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Meet the two women answering the ‘$1 million’ dating question

Elisse Alexander and Melanie Leahy smiling, standing back-to-back. Couple kiss with faces hidden by bouquet of flowers.
Elisse Alexander and Melanie Leahy want to change the dating game. (Images: Supplied, Getty).

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Using a dating app can be a soul crushing experience.

In amongst the forced banter, shirtless pictures and the ‘I just caught this absolutely huge fish’ poses, on a bad day there’s also the potential for disappointment, boredom and rejection.

But as dating app Ziinkle co-founder Melanie Leahy discovered when she re-entered the dating scene in 2019, the real problem was matching with dozens of people, but only going out on a date with one or two.

And when she went on those dates, after weeks of talking on the apps, conversation often stalled in real life.


While the apps were great at introducing Leahy to single men in her area, they fell short when it came to forging genuine connections.

“What was really lacking on those platforms was being able to have that organic connection with someone because I just felt really disposable, there was such a lack of connection, and a lot of surface level chit chat that really just didn't lead anywhere,” she told Yahoo Finance.

“For me, I was just at a point where I really just wanted to meet someone in real life and assess the chemistry and the attraction, and all of those things that you just can't do with a digital profile.”

‘I’m going to become the ultimate wing-woman’

At the time, Leahy was working with now-business partner and close friend Elisse Alexander who decided it was time to step in.

Alexander was appalled at Leahy’s dating stories, and set out to become the “ultimate wing-woman”.

“I was experiencing the same frustrations that Mel was experiencing vicariously,” she said.

She’d weigh in on Leahy’s swipes and would get equally annoyed at some of the experiences.

“I made it my mission to get Mel out, and the game was to go out and meet people our age.”

The two set out to crack the dating code: where could they find the most eligible and age appropriate men at any given time, who were also interested in meeting women?

Over lunch breaks and after work drinks, they would trawl through their friends’ Instagram stories and posts to figure out the vibe at different places.

Then, they would hit them up, assess the scene and move on if needed.

“[As a society] we want to connect with people in real life, in person. And it’s really the only way that you can assess that chemistry and that connection and that attraction,” Leahy said.

That’s when the idea hit them: what if there was a dating app that also told users where the best place was on any given night to meet single people?

And that’s how Ziinkle was born.

A new app hoping to change the dating game

Ziinkle is a dating app with the usual match and chat functions, but with an added detail. On any given night, users could choose to see the venues where other people were mingling.

For example, in Sydney’s Surry Hills, users could log on and decide if they wanted to go out. Then, they could choose to use the check in feature to see where people were.

This feature has three settings: anonymous, which allows users to show that they’re in a venue, but not give away any details about who they are beyond generic age and sex data, visible, which allows users to show their profile and that they are at the venue, and incognito, which would mean the venue wouldn’t register as having that user there.

Then, once users were at the venue, they could choose to signal their interest via the app, or approach people in a more organic way.

There is also a validation feature, allowing users to request a short video proving they are who they say they are, before joining each other for a drink.

“We did a survey of 700 people and overwhelmingly the result was, ‘We need this’. There’s so much dating app and swipe fatigue, and people are just over meeting people online, especially now we’re locked down,” Alexander said.

The vast majority (84 per cent) of Millennials would rather ditch the apps and date in real life, a 2018 survey by polling platform The Tylt also found.

Ziinkle is now in the fundraising stage, and is taking expressions of interest on the Birchal equity crowdfunding platform.

The dating app will become the first ever dating app to offer prospective users the opportunity to invest.

“We know from our competitors' success what’s possible by reimagining dating, so, we decided to give people the opportunity to get in on the ground floor,” Leahy said.

The funds raised will go towards developing a fully functioning app from the prototype and supporting the Australian launch.

For Leahy, however, her personal need for Ziinkle has all but evaporated. She’s happy to report that she met her new partner at a bar, in real life.

Sign up to the Women’s Money Movement newsletter to find out why more female-led businesses like Ziinkle are turning to equity crowdfunding.

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