University student launches on-campus dating website

Kerong Kelly


University student and budding entrepreneur Bryan Richman ’14 launched “SharedSpark,” an online dating website open only to University students, on Sept. 15.

Richman, a management major at the University, in collaboration with his friends JJ Augenbraun, a recent graduate from Williams College, and Russell Toris, a Ph.D. student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, developed the idea.

In the fall of 2012, Richman proposed his “sharedspark” idea in front of a panel of alumni judges. As the winner of the first annual Business Pitch Competition, sponsored by the University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Richman and his friends were able to use the $1,500 prize money to create a working prototype for what they had envisioned.

Before entering the competition, Richman ran a market research survey. The results of his survey showed that out of 250 University students, 53 percent said they would be interested in a dating site such as the one Richman proposed.

SharedSpark is a registered not-for-profit business, though eventually Richman and his team would like to transform SharedSpark into a for-profit business. As of now, the total cost of this startup-up was less than $5,000.

“We are not trying to make money off of a product people haven’t seen before and are skeptical about. We’re just trying to make the product better and the only way to do that is to get users. The way to get users is to make it accessible,” Richman said.

The website itself is exclusively geared toward current University students and recent alumni. Users create a profile using their student e-mail addresses to ensure their authenticity. After entering general information such as class year and major, the user then proceeds to find a person. After selecting a profile, the options “fling” or “date” appear.

This simple process keeps both parties’ phone numbers locked unless they show mutual interest by selecting the same combination of either fling or date. A “shared spark” results when there is a mutual selection of both parties involved. The website then suggests local venues, such as downtown Lewisburg restaurants or Bison sporting events.

“What makes SharedSpark different is that it helps you enhance relationships you already have rather than just browsing until you find someone you think is attractive,” Richman said.

In the first two days following its launch, the site attracted over 100 users.

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