Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: Ben Mussi finds love in creating the Seattle Courting App, a localized instrument for singles

Ben Mussi meets a cupid decked out in the same color scheme of his Seattle Dating App while vacationing in Spain this summer. (Seattle Dating App Photo)

Ben Mussi is single in Seattle, and hasn’t been dating much at all lately because he’s been busy building a dating app for singles in Seattle.

But there’s hope for Mussi — and the love lives of others who call Seattle home — as his Seattle Dating App officially launched on Thursday with the intention of reimagining the way people use apps to connect with other people.

Mussi, our latest Geek of the Week, has lived in Seattle for about 15 years. He’s an IT manager by day, with a degree in Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineering from MIT and a Master of Business Administration from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.

Before starting work on his own app, Mussi was single for about a year and half and used a number of the big, popular apps such as Tinder, OKCupid and Hinge to meet people. But he wasn’t satisfied with the experience and set out to build something better.

“In my opinion, the Seattle Dating App has an elegant, world-class look to it,” Mussi said. “I also love the schedule feature that only shows people who are available when you are and the neighborhood feature that only shows people in specific areas you pick. These features make the Seattle Dating App more efficient than other apps because you save time only swiping and chatting with people who can be available when and where you are.”

(Seattle Dating App screen shots)

Those features were crowd-selected by Instagram users with a hyper-local focus, targeting 65 neighborhoods across the region. Advertising and in-app purchases will fuel the revenue, with the app designed to help local businesses and event promoters connect with the dating community by framing their offerings as date ideas rather than as advertisements.

“If one thinks of the big dating apps like the big beer companies from the 1900’s, the Seattle Dating App is like the microbreweries that disrupted their dominance by catering to local tastes and preferences,” Mussi said.

The Seattle Dating App team consists of Mussi along with five people working on tech aspects and two on marketing. There are also beta testers and brand ambassadors around the Seattle area.

Now that he’s a guy not just looking for his own dates, but trying to help other people do the same thing, Mussi sees a cloud lifting on the notoriously gloomy outlook that has hung over Seattle’s dating scene.

“The Seattle area attracts some of the most interesting and diverse people from around the U.S. and the globe,” he said. “The city itself is also very vibrant and has a ton of amazing places to check out. Now we have the Seattle Dating App. As users come up with new ideas to make dating even better, we can continuously improve with feature updates.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Ben Mussi:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I started the Seattle Dating App in March 2019 after seeing an article that stated Seattle was the worst city for dating, largely due to the “Seattle Freeze” and the recent influx of career-focused people to the city.

I had been single for about a year and had turned to a number of dating apps in order to meet people. I began talking with friends about their dating experiences and realized that many people were feeling frustrated with dating apps in Seattle. Convinced that Seattle deserves better, I started work on defining how the Seattle Dating App could improve the dating experience in Seattle. After exploring a number of concepts, I realized that the only way the app would work is if Seattleites picked the features and how the app should look. I relinquished creative control of the app and decided to crowd-source the app’s design using Instagram polls. Amazingly, many early adopters were excited by the vision of a hyper-local dating app for Seattle. With time, the best ideas were incorporated into the app.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Most single people tend to use a couple of dating apps, but they are surprised to learn that the Match Group has become a dating app behemoth by acquiring many popular apps like Tinder, Hinge, OKCupid, and Plenty of Fish. Another popular dating app, Bumble, is 80 percent owned by Badoo, the largest dating app in the world.

Given the aggregation of dating apps into large, multi-national companies, it’s no surprise that the fundamental experience between each app varies little.

Where do you find your inspiration? My inspiration for the Seattle Dating App comes from a genuine desire to help people connect in a more efficient, meaningful way. I strongly believe that everyone deeply longs for connection with others, so creating the Seattle Dating App to help facilitate that basic human need is a tremendous privilege.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? As much as it hurts to say, it’s really tough to go without internet for weeks at a time. The internet connects me with so many people, places, and things around the world. While I love unplugging from time to time, the internet has definitely become an indispensable enabler for my lifestyle.

Ben Mussi evangelizes about the Seattle Dating App during a happy hour in August at Sugar Hill in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. (Seattle Dating App Photo)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? One unique aspect of the Seattle Dating App is that our workspace is largely virtual. I maintain a home-office, but most of our meetings are conducted virtually, in coffee shops, and in breweries. Another convenience of our virtual workspace is the ability for our team members to be location-independent. For example, I worked on the visual design aspect of the Seattle Dating App while vacationing on Spanish islands in June earlier this year. The beauty and tranquility of these Spanish islands certainly contributed to the elegance of the Seattle Dating App’s look and user experience.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) We all have massive to-do lists that seem to perpetually grow. The sheer volume of tasks we need to do can leave one feeling confused about what to prioritize, often resulting in inaction.

I write every task that comes to mind on a Post-It to create a physical manifestation of the task. This frees up space in my mind from the burden of remembering that task. Then I order all the Post-Its from the most time-sensitive priority on top to the least important task on the bottom. When free time arises, I start working on the top Post-It and work my way down the stack one-by-one. From time to time I re-evaluate my stack of Post-Its to make sure that my priorities are current. This organization technique has been a tremendous enabler for accomplishing high-value goals.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Picard. I watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation” re-runs growing up after school. Each episode was filled with valuable wisdom from Picard.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Transporter. There must be a fix for Seattle traffic!

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … hire more staff for the Seattle Dating App and throw some amazing events around Seattle. I’d also up the budget for our launch party at Art Marble 21 on Sept. 20!

I once waited in line for … an hour for a biscuit. Almost worth it!

Your role models: Elon Musk. Few contemporary people have done so much to inspire the world while at the same time transforming it.

Greatest game in history Poker.

Best gadget ever: Smartphone.

First computer: Tandy TRS-80.

Current phone: Samsung S8.

Favorite app: Seattle Dating App.

Favorite cause: Community food banks.

Most important technology of 2019: Artificial Intelligence.

Most important technology of 2021: 5G.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Find your passion and devote yourself fully to it. Your passion is the only thing that will give you the strength to endure a string of bad days and also give you a sense of pride on the good days.

Website: Seattle Dating App

LinkedIn: Ben Mussi

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