Call them the anti-Tinders. A new crop of dating apps and websites is helping people find true love in some rather unconventional ways.

Instead of dates, some match you with therapists and trainers. Others let you reach out to people who hate the same things you do. While their methods might be unusual, all of them focus on making authentic connections, prioritizing long-lasting compatibility over appearances.

Ona

Co-founder Mark Zuppe will tell you he created this app after seeing his brother struggle to find a date.

“My brother John has been failing at online dating for over 10 years,” says the WeWork Grand Central member. “He’s 40 now and for him it’s a big game. When I ended up talking to friends, I saw his situation being replicated.”

Zuppe says that Ona is about making online dating human again. Instead of swiping to connect with other singles, you’re actually swiping to connect to a specialist who can help you get better at dating.

“Think of Ona like a trainer, someone who can coach you like a personal trainer or nutritionist would,” says Zuppe. “We take a very different approach. You download us to work with a dating coach, licensed therapist, matchmaker, or dating consultant, and we broker the services.”

Services like that of a dating consultant, who can tell you what to wear on a first date and how to improve your profile, can range from $75 to $200 for one to two sessions.

“There was a time when meeting someone new was fun,” says Zuppe. “Courting used to make your heart race, but today when you ask someone what dating is like in New York, they say it’s terrible. What it comes down to is that people are socially isolated.”

Hater

Brendan Alper had a great idea for a comedy sketch: a dating tool that matches people based on things they can’t stand. He transformed his idea into Hater, a brand new app that matches people who share dislikes.

A former Goldman Sachs employee who quit his job to follow his dream of becoming a comedy writer, Alper was familiar with Tinder. He thought it was boring, and figured he’d try to create one himself.

“I had no idea what I was doing, but at WeWork I was surrounded by designers, legal experts, and marketing people,” says Alper. “Little by little I kept learn and doing.”

Hater, which launched on February 8, displays randomly generated topics like “dogs,” “slow walkers,” or “the election of 2016.” Users swipe in one of four directions to register their dislike, hate, love, or neutral feelings. Based on how you swipe, the app computes your personality profile.

That might sounds unscientific, but studies shows that hating the same things is a better predictor of compatibility than liking the same things. “You are more likely to feel a closer bond with them,” says Alper.

The three topics men and women most dislike on Hater might surprise you. They are “drain hair,” “bad sidewalk etiquette,” and the “presidential election of 2016.” The most polarizing topics for users? Buying expensive toilet paper and taking butt selfies.

Ferndate

Branding is a word most often associated with business, but Ferndate is applying it to dating profiles.

“Oftentimes people will come in and say ‘I feel like I am a pretty normal guy, why aren’t I meeting the right person?’ We help people put their best image forward and best photos online,” says founder Ladan Radafshar.

Radafshar will look at a new client’s internet dating profile, ask them to talk about themselves, and go from there.

Many people don’t have enough photos for their profile, or they only have one from 10 years ago. Her team sets up a professional photo shoot for people in their element, whether that’s hiking or going to a favorite spot.

“It’s giving them a little bit of a helping hand and making them more visible online,” says the WeWork Custom House member. “It’s been a passion of mine, and I have been helping friends and coworkers for the past 10 years.”

The former social media specialist for Nike met her boyfriend on the internet and noticed while her experience was a positive one, many of her friends found it a struggle.

“I want everyone to be happy,” Radafshar says. “And if I can lend any insight, it is something I love to do.”

Blur

The location-based dating app keeps the profile picture of someone you’re interested in out of focus until you answer some simple questions that measure personality, interests, and compatibility. After answering five to seven questions, you can clearly see your potential Romeo or Juliet.

“We wanted to create an app that would lead to meaningful connections,” says Justin Jia, founder of Blur. “Since I’m an engineer, I think people connect best based on their inner, not outer, beauty. My wife and I have a lot of shared interests—we are big foodies and love to snowboard—but I always joke we would never have met on Tinder because she’s really beautiful.”

Jia also wants dating to be fun. The app is “built like a game,” modeled after Buzzfeed-style quizzes with questions like “Are you a cat person or a dog person?” and “Do you prefer NY or LA?” (Beware New Yorkers: some 91% of people on Blur answer “LA.”)

Launched last December, the platform already has about 2,000 users, 60 percent male and 40 percent female.

“I came from here from China to get a Master’s degree in computer science,” says Jia, a WeWork Gas Tower member. “So many of my good friends have good incomes and good educations, but they feel lonely and can’t find someone compatible. The idea for Blur was to help them.”

Black Twine, a New York-based “event-inspiration” website that’s on a mission to cure Pinterest fatigue, was just about a year old when its co-founder, Anne Hyun, a member in WeWork 222 Broadway in New York, sent a cold email to a woman she’d never met. Until then, Hyun’s fledgling business marketed to busy millennial moms, supplying them with party “blueprints”: gorgeous photos paired with lists of what to buy (many items in the inspiration photos are shoppable), menu ideas, and a suggested timeline for event prep and execution.

On a hunch, Hyun reached out to Eva Chen, Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships, who was about to release a children’s book, Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes. Hyun wanted Black Twine to work on an event for the book’s launch. “We’ve been longtime fans of Eva,” Hyun says. “She’s such a role model for women, but she’s also a mom, and my two co-founders and I are all moms. [And then there’s all] she’s done for the Asian community.”

It was a risky move—Hyun had admired Chen only from afar—but it worked.

For the month of November 2018, the front windows of Books of Wonder, a children’s bookstore in Manhattan, featured a dramatic jewel-toned archway of balloons surrounding a cutout of Chen’s character, Juno, all designed by Black Twine. “We had never actually done a window before,” Hyun says of her company’s partnership with Chen, which also included styling her book-signing event at the store. “But for us, it was about being able to work with someone who was really inspiring.”

(Above) Anne Hyun, co-founder of Black Twine. (Top) Hyun and Eva Chen, Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships, in front of a window display at New York’s Books of Wonder.

She stays true to that entrepreneurial spirit while running Black Twine, which she says is a lot like planning one big party. “Managing a business and planning a party both come down to time management,” she says. With event planning, she explains, there are five different things you need to worry about: the decor, the guests, the food, the beverages, and getting all the vendors and different pieces in place. Similarly, she can break down her business into specific tasks—which she then has her team divide and conquer. “Like with event planning, if you try to do it all on your own, you’re going to be in a world of misery,” Hyun says.

Her team is also not afraid to hire others for certain to-dos. “It took us a long time before we were able to say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to be the ones who put every single product on our site,’” says Hyun. “We’ve gotten more comfortable outsourcing different pieces of work as we’ve grown.”

And when they want to invite someone new to their party (or, um, business), Hyun isn’t afraid to send a cold email. “The one thing that we’ve learned on this entrepreneurial journey is that you have to make your own destiny,” Hyun says. “A lot of the successes that we’ve had have come from that same story, just trying to see what might be out there and giving it a chance. A lot of times it doesn’t work out, but the one time it does, it’s someone like an Eva, which is amazing.”

Hyun’s holiday party survival plan

Keep decor simple. “Place a garland down the middle of a table. It really just makes the table pop.”

Tweak the traditional palette: “One of the color combinations we used this year was sage and wine, which was a play off of red and green. It’s a bit more subtle.”

Ask people to bring booze instead of dessert. “If it doesn’t get used, unlike dessert, it can be saved for your next party.”

Be a good guest. “RSVP promptly. And if you think you can’t make it, a quick ‘No’ is better than a long ‘Maybe.’”

 

A few weekends ago, I was at my business partner’s birthday gathering, lightly facilitating some sharing of his impact—what we appreciated in Edmond, what we saw in him that he might not see in himself. A friend of his commented that most people don’t get this level of appreciation and celebration reflected back to them until they are dead. At funerals, people give themselves permission to bring their emotions, to reminisce about favorite memories, to share the life-changing impacts that person has had on them. It feels cathartic and connecting—but the person who has passed isn’t hearing a word of it.

Why we should skip ahead to the good stuff

Too often, we wait until there is an ending or closing to say kind words, or we don’t give appreciative feedback at all. The ending doesn’t have to be death—it might be when a beloved employee announces she’s leaving a job. Heartwarming emails pour in in response to the farewell email, or some words are said at the company all-hands, or people write emotional notes of appreciation.

When I left a recent job, I received brief but beautiful emails from people I had interacted with only once or twice, sharing that even in their different function, they were inspired by seeing me show up as a senior woman at the company. I hadn’t known that. One of my direct reports showed up a few minutes late to our last one-on-one because she was writing a letter—a handwritten letter! I was also presented with a foam board with more notes from the engineering team and other coworkers.

Take the first step in creating a culture in which sharing appreciation and gratitude in the moment is as natural as showing up for daily stand-ups or checking email.

I treasure those words. They reflect to me what I already know, which is that in an imperfect system, I have lived and acted true to my values and what long-term success means to me. At the same time, I wonder what might have been different for me if I had deeply known the appreciation throughout my time there.

The impact of appreciative feedback

A few months ago, Edmond and I conducted a few dozen interviews to find the patterns in frustrations, pains, hopes, and dreams of engineers, tech leads, engineering managers, CTOs, and VPs of engineering. What struck us is that so many people cared deeply about doing well and were trying to do their best, but we heard this over and over again:

“I don’t even know if I’m doing a good job.”

When I reflect on moments in my own career that I’ve received meaningful appreciative feedback, a few come to mind. In written feedback at Google, at a time when I struggled with a feeling of having “snuck” in through their internship program (rather than the normal full slate of rigorous interviews), my manager told me the work I was doing was on par with what was expected of more-senior engineers. That gave me a concrete calibration of how I was doing, so I was able to leave behind a lot of those feelings of uncertainty. A year or so after I left Google, I had lunch with a senior engineer who had been my mentor there. He mentioned in conversation that he felt like my career was a rocket ship and soon he would see me as a CTO of a large tech company. He showed me a glimpse of how he saw me as a leader before I saw myself that way.

There was also the time after I returned from my second maternity leave. I felt like I was doing all right, and as I transitioned from four days a week back to five, my manager told me, “It feels like after your maternity leave, you leveled up a huge step. I bet a lot of people didn’t even know you were working only four days a week.” The impact was that I had a better sense of the perception people had of me and my work—and that rather than just doing all right, I was kicking ass.

In each of these instances, something that was clear as day to the other person was obscured for me, and by sharing what they had seen or noticed in me, it shifted how I viewed myself.

Kicking off the gratitude loop

Companies are starting to catch on to the importance of expressing gratitude. Anil Dash, the CEO of software company Glitch, wrote on Medium about how Glitch fosters a culture of gratitude, and Camille Fournier shared how they did this at Rent The Runway. And Jen Dennard of Range Labs, a company that facilitates better communication and strengthens relationships among teams, wrote about building a culture of gratitude through high frequency and gratitude catered to each individual. Edmond and I try to express gratitude when we feel it and also reflect in our monthly debriefs with a prompt around what we’re grateful for.

When I started training to become a coach a year ago, the coaching skill of “acknowledgment”—noticing something positive about the other person and saying it to them out loud—was the most difficult for me. It felt awkward, inauthentic, contrived. Positive feedback in the form of “good job” felt like a pat on the head—condescending, almost. I imagine it feels that way for many people—and so we shy away from it, hoping that people already know what we appreciate about them.

I’ve found that more-specific prompts guide me and make it feel more structured and less awkward to share appreciation and gratitude.

  • What quality do you see in this person that they might not see in themselves?
  • What is the most noticeable change you’ve seen since you started working with this person?
  • What qualities do you most appreciate about this person? What do you see as possible for them if they lean into these qualities more fully?
  • What is your favorite memory of this person?

If you want this type of feedback, ask for it. Before your next one-one-one, take a moment to consider these prompts and share a piece of appreciative feedback. And then, in whatever way feels comfortable for you—perhaps in the same meeting, or in a Slack thread or email request—tell people that you’re looking to better understand your strengths and the impact you have on the those around you, and would love if they could answer one of these prompts. Take the first step in creating a culture in which sharing appreciation and gratitude in the moment is as natural as showing up for daily stand-ups or checking email.

Jean Hsu is a cofounder of Co Leadership and a member at Berkeley’s WeWork 2120 University Ave.

Celebrity stylist Karla Welch knows the importance of having a style uniform—and what happens when you try to fight it.  

Welch, dubbed the No. 1 power stylist by The Hollywood Reporter—with clients including Amy Poehler, Ruth Negga, Karlie Kloss, and Zooey Deschanel—recently booked a crack-of-dawn flight from Los Angeles to New York for an event at WeWork 205 Hudson. Bleary-eyed at 3:30 a.m. and prepping for her flight, Welch packed exactly one outfit: a dress. At the last minute, she threw in a favorite pair of jeans. Just in case.

When she landed in New York, she slipped on the dress to wear to the panel discussion about WISHI, the on-demand personal-styling platform she co-founded with stylist Cleo O’Hana. But the dress was all wrong, she says. Backup jeans it was.

Celebrity stylist Karla Welch’s own style uniform consists of three items: jeans, a blazer, and a white T-shirt.

That’s the power of a personal style uniform. “It’s a security blanket,” says Welch, who wears a white shirt, jeans, boots, and blazer during most of her nonstop days spent styling clients, consulting on advertising campaigns, and designing custom pieces for Justin Bieber’s world tours.

There’s a reason uniform dressing is catching on: When you streamline one aspect of your life, it frees up your brain to focus elsewhere. When you’re busy or building a company from the ground up, says Welch, “your mind is needed for other things.”  

At WeWork, Karla Welch shared the stage with fashion names like WISHI cofounder Clea O’Hana (left) and B Sides Jeans cofounder Stacy Daily (right).

Famously, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Barack Obama have all admitted to wearing nearly the same outfits every day; now entrepreneurs and ambitious workers are following suit (while ditching the suit). How to begin? First, take a deep breath. “The thing is, it’s just clothes,” Welch says. “You don’t need to stress out.”

Keep it supersimple. Ask yourself, What are you looking for? advises Welch, who says it’s the first question she poses to clients. For example: “clean lines, not too fussy, something to move around the city in.” Creating a style target helps narrow your options. Welch’s own uniform consists of three items: jeans, blazer, white T-shirt. Yours could be a slight variation: stylish trousers, say, or sweaters during the winter.

Consider your days. Are you in and out of meetings? Does your commute feel like it’s 100 degrees, even in the winter—except when it’s not? Your uniform should be adaptable and feel comfortable in a variety of situations. “A uniform is a time-saver so you can do better things,” Welch says. It should never be a source of worry.

Start with what you have. Uniform dressing seems like a minimalist endeavor, yet it’s easy to think you need to buy a new wardrobe. Don’t, says Welch, who advocates wearing pieces for years. Start by shopping your own closet. It’s less expensive and more sustainable—plus, creating a style identity from familiar pieces you already own makes it more likely you’ll stick with it.

Ask one crucial question. Pick items that make you feel powerful and build from there. Ask yourself, “Do I feel good in this item?” If the answer is yes, add it to your rotation. If the answer’s no, consider donating it.

Look to the greats. Channel inspiration from artists, cinema, and celebrities. Rei Kawakubo of Commes des Garçons dresses almost exclusively in black, save for the occasional white shirt. And the artist Georgia O’Keeffe was notoriously rigid with her self-created wardrobe—so much so that her iconic androgynous silk, cotton, and wool outfits have been showcased in museum exhibits.

Solicit a second opinion. If you’re at a loss, hire an expert. It might be a better use of your time than opening 47 shopping tabs in your browser and searching for the right piece. On WISHI, each user is matched with a professional stylist. You send photographs of your wardrobe, and the stylist sends back suggestions from your own closet and from online stores.

Beat back boredom. Growing up, Welch wore a school uniform, but instead of resenting the predictability and sameness, she says, “it pushed me to be creative.” The same goes for an adult uniform. “The goal is to feel confident, not bored,” she says. “It takes a remarkable amount of confidence to wear something over and over again.” And if repetition can breed success, then a uniform could be your strongest style move yet.

Photos by Lori Gutman

Looking for one-stop shopping for everyone on your list? We’ve gathered together a few dozen of our favorite gifts from WeWork members that will satisfy your fitness-obsessed mother, coffee-loving spouse, bookish nephew, world-traveling friend, or workaholic boss without putting a dent in your wallet.

For the dreamer

Blox party: The GoldieBlox Craft-Struction Box is as much for big kids as little ones. The 275-piece kit, created by the member company at WeWork 1111 Broadway in Oakland, California, was designed to disrupt gender norms by introducing girls to STEM concepts like prototyping and problem-solving. Don’t bother looking for instructions—the only rule is to follow your imagination. $35

Totes amazing: Each of the memorable quotes on Time Travel Mart’s Student Quote Totes was written by a young author in 826LA, a nonprofit writing and tutoring organization in Los Angeles based at Pasadena’s WeWork 177 E Colorado Blvd. Gift the bright red bag to the budding writer for their manuscripts and books. $12

Best bud: Think too hard about the magic behind WinkyLux Flower Balm, made by a member based at London’s WeWork North West House, and you might go insane wondering how exactly they get that tiny chrysanthemum in the center—or how a clear balm can transform into the most flattering shade of pink ever once it hits your lips. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. $14

Written in the stars: Each set of Whiskey River Soap astrology pencils is filled with fun reminders of an astrological sign’s personality traits, from Pisces’ spot-on assessment as a “stray animal collector” to Capricorn’s simple and true description, “bossy AF.” $11

Color story: Help a friend fight blank-wall boredom with this limited-edition Mike Natter “Crayons” print from Art Sugar, an art collective based at New York’s WeWork 205 Hudson that gives a platform to underrepresented artists with large social-media followings. Feel-good bonus: At checkout, choose which charity will receive 5 percent of your buy’s proceeds. Starting at $20 without frame

For the adventurer  

Travel buddies: Ditch your long-held assumptions: Compression socks aren’t just for ultramarathoners and grannies. The tight fit can actually improve your blood and lymph flow if you sit a lot at work or are taking a superlong flight. These stylish versions from Comrad are the kind of socks that anyone would be happy to unwrap. $48 for three pairs

Quick-change agent: This nifty five-in-one universal travel adapter, which includes a USB port, is a lifesaver no matter where in the world you find yourself. The Flight 001 team, which works out of WeWork 109 S 5th St in Brooklyn, color-coded each adapter so that getting connected in your hotel room or WiFi café is easier than finding your connecting flight. $35

Light show: The lightweight Solar Puff is a waterproof, pop-up, solar-powered lantern that illuminates everything from camping trips to outdoor soirees. The product is brilliant in more ways than one: The brand behind the magic, Solight—a member at WeWork 123 E 23rd St in New York—is on a mission to provide sustainable light and power to areas of the world that need it most. $30

Sweet dreams: Any jet-setter worth their roller bag knows that the real key to enjoying a vacation is getting some solid shut-eye. The Good Night Sleep Tight Kit from new WeWork member Izola has all the tools to help you drift off: an eye mask, earplugs, bath oil with calming lavender, and a face oil to keep skin dewy, even on long-haul red-eye flights. $35

New flame: The soy-wax candles—based on U.S. states—from Homesick are fragrant reminders of a specific favorite vacation spot, childhood stomping grounds, or college hometown. (The Colorado candle, for instance, smells like spruce needles and spice.) Each uniquely-scented blend is hand-poured in the U.S. $30

For the foodie

Small fry: The 8-inch Chatham ceramic frypan from GreenPan, based at 1460 Broadway in New York, makes even simple morning eggs that much easier thanks to its nontoxic, nonstick finish. It’s dishwasher-safe and can be safely used with metal utensils. Insert prayer-hands emoji here. $40

Buzz feed: Take someone’s morning brew to the next level with Al Mokha Reserve’s Al Wudiyan coffee, which comes ground or in full beans. The medium roast has citrus and cherry notes, but it’s not just a tasty cup of joe; the company, which works out of WeWork Universal North in Washington, D.C., has a sweet mission: to promote economic stability and security in Yemen by creating jobs there. $32

Sugar rush: The Sabiya Gift Box from Elements Truffles is a chocoholic’s nirvana: It includes three chocolate bars, eight assorted truffles, and a bag of turmeric-infused drinking chocolate. Plus, all are Ayurvedainspired—which means they’re technically good for you (right?). $35

Authentic eats: The Classic box from Bokksu, a member at WeWork 205 Hudson, is chock-full of straight-from-Japan treats, such as hand-ground matcha and Hokkaido milk cookies. It’s basically like gifting someone a direct flight to Tokyo, minus the TSA lines and jet lag. $39

Joe on the go: Three busy dads, all members at WeWork 81 Prospect St in Brooklyn, came up with the idea for Stojo, a collapsible silicone coffee cup that’s commuter friendly—and keeps disposable cups from hitting landfills. Drink up. $25

For the fitness enthusiast

Save our strands: Pop the Hair-O-Scopes Brightest Stars set from Brigeo, a member at WeWork 27 E 28 St in New York, in a friend’s gym bag to save them from generic-gym-shampoo disappointment. The kit contains shampoo, conditioning spray, blow-dry cream, and a conditioning mask to help hydrate dry winter hair. $39

Write on: All it takes is five minutes a day for someone to write their way to a more positive outlook, whether that drives them to accomplish new goals in the weight room or finally commit to a half-marathon. The Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change uses psychology research to help the author focus on gratitude. $23

Clear winner: The sleek A6 bottle from Memobottle, a certified B-Corp company, is designed to be the same size and shape as an A6 memo pad—meaning it slips easily into a pocket or gym bag—making it a stylish reminder to hydrate before and after a workout.  $28

Fitness fixer-upper: You know your cycling-class buddy who always forgets their socks? The Pinch Provisions gym kit is for them. The pocket-size kit also contains earbuds, deodorant towelettes, electrolyte tablets, and more—so they’ll never be caught unprepared again. $24

Toe tappers: After a sock-soaking workout, it’s a joy to change into these Conscious Step Socks That Fight Poverty. The sustainably run company, which works out of WeWork 109 S 5th St in New York, donates to various charities around the globe. Each style benefits a different cause; this particular pair aids Global Citizens, a social-action platform to end poverty. $15

For the Workaholic

Save face: Help your favorite type A unwind with a little self-care. Oars and Alps, a brand started by two members at Chicago’s WeWork 220 N Green St, offers a starter kit of their favorite all-natural picks: face and eye cream, a rollerball eye stick, and mint lip balm. $48

Tag, you’re it: Show your favorite supervisor who’s boss with a keychain and tag that says it all. The hand-stamped brass tag from Art Ayaloka is a constant reminder of their confidence and success. $20

It’s lit: Lighting the Balsam Fir candle from Ranger Station, a member at WeWork 901 Woodland St in Nashville, is like setting yourself down in the middle of a balsam-lined forest and breathing deep. And the calm keeps coming: The candle’s burn time is 40 hours. $44

Fresh start: Help a coworker beat burnout with a Bergamot Bath Bar from Commodity, a member at WeWork 401 Park Ave S in New York. The scent was devised by a scientist with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and the blend of citrus and bright green notes is an invigorating way to begin every day. $24,

A good sign: The phrase “What Good Shall I Do This Day?” was a mantra of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin—a man who knew a thing or two about innovation. This enamel steel sign from Best Made is a brain-boosting addition to any workstation. $32