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Algorithm, meet matchmaker

COURTESY SAMEER SULLIVAN - Lasting Connections CEO Sameer Sullivan is bringing  classy matchmaking to the masses with her new $299 a month app.Sameera Sullivan has been running Lasting Connections since 2012.

It’s a classic matchmaking service: find busy, wealthy dudes and set them up with eligible single women, and charge them a lot of money. She says her fees range from $25,000 to $150,000, and she has a lot of satisfied clients.

“Oh yeah, people will pay. It depends how much work it’s going to be.”

However she wanted to bring the high touch (high price) service to a more mainstream demographic, and found an app that would do it.

Her firm acquired Alpha Concierge Matchmaking (as in Alpha male), a dating website from Silicon Valley started by serial entrepreneur Ben Way, a Brit now based in San Francisco. She wanted it for the algorithms and the slick design.

“We’ve created a revolutionary matchmaking app. There was a very big hole in the dating industry where there were people who can’t afford the very expensive packages I do for our elite clients. I work with my elite clients one on one,” says Sullivan, who is married. “I used to work with men and women both, now I only work with men.”

That’s what most matchmakers do.

“It makes life easier. Men are the ones who spend that kind of money. These are men who are looking for a relationship and not a gold digger. They have a lot to lose, and they have lost in the previous marriages. I even go to other cities and interview the woman, check their backgrounds, marriage history, how long they’ve been in their job...”

“The everyday professional, they’re tired of Match.com, they’re tired of Tinder. If you’re a busy professional, you don’t have time to go on 20 coffee dates like job interviews to weed out each person. You need a little help.”

The Lasting Connections app lets you upload a 20 second profile video, upload Facebook photos and link to LinkedIn.

Sullivan says the IOS-only app has been growing, for free, over the last four weeks while she adds to her database of 3,500 people. Starting this week (Aug. 25), users can upgrade for a fee, and get assistance from real live matchmakers, based in an office in World Trade Center 1 in downtown Portland. (There will be a web app in October which works the same way as mobile.)

So, a two-ninety nine app? Whaddya got to lose?

Actually, it’s $299. Per month.

“It’s a lot, but people pay $2,200 a year for services like It’s Just Lunch, with a contract. There’s other services people pay for blind dates. Here you get to see who you’re going on a date with. A basic professional can afford $299. This is not for everybody, this is for Nike people, Intel people, even people making $55,000, $60,000 a year. It’s elite matchmaking for the masses.”

A paying member swipes right on 10 likely candidates. Sullivan’s matchmakers look at the choices, and narrow it down to three. They then video interview those women, run background checks, and set up the date (concert tickets, dinner reservations, whatever). They also follow up after the date.

People can stay on the app for free. When they are selected for a date they get what Sullivan calls a “scholarship” for a day, that is, the right to go on the date. This can happen more than once.

Ben Way makes the point that as networks such as Tinder grow it becomes harder to get to the point of actually meeting someone. A lot of likes convert to nothing.

“The technology is a PHP MySQL build with a native Objective Studio wrap around it, and a set of geofencing algorithms to hone the number in the search,” he told the Tribune, sounding a bit like a guy on a first date.

“And for the video service we used PubNub, a real time socket provider, they transmit the data around the world in a very efficient, scalable way, sending tens of thousands of videos around the world without having to expand our infrastructure. The app itself is standard web tech, the real innovation is in the video and the back end membership management.”

That and the real life women on the phone, calling ahead, like mine sweepers.

“We believe that ultimately, when you sit down with a person you can tell more about a person than you can with algorithms,” says Way.