Lucky at love? Well, maybe so. There’s still a lot of things you’ll never know…..
The lyrics are as true today as they were when singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg wrote them into his pop classic “Hard to Say” back in 1981. When it comes to being lucky at love, there really still are a lot of things we’ll never know.
But St. Louis entrepreneur Rashied Amini believes he’s found a way to eliminate some of love’s uncertainty, through an online tool designed to tell users their chances of finding the mathematically ideal partner. Amini says his Nanaya website can predict not only one’s chances of finding a match, but where and when it will happen, and how happy you’ll be in a given relationship.
Nanaya is a byproduct of an intersection of Amini’s personal and professional lives.
When his girlfriend of two years announced in 2014 that she wanted to break up with him, and would only consider taking him back if he would provide her with a cost-benefit analysis of continuing the relationship, Amini initially “thought the idea was silly.” Upon further review, he decided the notion wasn’t so farfetched. So he took her up on the offer.
He lost a girlfriend, but gained a business idea.
Amini, who graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in aerospace engineering, began his career as a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California later that year. He returned to Washington U. in 2012 to work toward a Ph.D. in physics, but remains on staff at the JPL.
With Nanaya, “what I’ve done is applied a lot of the algorithmic bases for what we did to maximize mission success at NASA. We’ve taken that and applied it to the social circumstance of making a very important romantic decision,” says Amini.
Nanaya’s goal is to forecast your probability of finding a romantic match if you are single, or, if you are in a relationship, finding someone who’s a better match.
For the Nanaya user, the experience begins with a “romantic personality test” – a series of questions Amini says he’s designed to be fun and simple, not overwhelming. Users are shown a series of photographs and are asked to say if that picture is, “me” or “not me.” One such picture, for example, shows a person sitting alone on a beach, watching a sunset.
“The quiz helps us build our romantic personality data base,” says Amini. “Just by telling us if these pictures are “me” or “not me”, we can assess your romantic personality.”
After the personality test, users fill out a brief questionnaire on their romantic background, social life, and future life goals.
Nanaya produces a document that shows the probability and time of meeting people who are ideal and acceptable matches, as well as advice on finding the most compatible match. The report shows how a current or perspective partner measures against other people you would date, and includes a personalized “love map” that shows where you will find the best odds of making a match.
Amini says Nanaya is different from the myriad matchmaking tools that already are glutting the market.
“Nanaya is not matchmaking. Nanaya is there before matchmaking to help you increase those odds. Nanaya is there after matchmaking to help you make those difficult romantic and social decisions, with information about who you are, what you want in life, what you want in a partner, and the people you interact with.”
The next step for Nanaya, says its founder, is to reach out to more users, to build his database. The site has been up for about a month, and Amini says Nanaya has about 16,000 users so far.
When he fully launches the product later this year, Amini says he wants Nanaya to be free to users who are simply seeking top-line information, which they’re likely to access as little as once per year. Premium services, customized for individual users and accessed more often, would cost somewhere in the vicinity of five to 10 dollars, says Amini, a price similar to what many dating sites charge.
Once he launches, Amini says romance may just be the beginning.
“I’d really like to grow the product. I’ve done decision analysis tools in a lot of different environments, including for space flight. There would be very simple applications to other decisions whether its employment, picking out colleges, moving, buying cars or homes. I think all of those are easily within reach given the type of analytical framework I’ve created.”
But that, says Amini, is down the road.
For now, he’s concentrating on building a service that uses analytics to predict your romantic future. So the next time someone says, “finding a mate isn’t rocket science,” Amini hopes you’ll point that person to the NASA engineer in St. Louis who is working to dispel the theory.