing,” Reddy said. “What we do is (give) one match per swipe session.”

The app does so by identifying the socially optimal set of matches — which are created based on mutual interest — between the session’s participants. 

Because of James’ marketing efforts to attract talent last fall, Sylly recruited a strong team of engineers, marketers and creatives from all over the world, Reddy said. 

“We used that team to build a really well-engineered (product), and there’s very minimal technical debt,” Reddy said. “It’s very scalable. We could launch at any campus in the United States within a 24-hour notice.” 

They plan to slowly add users each day and then expand to a larger audience. Nonetheless, Sylly’s marketing initiatives aim to engage with the  entire campus community. 

“We’re setting up ‘talk to me’ tables … to encourage people to sit down and talk to a stranger,” James said. “We have a lot of fun and content planned as well for social media.”

However, the founders are first focused on evaluating the social impact and the value of the app within the University ecosystem. 

“We’re focused on first launching within our own community, really aggressively collecting feedback … because our target customer is a college student,” Reddy said. “We wanted to really understand what helps them go outside and meet people.”


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