Christabel Milbanke speaks to the creators of the new 'passion-led' dating and friendship app, who have figured out what makes the perfect partnership.
International goddesses of finance and fun, Fiona, Baroness De Vos van Steenwijk and Nora Lee Notzon have pooled together their enviable networks of friends within the European aristocracy and financial elite to present the next en vogue ‘passion-led’ dating and friendship app: ‘VieLoco’. Backed by Finnish tech investor Jari Ovaskainen, winner of the European Business Angels Network’s Business Angel of the Year award (2004). VieLoco (translation: ‘Crazy Life’) is aimed at time-poor individuals who value shared experiences above individual ownership.
VieLoco steps into the gap in the market that Tinder created but failed to fill; rather than swiping left or right VieLoco users swipe down ‘to their hearts’ or up ‘and away’, facilitating connections with others both in the field of romance and friendship based around users’ mutually selected ‘passions’. Categories include artistic interests, favourite destinations, cultural pastimes, sporting preferences, social habits and languages spoken. Fiona and Nora Lee find that the most successful people are more interested in connecting with someone who can satisfy their desired intellectual make-up, lifestyle and leisure choices as opposed to appealing by looks alone.
‘The idea came about from having a lot of guy friends on… [pause] Tinder,’ says Nora Lee, the sharp self-confessed ‘statistics-obsessed’ Texan belle who initially came up with the concept for the application. ‘Obviously it’s interesting to look at, but you really know nothing about these people. I hear about these horrible dates, but what do you expect if you have nothing in common. You don’t know that they like art, to travel, or if they like wine… I was single at the time and I thought: If I’m going to go on an app, I want to know, for example, that they like red-meat, red wine, love to travel, speak a foreign language and love dogs!’
‘There was already a natural matchmaking thing about Nora Lee,’ says her calm and elegantly composed Swiss business partner Fiona. ‘She has so many friends and acquaintances in London, so every time I would fly in she was like, “Oh I know this guy, he plays tennis, he loves golf and red meat!” And I would be like, “Cool! I want to meet him!” People want to meet someone that they know has the same interests at least.’
‘I love bringing people together,’ says Nora Lee, who excitedly reels off the story of how she met her best-friend, sister, business and tennis partner all-in-one while working in wealth management in Luxembourg in the early 2000s. ‘I had heard about Fiona from this Dutch guy who was in love with her, he said “You should meet this great girl she’s into skiing and tennis, she loves partying and cooking,” and I was like, “Yes. I want to meet her!” We had an immediate click – and we’ve been best friends ever since.’
The ‘beau monde’ scene that surrounded the girls in Luxembourg was unique in that it comprised of high-achieving passion-driven individuals, ‘It’s very international in Luxembourg,’ says Nora Lee ‘there’s 85 per cent foreigners living there. We’d do trips together, skiing, tennis, shooting, organise cocktails… Wednesday dinners! – people of different nationalities just getting together. On Wednesdays a text message would be sent out, and sometimes ten or fifteen people would show up for dinner. It was like hanging out with the friends you had at school, we always had something to talk about; life, love... We never talked about work!’
Fiona and Nora Lee’s business partnership achieves a perfect balance of temperaments. ‘My background is tax and legal,’ says Fiona, who studied international tax law and notary law in Leiden University and quit her job at Credit Suisse to commit to VieLoco. ‘We complement each other really well in that sense. You can have a lot of ideas but you need to understand the legal hurdles and tax implications and be able look at the contracts with an experienced eye to truly have everything in place.’
One of the key elements of their working relationship is the ready made trust they have as long-term best friends. ‘There’s a very famous book called How to Build a Billion Dollar App by George Berkowski,’ says Nora Lee ‘and the number 1 thing it tells you is: you gotta go into business with people you trust.’
Trust was also vital when securing investment for the app from angel investor Jari Oveskainen, a major player in the gaming world. Nora knew Oveskainen through past business, and running into him by chance at 5 Hertford St they agreed to lunch at Bar Boulud the next day, ‘I showed him the prototype and he instantly said “I love it, I’m in.” We shook hands and he said “deal’s done” it was a quick as that. The luck I had there, was that there was a trust. When you’re backing a start-up, you’re actually backing people. When there are so many ideas out there, you need to ask yourself Are they going to be able to execute? Are they going to find solutions? Maybe the business will pivot into something else, but do you believe in these people, do you trust them with your money?’
The girls are familiar faces at all the most exclusive establishments, launching VieLoco at Loulou’s in July, holding media dinners at the newly opened Albert’s members’ club, and conducting their lives as true West End Girls living in close proximity of each other in Sloane Square. They now plan to host a series of open-table discussions at the popular Italian restaurant Riccardo’s on the Fulham Road.
The first evening of ‘canapés, chianti and conversation’ takes place on October the 19th at 7pm. To join e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP as spaces are limited.
The low-down on Vieloco
VieLoco lets you essentially pre-vet the people who pop up on your phone, according to tailored preferences based on the passions you find important. Therefore you can create an elite pool of potential dates who categorically fit in with your lifestyle. Example: ‘I want someone who speaks three languages, is good at tennis and enjoys travelling.’ That combination might be hard to find in real-life. But courtesy of fairy godmother app VieLoco, a selection of qualifying candidates will be instantly accessible. Ensuring there are no time-wasting or disappointing deal-breakers to make your date a disaster.
VieLoco allows you to virtually meet your potential date before committing to meet them in person. This is excellent, particularly if someone's photo seems too good to be true. These days there is a widespread use of photo-editing beauty apps that achieve most sophisticated effects with the simplest interfaces. ‘I’ve been on countless bad dates’ says Fiona, ‘There are certain things that are a dealbreaker for a person, for me it’s their voice. So speaking to them on via video streaming as a real life person eliminates any nasty surprises. When you connect with someone pre-date you can actually be excited about your first date safe in the knowledge you are meeting someone you have a connection with.’
The Lonely Business Traveller
VieLoco is a great way to meet potential partners and friends while travelling in foreign lands on business. If you are seeking a tennis partner in Dubai, or find yourself in a fascinating new city with no one to go to the latest exhibition with, you can ‘check-in’ on the app letting your friends and matches know where you are to find a companion. It is also excellent networking tool for business, with deals having been struck through the app. Being a part of VieLoco means being part of a worldwide network of interested and interesting people who are perhaps bored of seeing what their friends are eating on Facebook, but would like to know where they are in the world so they can meet; facilitating real-life experiences rather than empty voyeurism.
VieLoco offers an impressive selection of real gifts and exclusive experiences that you can purchase for your matches or friends. These range from luxe candles and wine/whiskey tastings, to cookery classes at Nobo, and even a £380,000 ‘Space Odyssey’ experience. The best part about the gifts is the convenience of being able to find a date, buy a gift and book a table at a restaurant all in one app. The VieLoco girls are currently in talks to offer gifts from Harvey Nichols, with collaborations with Priv beauty app, Velocity restaurant booking app and Truly Experiences on the cards.
10 per cent of all revenue from in-app purchasesgoes to the charity Hand in Hand international – a global group of NGOs working tirelessly to fight poverty and create jobs in ten countries and counting.
The ladies have some exciting developments in store and are continually looking at new ways to engage the right audience for their app and for new gift ideas. So whether you’re looking for friends for partying, a round of tennis, or serious romance, VieLoco is the perfect location in which to meet like minded individuals and organise your social occasions.
Vieloco is available on iOS and Android app stores:
The London Journalist