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Siren founder Susie Lee (left) and designer Katrina Hess. Photo by Lance Mercer.

There is a plethora of online dating websites and apps in what has become a $2 billion market. Match.com. Tinder. Grouper. How About We. OKCupid. Coffee Meets Bagel. The list goes on and on.

But Seattle entrepreneur Susie Lee thinks there’s room for another one — a unique tool that lets women make the first move and takes inspiration from Lee’s experience as a respected contemporary digital artist.

Arriving in the App Store this week is Siren, a dating app that gives power to women and ditches the notion of “matching” that is the focus of today’s popular dating services.

“We’ve created the first mobile platform designed for unexpected and constructive flirting,” Lee tells GeekWire.

Lee, who has degrees in molecular biophysics, biochemistry, secondary science education, and ceramics from schools including Yale and Columbia, was inspired to build Siren after she pinpointed several inefficiencies in the online dating market — which she describes as “inane and infantile in its intrinsic design.”

“On all dating sites, there was immediate discomfort, like women were pinned insects under a spotlight,” explained Lee. “At the same time, the seemingly endless ‘choices’ felt like eating a giant box of cereal where you’re not sated, but you’ve gotten tired of eating. None of the sites incorporated the serendipity or peripheral discovery that had been central to meeting the past men in my life.”

siren321Here’s how Siren works. A user’s profile is generated over time through responses to daily questions and video challenges (generated by local cultural icons and businesses) designed to reveal qualities of each person. Lee calls them “conversation starters” that are fun to answer. Examples include “what’s a hidden gem in Seattle?” or, “what did you want to be when you were a child?”

“You are highlighting the best part of yourself with authenticity,” Lee said.

While both men and women compile their profiles in the same way, only females are allowed to make the first move if they are interested in another user. This gives a woman control of her visibility and maintains a certain level of safety because, as Lee puts it, “if women don’t feel safe, they’re not going to stick around in that space.”

Another unique aspect of Siren: Women can elicit a “Siren Call,” which puts out notifications to a select group of men who are up to meet in the moment.

With the way profiles are built organically, and how the power of matching is given to women, Siren focuses on two dominant themes: Fun and safety.

“We’ve created a space for our community to feel safe opening up to discover the spontaneous charm of others that makes us smile,” Lee said.

When Lee explains Siren’s philosophy, she uses a real-life party analogy to compare the app to her competition. Sites like Match.com, she says, are like parties that require a 10-page interview form to be completed before you even arrive.

siren332“And then the host would tell you that you’re only allowed to talk to six people, who would then give you another 3-page form to fill out,” Lee added.

Then there’s the new crop of “hot or not” apps like Tinder that let users approve potential matches by looking at a few pictures. Lee said these sites are like judging potential invitees of a party in your sweats, with little chance you’re going to get off the couch, change your clothes, and actually attend the event.

So what is Siren like, in comparison?

“Siren is the party where you’ve replied to an invitation that you’re looking forward to, and it’s in a beautiful space,” Lee said. “You enter and get a chance to survey the surroundings, then at some point, someone mentions that he just read a piece by Alice Munro, and you love Alice Munro, and then he quips that 22 seconds is about how much time he can focus on reading nowadays, which makes you laugh. And there’s a charge in the room filled with all this civilized flirting.”

Siren was built by five employees and the company has raised $410,000. Plans to reel in revenue include a sponsored “Question of the Day,” and in-app purchases, along with a membership program.

The app is free to download, but you’ll need an invite code that you can request from Lee at susie@siren.mobi. An Android version is set to debut in October, and plans are in the works for a version that will address the LGBTQ audience as well.

Comments

  • Troy

    Equality. Try that. Regardless of what women say and fear they still want the man to make the first move.

    • Siren

      So we hope, Troy, that you advocate for gender equality in all realms, including professionally, legally, and socially. (And a first move for a woman on Siren is akin to making eye contact or smiling at a guy. That does happen in the real world…)

      • Testing324

        LOL. Smiling and/or eye contact is not a move, but the appendix of language so primitive that it no longer has significance. Rating me highly on OKCupid isn’t even a move; sending me a message is.

        A move requires putting on your big girl panties and having the courage to start a conversation with someone (which I know is scary for you); understanding that you may or may not be rejected. Sitting across the room and wanting someone to come over to talk to you is childish, and no high quality man will ever be attracted to a low quality woman who doesn’t have the spine to pursue her own dreams. A high quality man wants a grown woman, not a passive aggressive child.

        There are those in this world who want something and make the moves to get it, and there are those who cry inequality when it doesn’t fall in their lap. Are you sure you’re equal?

        • Linden

          Someone who classifies himself as a “high quality man” and describes other women as high or low quality, has issues no dating app can fix.

          • Testing324

            You seriously lack reading comprehension. Please quote where I classified myself, or anyone in particular, as high or low quality. I stated a fact, and it’s one you can’t handle for some insecure reason.

  • techgloomanddoom

    You don’t have to have an APP to flirt with me…

    Another Hi-Tech FAIL coming…

    • Siren

      It’s never a “fail” in our book if something starts a dialogue and tries to problem-solve. We’re not afraid to try!

  • Jake Z

    Sirens used to call men to the rocky shores. The siren song lured sailors to their impending death. Doesn’t really inspire a lot of confidence in safely and constructive relationship building. Maybe you should have tried “succubus”?

    • Siren

      Nice call on remembering Greek mythology, Jake! We’re definitely emphasizing a “calling out,” and far less on the “impending death.” It’s a playful take on the idea, not a death march to the narrative end. :-)

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  • Mauricio NewCherry

    Oh! man We been looking for this App every since I saw it announced on the news komo

  • Kenny

    This will be the perfect dating app…for Lesbians.

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