The gamified video dating app was created out of the e@UBC program
The pitch for IRLY vaguely reminds one of those ‘90s informercial ads that demand the person staring at the screen jump to attention. “Are you TIRED of all these dating apps that are inauthentic, full of SCAMS and completely BORING? Well, you should try IRLY.”
In fact, the actual pitch given to me over a video screen by IRLY (I Really Like You) co-founders Connor Rose and Laura Rollock is a lot more engaging than that. Rose started working on IRLY, a gamified video dating app, while at the e@UBC program, and collaborated with Rollock, a graphic designer at Toronto Metropolitan University, to bring it to life.
A couple years and some high-profile investors and board members later and IRLY is set on a winter 2023 launch. “Gen Z is very frustrated,” says Rose. “They hate texting, they feel like their personality is too big for dating apps. We saw a major issue here—we want to bring magic back to dating and let people connect in a more organic way.”
IRLY allows users to chat over video while playing games like Pictionary and Tic-Tac-Toe (Hangman was deemed “not romantic enough”), as Rose notes that often the most successful dates are those with something else involved other than just two people talking. “It’s a lot more immersive,” he says. “You connect with people on a deeper level.”
The pair also brought in another co-founder in Cameron Dallas—a social media star who has helped spread the word about the brand—as well as the aforementioned board and investors which includes Chris Kaufman, co-founder of online culture marketplace StockX. IRLY and its team of 15 has already raised some $475,000.
Though Rose has since moved back to his native Toronto, he wants to credit the e@UBC team for helping him get the venture off the ground. He particularly gives thanks to one of the program’s leads, Fraser Pogue. “He was massively helpful in helping us find investors,” says Rose. “He’s been with us for a long time and we meet with him every week.” Even though Rose and Rollock are both based in Toronto now, the app will be officially launching both there and in Vancouver at the same time.
Asked whether he thinks the online dating space could prove too competitive for a newcomer to make a real impact in, Rose makes the case for IRLY. “This exact thing in Canada is relatively novel,” he says, noting that IRLY sometimes gets confused with Vancouver-based Snack, which he calls “kind of like TikTok for dating. It’s completely different.”
He does, however, acknowledge that it won’t be easy. “It’s definitely a competitive space. The legacy apps are huge. But we’re going to give it a valiant effort.”