Brad Brenner had no prior experience working in app development, but the psychologist with a private practice in D.C. just couldn't turn down the chance to help develop a matchmaking app for gay men.
''One thing that I love about my job is I get to help people become what they want to in life,'' Brenner says. ''With this opportunity, I could potentially help a lot of people find these great connections that they might not have otherwise.''
Brenner is talking about the app Stagg, for which he's tapping into his psychological expertise to help match gay men. ''As psychologists,'' he says, ''what we know helps form relationships, whether they're friendships or long-term romantic relationships,'' depends on four variables. This goes beyond proximity and attraction, which current apps such as Grindr and Scruff have mastered, to include similarity and compatibility. Brenner says Stagg's custom-made algorithm will work off of an initial assessment and regular quizzes to match users based on those two variables, going beyond even what Match.com or eHarmony offer.
''Most compatibility algorithms are based on either 'birds of a feather,' the similarity approach, or 'opposites attract,''' Brenner explains. ''Our algorithm is basically able to do both.'' It'll be completely customized to the person, depending on how similar or how different the user specifies he wants in a matchup.
An early iteration of the app has been available for a while, but Brenner says they're working to finalize a more advanced version. Brenner and his fellow D.C.-based developers will launch an Indiegogo capital campaign this Friday, Feb. 14, with a party at JR.'s.
''What better night to kick off the efforts for a gay dating app than Valentine's Day?'' asks Mike LaRosa, a business consultant planning the party, which is billed as an anti-Valentine's Single Awareness Day event. In addition to Stagg T-shirts, giveaways including free personal coaching sessions with the local matchmaking company Gay Love Project, and a heart piñata filled with goodies intended especially for ''someone feeling rather scorned that evening,'' the Stagg party at JR.'s will include games of Valentine's Day-themed trivia, led by Brock Thompson. They've also instructed the VJ for the night to play singles-oriented videos and comedy clips, as well as Stagg's new humorous Web commercial that local filmmaker Wes Culwell shot last weekend.
Brenner says the new-and-improved Stagg will launch in a few months using the same ''freemium'' model of its competitors, meaning there'll be an ad-supported free version, but users will have to pay for the best features. Among these is one they're calling ''Serendipity,'' which will work off of the app's algorithm to alert a user – ''like a tap on the shoulder'' – when there's another promising user who appears close and compatible.
What if you're on a date at that precise moment? Brenner laughs at the suggestion: ''It'll be user discretion whether you respond or not.''
The Stagg launch party is Friday, Feb. 14, starting around 8 p.m., at JR.'s, 1519 17th St. NW. Call 202-328-0090 or visit facebook.com/JRsBarDC.