Making Love Better with Data: Meet IceBreak, the Social Network for Couples – we interview the founder

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We’re familiar with the idea of websites that help you get hot dates but what about ones that let you keep them, nurture them and have loving relationships with them?

Not so many websites offer that. In fact, I’d never heard of one that did until I got an email about new site – The IceBreak. That’s what it does. But can data, some nice graphs and another social network really help humans in their age old struggle to get on with each other and be better partners?

Data has had a transformative impact on lots of human problems: medical care, policy planning and your love-life is next.

For example Icebreak lets you plot graphs of how your communication correlates with your sex life or how your personal time alone correlates with your overall happiness.

It’s a new concept. We asked founder Christina to explain a bit more.

Christina A Brodbeck CEO & co-founder
Dwipal Desai CTO & co-founder

Where did the idea for The Icebreaker come from?
We started off with a dating site based on shared interested, called Pickv.com but realised you can only go so far as a dating site – for instance when two users get together, you lose them as customers.

And then engagment is low on dating sites and it’s very hard to get women to join and unless you have a lot of women you don’t get any men. So we had a brainstorm on how we could solve these issues – and that led to the idea of Icebreak. We thought we’d focus on this from the other end – people already together.

What backgrounds do you and Dwipal come from?
So both of us were at Youtube. I left in August 2009, Dwipal in September 2009. We were both in there from the beginning, so I was pretty much Youtube’s first user interface designer. The first years I worked on the dotcom site and the last couple of years I was there I switched to mobile and led the User Interface team for Youtube mobile.

Dwipal was one of the earliest engineers for Youtube and he did the same thing – for a couple of years he worked on the desktop site, doing front-facing things like channels, comments – stuff like that, groups. And then he switched into product management and he managed the mobile apps for iPhone and Android

We see the business sense. But does it make sense from a human point of view to use a social networking site to solve relationship problems?
I think people already spend a lot of time online. Already you have people communicating with their significant others on Facebook and so on. We’re taking the positive things that people have in their real-world relationships and then bringing them online and enhancing them at the same time.

DWIPAL: And we’ve been seeing that happen, both Christina and I have been trying this out. I’m married and she’s in a relationship, and what happens on there actually converts into real world conversations..

I’ll answer a question about something on Icebreaker – and my wife will be like “really? is that what you think?” And then we have this one hour talk about it. It’s actually very interesting that it starts real world conversations.

CHRISTINA: It solves issues too. I like my condo to be really hot. And my boyfriend doesn’t like it so hot so for many many years we have had this discussion about the temperature and one of the Icebreaker questions was “What is something that your partner can do for you?” and he said- keep the house at a certain temperature. So I’ve left it there.. and he’s much happier.

It resulted in a real conversation and a real action

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So do you find that you and other users will say different things on The Icebreaker than you would on email or Twitter or Facebook?
So a lot of what we do on the Icebreaker is suggesting stuff. We pose a question and give you space to answer. It’s something that you might not be thinking about on a long-term basis so we start that conversation. That conversation might happen online but we give you a suggestion to start with.

Where do The Icebreaker’s questions come from? Have you talked to relationship therapists?
We have this philosophy on the site that it’s about communication, perfection or excitement – and all the features that we build have to in some way improve on one of those three areas. Then we work with a relationship adviser who was really helpful in coming up with those areas. The questions too – we work with her jointly to come up with those.
So it’s grounded in therapy that has been approved and exists already?
Yes.

You use data to help people with their relationships. What kind of data do you give your users? And why is it useful to them?
There are seven questions that we ask you once a week: from your satisfaction level with your overall relationship happiness, your communication, the personal time that you’ve been having alone, to quality time that you’ve spent together.

So we give you the results of that as several different charts and stats, one of them is that we give you trend charts on how your happiness with the different areas changes from week to week in the relationship. Then you can see how you compare to other couples in your demographic.

One nice thing you can do is see how different things affect other areas of your life. For example how does our communication affect our sex life? Or: are we happier when we have more personal time alone, or when we have more quality time together? So you can plot various things against each other.

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What are the icebreaker questions?
So that’s questions about you, your partner, your partner’s personality or your relationship. So things like: What was your first impression of your partner? What is something that you can help your partner with in the next 30 days?

Any outlandish or crazy ones?
[laughs] It depends. Some are more naughty and more sexual and some are more light-hearted and fun. It’s a wide variety.

What are The Icebreaker’s plans for the future?
We want to expand to more locations internationally. First priority is to get the site as good as possible and to make our users as happy as possible. Mobile is coming soon. A lot of our content is very snack-sized and it will let you do things like upload moments on the go.

What’s a moment?
Once a day we suggest a new moment that you could capture, for example something that made you smile and then you can share that moment with your partner, so they can get a glimpse of what your day is like and you can stay close to them throughout the day. It goes onto your private wall between you and your partner.

How do you guys make money? It’s free to join
Right now, everything is free. We have a system on the site called Date Night Coins.. so when the user does something on the site, they earn date night coins and in the future they’ll be able to cash those in for rewards and discounts and things like that.

Rewards and discounts for what? local businesses?
Yes or even virtual things – virtual flowers and things like that. Things related to relationships. We haven’t launched it yet, but you can earn date night coins from now. Then we plan to offer gift recommendations for holidays, birthdays, things like that.
In the future we really want to have a premium subscription. Which could offer you much more tailored relationship advice according to your needs.


Interested? Check it out here: The IceBreak

Anna Leach

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