A St. Petersburg-based entrepreneur has launched a virtual wingman – or woman – to help individuals make a memorable first impression and stand out in a crowd.
Tyler Henkel realized that men often flood dating app inboxes with similar, unimaginative messages that often go ignored. He created WingAI, a mobile application that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to provide personalized, attention-grabbing icebreakers more likely to spark a connection.
A web-based prototype opened in February, and Henkel and his team gathered data and feedback ahead of the mobile launch in June. They found that over 80% of WingAI-generated messages receive a response, more than double the 40% industry average.
“There’s a lot of guys that you’re competing with that are also sending messages,” Henkel said. “So, I noticed that you really need to take the time to make something stand out with your message – and a lot of guys were doing a terrible job at that.”
After identifying the problem through anecdotal evidence and personal experience, he decided to use his tech and analytics background to create a solution. Henkel realized the timing was right when Open AI launched its artificial intelligence chatbot, ChatGPT, in November 2022.
He explained that AI can now adequately understand language and visual cues to provide creative, personalized messages. WingAI users upload a screenshot of a dating app profile, and the platform’s algorithms analyze the photos and biography to generate tailored and engaging opening lines.
“Maybe you’ll edit them to add your own touch to it,” Henkel said. “But it gives you those suggestions that you can easily use or modify to send a message.”
He noted that many people lack the time to create witty, unique notes for each dating app match. It is also likely to still go unread, Henkel added, especially if it is their first attempt at starting a conversation.
Henkel said WingAI enables people to send “playful “messages more likely to earn a response without the time investment. He likened it to an AI dating assistant or coach that also helps users optimize their profiles and showcase their best traits.
Henkel said dating apps get a bad rap because the results are typically not worth the effort. However, the platforms are still extremely popular, and he believes WingAI can help people stand out in a crowded environment.
The app is compatible with all major dating sites and is now available for download in the Apple store. An Android version is on the way, and anyone can use the web-based platform.
The basic service is free, and Henkel noted the app boasts a five-star rating. Users can upgrade to a premium plan that offers personalized coaching and profile optimization tools.
“As we continue to build this, we’re going to add more features that are just going to make it easier and easier to level up your dating experience,” Henkel said. “And hopefully, find a connection with a significant other that you would really value.”
Henkel moved to St. Petersburg from Salt Lake City in 2022 to be closer to his family. He called St. Pete’s entrepreneurial community “powerful” and noted the preponderance of people wanting to connect and build together.
He added that the city’s unique environment fosters tech growth, and Henkel founded WingAI’s parent startup, Ignition Dating, after moving to the area. He worked as a software engineer in the financial technology industry in Salt Lake City and created an AI-based NFT collection featured on Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Action and Ambition” podcast.
Henkel continues working in the NFT and cryptocurrency space while growing WingAI. He said user feedback is resoundingly positive, and the platform’s capabilities will increase as the technology matures.
“Our goal with this app is to try and get you not using it as quickly as possible,” Henkel said. “We’d like you to end up in a relationship and move on and not have to use the app again.”