Written by Ong Zhi Yi, Soh Gek Shuen
Photography by Victor Lim
During the Circuit Breaker, many of us took a well-needed breather, spending time on ourselves, our hobbies and with loved ones. For final-year Communication Studies student Beverly Chew, however, nightly Skype sessions with her best friend Shirin gave rise to something bigger. Lamenting over their lacking love lives and the superficial nature of online dating today, Beverly and Shirin decided that things needed to change. That decision marked the beginning of Not.A.Dating.App (NADA).
Pick a date, then find your match. With this system, NADA subverts conventional online dating applications. On typical dating apps, users can spend up to months texting a potential partner only to discover an appalling lack of chemistry when they finally meet. On NADA, however, the first contact users have with their matches already takes the form of a date. Designed for those who yearn for spontaneity and chance in their love lives, NADA opens the door to more meaningful connections.
Users first select an activity of interest from a catalogue of dates on NADA’s Instagram page. NADA then matches users who have selected the same date, taking into account the compatibility of crucial factors such as views on family and religion. Rather than having to sift through hundreds of profiles, users are presented with a single match through a streamlined matching process.
Typical online dating apps require users to make snap judgements of others based on a short biography and a few strategically curated photographs. With a focus on mindful dating instead, NADA gives users the opportunity to hold a real conversation with an individual they are likely to get along with. Users also get to know their matches on a deeper level while bonding over their favourite activities. Even if the date doesn’t work out, at least you’re at your favourite bar or watching a good film!
Established during the Circuit Breaker, NADA kicked off with a series of virtual dates. These included activities such as horoscope readings, Truth or Drink and 36 Questions to Fall in Love. As NADA gained traction, it expanded its outreach in the post-Circuit Breaker period with physical dates held in collaboration with restaurants such as Old Habits and Wild Olive Branch. More recently still, NADA played host to Singapore’s largest online dating seminar. Over 120 participants turned up for the speed dating session and benefitted from coaching by love gurus from The Style Atelier.
Over the course of 11 months, NADA has come a long way, having set up its very own physical space in Katong just last December. The cosy space is now home to in-house dates, where users can engage in art jamming and play board games together. The journey has definitely not been without hiccups, but these challenges are meaningful to Beverly and her team.
“There were so many obstacles we didn’t anticipate,” Beverly recalls with a laugh. “For example, we wanted to do cement flooring, so we hacked the floor tiles, only to realise that the floor wasn’t suitable for cement!” The team managed to overcome such obstacles with the help of Beverly’s parents, whom she is grateful to have grown closer to during the process.
NADA has also grown largely due to the generous support of mentors and seniors from NTU’s Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme (OEP), whom Beverly describes as guardian angels. Participating in the OEP Pitch Day also provided the team with funding to keep the project going.
Looking back on their year-long journey, NADA has exceeded Beverly’s wildest dreams. What started as a late-night rant with her best friend took off as a platform that has turned online dating on its head.
If you have a passion for something, just go for it. You never know what could come out of it.
Beverly has been featured as part of our Humans of NTU series, where we spotlight NTU undergraduates and their passion projects. From environmental startups to dating services, these individuals truly bring out the diversity and innovation of the NTU spirit. Check the rest of them out on our website!