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Impact 0504: Creating a safe online dating space

Seah Qi Yan · 29 March 2022
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Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Qi Yan, 22, is taking a degree in Computer Science and Design at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Business Management at Singapore Management University (as part of the SUTD-SMU Dual Degree Programme in Technology and Management). 

She is passionate about social innovation and social entrepreneurship since finding out about this space back in Junior College, and was able to start actualising her dreams in university with various projects and initiatives, especially as part of SUTD’s very own social innovation club, Design Odyssey. Currently, she is working on improving the online dating scene through building Lync, a new dating app and community builder to promote greater inclusivity and accountability with more meaningful and genuine interactions. 

Today she shares more about the work that they do!

What was your role within your YAC project?

At Lync, our YAC project, I perform my role as the co-founder and Chief Product Officer. Having had experiences working as a UX designer and product manager, I contribute to the team by facilitating discussions to research, analyse, design and test features for our dating app to make sure that they meet our target users’ needs and mental model. With my background in software development through my computer science degree, I also developed the beta test for Lync that was hosted as a Telegram bot for market validation, traction and feedback leading up to the final open mic for YAC.

What motivated you to join YAC?

Lync was actually a project started by my co-founder and I way back in 2019 when we were first year university students at SUTD participating in an app development program—the Swift Accelerator Programme held by SUTD in collaboration with Apple Singapore. It was then when we came up with the idea to build a “revolutionary” dating app for genuine relationships after hearing many stories of our friends’ rough and sometimes even emotionally scarring experiences in the online dating space. 

Hence, having worked on Lync for two years, we decided to join YAC in 2021 to push the growth of our idea even further with the close mentorship and useful workshops that the programme provided. While we had been working on Lync on our own for a while, it was important to get feedback from the community to make sure we were building something useful, which we felt YAC provided an apt platform to do so.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

I think it was a really exciting and important experience for our team and we experienced a huge growth in our idea, both in terms of idea development and traction. Through the workshops in YAC, we were able to further refine our initial ideas and discuss them with industry professionals, which we wouldn’t have had as much chance to otherwise. Our mentors also played a really big role through our YAC journey, where meeting up with them regularly to share our progress and get feedback really helped us to work on Lync consistently and effectively. Overall, it was a really beneficial experience for us to really understand where we wanted to go with Lync, and for more people to know about the social change we’re trying to bring about for online dating.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

I think one of the biggest challenges we faced initially was in sharing our ideas with industry professionals and mentors, where we faced a barrel of questions which we had never considered before prior to YAC. These difficult questions really stretched us to think harder about Lync and what we are trying to achieve, allowing us to be more focused and refined in building our ideas. In retrospect, these challenging questions helped us to become more confident in sharing our ideas, because now we know what to expect and how to answer questions better! 

On the other hand, another challenge was also in building rapport with our stakeholders, such as our target users and the industry partners we hoped to collaborate with. Starting out, we didn’t have a large presence, and this caused a lack of credibility and trust in engaging with them. Thankfully, the community has been really kind to us and we found that the best way to interact with your stakeholders is to be down-to-earth and share your ideas and passion with them earnestly.

Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?

Lync aims to positively impact the community by creating a more wholesome and genuine online dating landscape where people can interact more meaningfully. Being online has reduced our feelings of accountability in interacting with others, where ghosting has become “normal” and worse, acceptable, and superficial judgements can be passed without as much thought on their impact on others. 

Hence, we hope that through Lync, we can build a platform where individuals can seek genuine relationships with others and guide them in engaging in meaningful interactions to build emotional connection on a deeper level. As such, we hope to support the mental well-being of users in their pursuit of a meaningful relationship, with greater psychological safety and reduced chances for emotional trauma.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

There is always more to be done and more to improve for any idea that you may have! Through YAC, we’ve learnt a lot and improved many things in the Lync experience that we hope to bring to users, while staying true to our mission to push for social change through a more genuine and meaningful online dating experience. It was definitely a humbling yet also highly motivating experience. Thus, I guess my biggest lesson would be to be unafraid in sharing your idea with others and being open to feedback, as this can help you to gain a much broader perspective and important insights that you may not uncover otherwise.

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