Jakub Mertl and his wife Kristyna who run a successful personalized dating agency, recently made headlines by establishing an online dating agency catering specially to disabled people. I met with Jakub to talk about his work and what it takes to find love. He started by telling me what made him and his wife consider setting up a special online service for disabled clients.
“The idea came to us in 2015 because we were already operating a dating agency and the current director of this agency for disabled people came to us to find a partner. He asked if we also catered to disabled people and we said yes we do, but then we found that there were various problems and issues that disabled people face and we thought it would be a great idea if they had a dating agency specially tailored to meet those needs and find love.”
So this person came to you to find a partner but was not successful because of his disability?
“He was successful at the end of the day, but through the process we discovered all the problems that people with disabilities face when looking for a partner.”
“That too, but also accessibility, the possibility to travel, go somewhere and meet someone etc., normal things that would not occur to us, but things that are a problem for them. But that is not to say that this portal for disabled people is only there for them. It is not to say that disabled people can only search for love among other disabled people. And usually people think that the website is only meant for the disabled, but it is an open space, accessible to everyone. We are trying to break down this preconception that if someone is disabled they are on the margin of society, disabilities have various levels and sometimes you do not even recognize there is a disability unless you know more.”
So you have set up this dating agency for disabled people, but anyone can use it?
“That is right. It is an open space. We don’t charge any fees, everything is transparent, everything is for free.”
Is it just in the Czech Republic?
“It is based in the Czech Republic but with the Internet it is simple to spread it all over the world and we would like to see it spread.”
How does it work? In what way is it special?
“In our regular dating agency we use a special mathematical algorithm. You will not find it anywhere else since it was developed by me and it is a unique statistical approach how to find the love of your life. I realize it may sound strange to say that love can be statistically estimated but the way to love is having things in common with your partner –it could be small things in daily life, how you want to spend your holidays etc. and this is what we try to connect and match. We do not focus so much on how old you are and what you look like –we focus on what you want, in your daily life, on your holiday preferences and so on. We collect this information and then we compare the scoring between partners which tells us how well-matched they would be.”
I would have thought that this is the basic criteria used by any dating agency?
“One sentence, just one sentence, can completely destroy your date.”
“No, that’s not so, usually they ask how old are you, what are your hobbies etc., they focus on the life you are currently living, not on what you would like to do. And we recognize that if you want to find love you may have to change your life a little, you may have to change yourself a little. And that is what our personalized dating agency offers –we focus on personal development, on coaching and so on. It is not just : here is someone’s profile –do you like it or not? We do not work like that. It is about who you are where you want to be in a year’s time or in two years. But this we can only offer in our personalized dating agency, it does not work with the agency for disabled clients, because of the difficulties with regard to travel, accessibility and so on. Still, on our website we provide some coaching and some psychological tips, because a lot of people make mistakes when they find the right partner. They meet with the person and then at the end of the day, they say it was very good, but….it didn’t work. And why? Sometimes they said the wrong thing. One sentence –just one sentence -can completely destroy your date. So that’s really interesting – for me it is a little bit like science. “
So you offer you clients the services of a coach and psychologist – and you guarantee success as a result, right?
“Not exactly, we offer them a coach and the coach is the leading force in helping you find your ideal partner, but we cannot guarantee anything. In love you cannot guarantee anything, unfortunately. I would like to ...but it doesn’t work that way. We can find the person who is potentially the best partner for you – also in view of your future plans – the number of children you want, life in the city or countryside – all that we can influence, but we cannot influence the chemistry between you. Because the person we choose can be statistically the ideal partner for you, your coach may think you are ideally matched, but then when you go out on a date something doesn’t work. We try to help out clients to make the problematic space between those partners so small that at the end of the day it only depends on them whether they want to make a go of it.”
If you have found this perfect method of matching people – how long does it take on average?
“Once again – it depends on you. Usually, if people are prepared to find a new partner, a new love, if they are really ready for a new relationship it could take maybe two or three months. On the other hand, if your old relationship just broke up a month ago and you are not ready to enter into a new one you may need six months just to overcome the break-up and start again. And sometimes people think they are prepared, they say they are ready to move on, but in reality they are not. It is very much like when you want to lose weight. You go to the gym and find a trainer who will exercise with you and you think that’s it, the weight will come off because the trainer will make it happen. But that’s not the case –you have to want to make it happen. It is the same with finding love, finding the right partner. It is all up to you, you have to set your mind to it.”
How do you know that you algorithm is better than anyone else’s? Did you find your wife by using it?
“I found my wife over the Internet so we have personal experience with online dating agencies and maybe that was the starting point that led us to this business – the fact that we discovered something was missing on these dating sites. We have studied many of them here and abroad and analyzed all the areas that were taken into consideration, and the results of the criteria used. We collected all this information, selected the important areas, according to us, and we work with that. But it is a learning process and the method is still developing. I am not saying the algorithm is the best in the world and I will not change it in any way, it is still developing. It varies with the social environment and it will not be the same for the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, and elsewhere in Europe it may be completely different. So the algorithm has to be adjusted to a given country, a given society and most importantly we try to set it up specially for each individual client. The settings are so variable you can change them for each individual client. Not the questions –the questions are fixed, but you can change how important they are for the client.”
How personal are these questions?
“Sometimes people think they are prepared, they say they are ready to move on, but in reality they are not.”
“I would say that a lot. We cover all areas. There are no taboo areas because your partner – at the end of the day – will come to know everything.”
Do people lie a lot and try to make them look better? Do you have a problem with that?
“Yes, but that is the difference between our personalized approach and an online agency. In our dating agency we have real pictures, we take our own photos, you do not get people posting pictures that are five years old. Our coach meets with the client and knows what the client looks like, if the age corresponds with what they tell us. The coach meets the client several times and we also have a psychologist. So there is plenty of contact and in that way you get to know the client and how they behave. Another thing that we have and other agencies do not is feedback from a date. After the date we collect information from the clients, ask them how the date went, and how they felt about their partner and from that you learn the most. Because the client can say I am the best, I know this and that, but we receive the real feedback and based on that we can adjust our information and help our clients, because sometimes people just make mistakes, they are nervous, it is a new situation for them. It could be the way they were dressed, or something about their behavior, whether they picked up the bill or not…it may be some small detail and sometimes it helps to change a thing or two and the next date is 100 or 200 percent better.”
Do you try to influence your clients via the coach, psychologist?
“Yes, definitely. Sometimes people need to change. We tell them the truth and I think that is the most important thing, because if you talk to your friends and family they will naturally try to support you, which is nice, on the other hand they may not tell you the truth and you need the truth in order to change and resolve whatever problem is holding you back. We try to help you find the problem and solve the problem. And then you can start dating.”
When you look for ideal partners – do you match people who are the same or those who complement one another?
Dating agency catering to disabled clients: www.tvojelaska.cz
“That’s a good question and there are a lot of opinions in our field that complementary is what works best – but I do not believe that myself. Because people who are different –or opposites- could interact well together for a short time because the partners find something new –like travelling for someone who does not travel a lot, but the enthusiasm is usually only temporary because it is a breath of fresh air. At the end of the day you want to be with somebody who is a lot like you, I am not saying the same, but of a similar temperament. In our experience the stable relationships are the ones where the partners are alike.”