Jjeq0fu6lBqKpEeHn2e-6FfyGF-wYlmO1zokeARymj01After six months of playing matchmaker in Los Angeles, Astrology focused dating app makes its way to New York and San Francisco! ALIGN, the iOS app that identifies who you are compatible with based off your sign aims to restructure the way we date. Seriously! Think about how many times you have dated or even befriended someone you just didn’t groove with it; just to later find out they’re the sign you’ve been known not to get along with. It happens more than you think. And with the old practice of astrology resurfacing with a greater understanding of the meaning behind it, followed by the growing percentage of society looking for the answers to the unknown, it’s essential to surround ourselves with methods that work the way we do.

Last week, I chatted with co-founders Aliza Kelly Faragher and Helen Grossman on everything from how it works to where it came from to the investment side of Align.

Where did the idea of Align come about?
Helen: So, it started because we’re best friends and like most best friends do, we were talking about the guys we were dating. This is about a year and a half ago, we’re in Los Angeles and really the only way to meet people here is to use a dating app. So we were dating these guys and we kept finding ourselves asking the question of, “are we actually compatible with these people?” The conversation kept continually going back to, “Well, what’s his sign?” And it was very inefficient process to go to a Facebook page and scroll all the way down the Facebook page and then find out what sign that was, and then look up the compatibility. We just said, “why can’t we know this information going in? Because we know the patterns of what we like and what we don’t and how that would relate to our future relationship.”

Aliza: So, before we started working on Align, Helen had worked at The Hub, which is actually where we’re working out of now. The Hub is a co-working space for socially conscious entrepreneurs. Helen was doing a lot of consulting and content creation for different start-ups.

I’m from New York and after college I moved back to the city and started working at a VC firm. I then  became an art dealer and moved out to L.A., where I reconnected with Helen. We took our sort of combined knowledge of different spaces and put that in together to start this company.
Helen: Exactly – even though neither of us have a background in astrology, we’ve come to learn a lot about it. We entered this because we had an interest in the field, like so many millennials. There are forty-five million millennials who believe in astrology. That’s a statistic that just came out a year ago. That’s everything from full-on not signing contracts during Mercury in retrograde to, “yeah I know my sign and I’m interested and it’s an interesting thing to keep tabs on”. So we were sort of like the latter.

How does Align work?
Helen: You log in with Facebook, which pulls your name and your email address. Then you put in your birthday, and from you birthday it recognizes your sign, which is your sun sign – your main sign. So, you’re a Libra you put in October 14th and it would know that you’re a Libra and so from there it pulls a list of Libra specific traits which are adjectives and emojis. For each sign there is a list of pre-selected traits that are really specific to that sign. For Libra it’s charming, social, and I think there’s like the smiley face with the hearts emoji. Then from there you create your profile and then you select your preferences. Every day you’re served a constellation of potential matches. So rather than going with swiping or where you have one profile at a time we’re giving an aerial perspective of the sky with yourself in the center of this constellation. The other people surround you in the center – the larger the star is in the profile, the more astrologically compatible you are with them.

Now, everyone in your constellation you’re compatible with correct?
Aliza: We think that all assignment combinations can work. What we want to sort of be mindful of is that you should know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not that we’re better than other dating apps but regardless you should always just understand that people have such different need sets, and different expectations, etc. What’s critical to them is what’s at their core. At this point we’re not going to say, “no, you’re a Libra you would never mesh well with a Cancer.” Of course you can, and of course you can have an amazing relationship. But it just might be you need to be aware of the fact that you’re coming at it from two different places.
Helen: Yeah, we see the gift of astrology as one of self education and self reflection. So if through this process you can learn about how you relate to other people, that gives you enough information to sort of start to relate to people in a more meaningful way. People who you might not see eye to eye with at first but you start to understand like, “oh, you just act this way because you have these kinds of traits.” That’s just who you are at your core and when I know that about you, I know how to relate to you on a different level.

I did see on your site that you have an in house astrologer that you all use. Who is she?
Aliza: Annabel Gat is her name. She does the content for Vice’s new platform Broadly. She also does the content for MTVNews. She’s perfect. She really nails this sort of pop cultural millennial, hyper relevant kind of language that we’re interested in bringing to the forefront.

You started in L.A. and now you’re launching in New York. Why didn’t you launch in both places at first?
Aliza: Well, we just launched with our beta product first. So we wanted to use Los Angeles as a way of being able to test with a smaller group of users. And what we found was that the response was pretty phenomenal with even the beta product.

Helen: Yeah, and it’s sort of interesting when you think about that, technologically speaking: Los Angeles is really the home of a lot of dating apps and a lot of the first dating apps. Tinder is from here. OK Cupid is based here.
Aliza: Eharmony.
Helen: Yeah, and Eharmony. Part of that is Los Angeles’ geography – people are much more willing to try out new products because they have to commit to things in a different way than in other cities. They want to be on the forefront of what’s cool but they also want to date people. But it’s really hard to date people when you’re in Venice and I’m in downtown L.A., and we’re not going to actually meet each other at a bar. I think the thing that was really interesting and cool for us was when we were in New York and we were telling people about our product they were like, “this is really important because you meet so many people in New York everywhere you go.” But this actually provides a platform for you to have more meaningful connections. The first question is already asked, so at the bar you don’t have to ask “What’s your sign?” If you’re embarrassed to ask that, which I get that. I’ve had guys be like. “Uh, nope.” [laughter] Aliza: Yeah and also try busting out like, “so, what time were you born and what location were you born in” on the first date, hah! Which, by the way, is definitely a move I’d do now. They’re like, “No time to chat.” We talk about a lot the fact that fifteen years ago yoga had the same kind of connotations. And people would … If you were going to yoga people would be, “Oh, you’re doing that thing right now?” It’s so esteemed if you do yoga. People are like, “oh, cool, you know how to meditate, and you’re doing all those things.” We hope that we see this pattern in that astrology also has the potential to become that as well.
Helen: We don’t want you to feel like you can’t ask people about it. We know especially because it does have this connotation of being strictly for women – we’ve had people say to us they won’t invest in our company because they think that we don’t believe in science. That’s not how millennials think. The reason why so many millennials believe in astrology is because we’re looking for meaning wherever we can find it. We’re looking for connections, and astrology provides a language for it that makes sense.
Aliza: Right, and it doesn’t discredit psychology. It doesn’t discredit religion, it’s just a different way of being able to think about yourself and your interactions with other people.

When you were looking for investors did you find it difficult being women and with the idea of your?
Aliza: Yeah, we really hope that we’ll have the opportunity to talk about our particular story and being women with a dating app based on astrology. Most female founders are in the retail or eCommerce space. There are not a lot of female founders who are in social platforms. A lot of investors, especially initially, approached us and were like, “so this is it? You’re really into this? This is like your hobby, right?” We were like, “actually we’re not trying to raise X amount of dollars for a hobby project.” We’re raising this because we saw was a market potential. We saw that two hundred million Americans believe in astrology. It’s interesting that the first reaction is, “Oh, you guys want to like, do a little thing.” Rather than, “You want to address a huge market of people.”
Helen: And then there is a double standard as well. Also in our own lives we aren’t going to pursue something that we’re not passionate about you know what I mean? We’re Leos, we don’t act that way, but also we’re dedicating our life to this right. To do that you have to have a certain amount of “I believe in this and I believe in this cause.” So, we have to walk this line of people being like, “Oh, do you believe in astrology?” And if you say no then it’s like, “Well, why are you making this product if you don’t believe, you’re not the right founder for this?” And if you say yes, then they’re like “Oh, you don’t believe in science?”

Do you think it would have been different if one of you were male?
Aliza: Yeah, a hundred percent. I had a gallery in Brooklyn and my business partner was a male. I would notice that in business meetings people would talk to him. Even though we were both sitting there, and hold equal stake in this business people would look at him and talk to him rather than talk to me. And I brought it up to him once, “Did you notice that?” And he was like. “No.” And I was like, “Of course you didn’t.” It’s an uphill battle.
Helen: We have our cheerleaders for sure. There are people who recognize the potential and whom more than share the vision that we have, and that’s really important. It just takes time to find those people who can see you for what you are and for the complexity and nuance of the product we’re creating.