On the face of it Hitch is just like any other 'trendy' start up in London. Offices a stones throw from Shoreditch, staff who are depressingly young; still buzzing with ambition, drive and a naive sense of hope against being swallowed by this intoxicating city. And, a fondness for throwing meetings in stark little coffee shops, with furniture so uncomfortable, you wonder whether all hipster carry secret cushions in their mandatory back-packs...
Another start up, building another breed of an over done app, of which upon my first discovery forced me to roll my eyes and ask the empty room: 'Why the hell do we need another dating app?'
But what about a dating app with no mass swiping, no selfies, no prospect of hooking up with strangers and no algorithms claiming to know how to match you?
Ok, this got my attention, I was back in and arranged to meet the team for an interview to find out about the app currently setting up singles with mutual friends in 50 countries around the world.
Hitch believe in one simple idea: 'Friends Know Better'. So I wanted to meet the matchmakers behind the only app, where your friends find you the dates, to discover why they believe Hitch actually works.
Meeting Anton Gu the founder of Hitch, originally from Russia but now practically a native on our soil, I could tell that for him, Hitch is more than just another dating app. He really believes in the idea of finding love through your friends. And why's that? Because he only went and flipping did it himself!
“The reason I came up with Hitch is really simple. I needed it. I went out to a gig one night with some friends and one of them invited this girl who I ‘d never met. But once I saw her I knew I wanted to. The problem was we were at a gig! We didn’t get a chance to talk and she left before I could get her number. I realised I had no way to get in touch, without being that creepy guy, who found her on Facebook or asked a friend for her number. There was nothing like Hitch to introduce us! So I had to make it myself.”
This really isn’t just another mindless piece of hook-up technology designed to draw in mass users and eventually charge a subscription fee. if you haven't seen Hitch yet here's a little crash course.
1) Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play
2) Find friends through Facebook that you want to 'Hitch'
3) Set them up with a 'Hitch'. They'll be anonymous to each other, all they'll know is that they have you and potentially a whole bunch of stuff in common!
Simple! And you can get Match-made too!
Along with Anton I also met with Yaz and Lavinia, the girls behind Hitch's marketing, Facebook, Twitter and basically the running of things down at Hitch HQ. Bright, bubbly, blonde and both in relationships they told me how they'd both met their guys through mutual friends.
"It was at Uni, and we just had the same group of friends. It was so much easier back then, I don't think you can really have that same experience in London"
Yaz told me, explaining how she feels so lucky that she's not single in the city.
"It's just so much harder to meet in the right person in London as usually you've moved away from your hometown, old friends and family. So, you don't have that same network of people around you to introduce you to new people and the people that you're likely to get on with."
Added Lavinia as we got talking about how it's almost impossible to meet a real person in the city. It's true that we all default into using these apps, mindlessly swiping because actually we're all a bit scared of approaching someone in the 3D world. The swiping game is just easy and acceptable and non committal. When I asked Anton what he thought about Tinder, undoubtedly still the heavy weight in the dating app arena, he just smiled and shook his head:
"The real difference between us and Tinder is actually that we get results. Sure we don't have as many users but we find that the ones we do have are actually chatting to their Hitches and making a connection. 80% of Hitches result in conversation because these people are being set up by their friends who know them. But when you look at Tinder, sure there are tons of matches but the percentage of people who actually meet up or even just start a conversation on the app is tiny by comparison. Hitch has a much stronger success rate for its users."
It's something I've always had problem with when venturing into my own pool of tinder matches; endless streams of possibility and hookups deter you from committing time to just one profile picture. I never talk to just one guy there are always a few flat non conversations happening in the background. And I can't say anything particularly special or long lasting has sprung out of Tinder or similar apps.
"Tinder is a bit like Netflix for relationship"
Joked Anton, and it's true. How many Sunday nights have I scrolled through slightly disappointing film options with one hand whilst passively swiping with the other?
I asked the guys if they'd ever set their friends up in real life to which Yaz nodded enthusiastically, leaning in to tell me how excited she was for two of her mutual friends to meet up soon!
"I've just got to get them in the same room, I know they'll hit it off. They're just both the same type of people. I'm going to have to coax them both onto the app ASAP!"
I stayed to chat to the girls a while longer, sipping a cappuccino which Anton had kindly bought me, whilst wriggling on a classically uncomfortable stool. Anton needed to head back to the office, apparently dating apps don't run themselves!
So I asked the girls why they thought people would take the time to set up their friends and their answers really surprised me. I'd assumed that the entire population of London, single or otherwise was extremely selfish, much like myself... But the girls told me (here's where I was shocked) people are nice! Once people start Hitching and see results with their friend,s the girls said, users tend to set up more and more people.
"I love meddling!"
Laughed Lavinia and Yaz went on to explain that there's just nothing out there for people in relationships to get involved with dating apps.
"I love grabbing my friends Tinder and trying to pick guys for them"
Said Lavinia, and I began to think about my own coupled up friends, so nosey, so eager to get their hands on my iPhone to swipe and stalk potential dates for me. Hitch actually allows coupled up users to get involved in a safe 'I'm not going to get dumped' kind of way.
As I made my way back through grey and rainy Shoreditch my mind was firmly on the app. I'm converted I think. The next step will be getting Hitched up with someone myself which I'm looking forward to telling you guys about!
Not just another dating app but a platform for intuitive matches led by friends, safe dating and successful set ups. Hitch seems to be a kind of throw back to a classic dating mode. It's side stepping the shallow and mass swipe community who use dating apps as a hunting ground in favour of bringing together social groups and singles who are more likely to 'click'.
Now sat in a coffee shop; another afternoon of pretending to be a cliched writer in a cliche Shoreditch cafe, I find my mind wandering. Thinking about all the times I've met guys and not been quite sure but dated them anyway. Eventually introducing them to my friends and deep down being terrified because I knew something wasn't quite right. Then after we broke up the girls coming over to console me and help me delete the fuckwit from Facebook and block him on Twitter. Take my phone away to destroy all evidence of his existence. And eventually the conversation would fold into 'I knew he wasn't right for you'. And I would nod and accept defeat, because I knew they were right.
'Friends Know Better'