From swiping to swabbing
Houston DNA-based dating app expands nationwide, launches next funding round
Houston singles can find their perfect match — even if it's someone across the country. Houston-based Pheramor — a DNA-based dating app — is available for download in every state.
Brittany Barreto, Pheramor's co-founder and CEO, has a PhD in genetics from Baylor College of Medicine. She first had the idea in a genetics seminar when she was 18 and in college, but that was almost 10 years ago, and the market wasn't ready. Now, she says singles have swipe fatigue from the existing and ineffective dating apps, and it's also relatively normal now to send your spit in the mail thanks to 23AndMe.
Pheramor users download the app and request a test kit. After a few cheek swabs, they send it back to Barreto and her team and they identify 11 immune system genes and upload the data to the user's profile. The app then compares the genes to other users to give a compatibility score.
"The science behind attraction based on your DNA is that people are attracted to one another when their immune systems are different — opposites attract is biologically true," Barreto says. "When we were cavewomen and cavemen, we didn't know who was our uncle and who was our cousin, so we used our nose to figure out who is genetically diverse compared to us. If you're genetically diverse, then you're probably not my relative, and therefore we'd have healthier children."
Pheramor also calculates a social score based on a questionnaire or a data mine of a user's social media. The overall compatibility score uses both the DNA and social compatibility scores.
The app launched in Houston in March to a great reception of local singles, but, a few months later, Barreto realized nothing was holding them back from expanding nationwide.
"We surveyed our user base and asked them if they had highly compatible numbers with someone in, say, Chicago, would they want to know," Barreto says. "And something like 89 percent said yes."
Pheramor users are usually between 28 and 38, have good paying jobs, and are seeing commitment, Barreto says. Most of them travel around a lot already.
"We opened it up on September 7, and in 30 days we saw over 50 percent growth in our user base."
The company has zeroed in on a few key metros where advertising dollars go a long way for generating user downloads; Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami have all been great markets for Pheramor.
With the user base growing, Barreto is focused on growing her team. Pheramor's current round of funding launched November 1, and with the capital raised, she hopes to be able to make the team's CFO and chief marketing officer both full time.
Pheramor is also working on using its custom algorithm as a resource to other existing dating services worldwide as well as for couples who want to see their compatibility score with their current partners.
"A long-term goal that's coming to fruition a lot faster than I thought is Pheramor being a leader in genetic testing for romance," Barreto says.