There’s an interesting paradox inside the dating industry: the better you serve your clients, the more likely you’ll lose them! This has never stopped Violet Lim from coming up with new ways to connect singles, though. She has worked in matchmaking since she realised how even the most eligible of people struggle to fit some love life inside their busy schedules; first with the concept of “lunch dates”, and now making technological leaps to create a smarter and safer space for all singles.
We had the chance to ask Violet about Viola.AI, a new app that leverages the power of Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence to change the dating landscape for the best.
Q. Good day, Violet! Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi everybody! My name is Violet, and I am the CEO & Co-founder of Viola.AI as well as Lunch Actually Group. I am also a certified matchmaker and have been running my dating company with my husband Jamie since 2004.
I studied Law at the University of Manchester and subsequently did a Masters in Personnel Management at the London School of Economics. However, during my summer attachments at a law firm, I discovered that as much as I love the law, it was not my calling.
My first job was with Citigroup Singapore as a Management Associate. I got to work in many different departments and meet many people. I observed that many of my colleagues were single and not dating, and that was rather puzzling for me as they were attractive and eligible people.
I soon realised that it is because they were working long hours, they were virtually married to the bank! When I came across the concept of lunch dating, I was immediately attracted to the idea because I felt that lunch was ‘short, sweet and simple’ — it is long enough for you to get to know someone, yet it was not too long that it would become awkward.
Having always been passionate about helping people, I decided to quit my job at the bank and start a new career as a modern-day matchmaker, where the business is not just about making money but helping to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them find their life-long happiness. And that’s how Lunch Actually started.
Q. Could you explain Viola.AI to our readers?
Viola.AI is The World’s First A.I-driven Marketplace for Dating and Relationships. Harnessing on Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and trustless Smart Contracts, Viola.AI is set to revolutionise the dating and relationship space in the world.
Q. Can you share with us the background story of Viola.AI?
13 years ago, the two of us, bright-eyed young adults in their 20’s brimming with idealism and enthusiasm, took our first steps into the love industry not knowing how it works.
In the first few years, we took on clients and worked hard to find matches and arrange dates. Some found someone through other means and left us. Some didn’t find someone and left us. Most interestingly, some found their life partners through us; they too left us! That was when the harsh reality hit us… in the dating industry, the more effective you are, the better your matches are, the faster your best clients leave you.
Nevertheless, we believed that in the long run, our happy clients would be our most significant testimonials and they will recommend new clients to us. We stuck to our mission which was to be “The World’s Most Effective Dating Solution”. We kept up with times and technological advances and created multiple dating products, some free and for all budgets.
Q. Can you tell us about the technologies behind Viola.AI?
Viola.AI is open source and decentralised, harnessing the power of A.I. and the Ethereum blockchain.
Ethereum Smart Contracts enable the community to enjoy the fruits of their contributions to Viola.AI via smart contracts automatically rewarding VIOLA tokens, spreading the financial benefits to the many rather than being left in the hands of a few.
A.I. technology has a bad reputation; slated to putting millions of people out of a job and potentially creating chaos, but we are convicted it can be channelled to create love and promote better understanding for relationships.
The A.I. we are building will verify every one person in the database to ensure they are real and look like their photos, helping reduce or eliminate catfishing.
Q. Can you speak to us about catfishing and the problems it causes for singles?
Is in the dating industry, there are two common forms of catfishing.
One is by the love scammer whose aim is to use texting to make you fall in love, and once you are hooked, extract as much money as possible from you via various means. These creeps even have a list of victims that are most likely to be scammed, and they share the list with one another to spread the cruelty of what they are doing.
The second form of catfishing is actually by some dating app owners themselves! Sending fake messages from attractive profiles they know you will like which helps to secure a new subscriber or renew an existing one. This is an industry dirty secret. A simple internet search will reveal some of the companies that got caught, including the infamous Ashley Madison hack which showed there were almost no women in the database.
True to our mission, we have never engaged in such practices, even though from an economic standpoint, we understand why it was done. With the need to continually acquire new users (with expensive marketing spend) who will undoubtedly leave you eventually, the aim of many of these companies is to earn as much money as possible even when no value is added to the end user. Feeling disadvantaged because we refused to go down the slippery slope, this often kept us up at night.
The conceptualisation of Viola.AI came after being in the industry for the past 13 years, understanding the various challenges singles and couples face. We intuitively knew something has to change!
Q. Could you explain to use the benefits of using the Blockchain technology against the alternative (a classic app)?
One of the key usages of blockchain technology is in Viola.AI’s Real-ID Verification System. Each user’s photo is checked against their social media accounts and real-time face scan to verify their identity; this process is then decentralised and stored on the Blockchain. Viola.AI will also employ end-to-end encryption to protect its users from any threat such as the infamous Ashley Madison hacking case.
The deployment of a decentralized system and blockchain technology enables high security and authentication of users. This powerful tool can prevent any identity theft, protect against data tampering and protect the infrastructure of Viola.AI.
Compared to a classic app, the level of security and safety is much higher with the blockchain technology utilised for Viola.AI.
Q. How does Artificial Intelligence benefit singles looking for their soulmate?
A: The artificial intelligence technology in Viola.AI will grow along and evolve with the user, creating a global and borderless full loop solution from dating, courtship, relationship to marriage. With the capability to perform deep learning about each user’s personality, background and behaviour, Viola.AI can give them the most relevant and curated matches, provide valuable and customised advice, as well as proactively prompt couples before any important relationship milestones and help them solve their challenges early.
Q. Can you explain VIOLA tokens to our readers?
A: VIOLA Token is a native token of the Viola.AI platform, and is the centrepiece of this community to reward and incentivise users.
Viola.AI works with its community to generate dating and relationship content for every user based on their relationship stage. Viola.AI will then learn from the best and highest rated answers and reward these contributors with VIOLA tokens for their efforts and wisdom.
Another important usage of VIOLA token is enabling users to purchase content, goods and services within the platform. With Ethereum Smart Contracts in place, users can interact and transact with contributors, merchants and experts at ease as all parties will receive the agreed-upon revenue share or commissions.
This is important as users can perform a secure transaction without worrying about sellers not delivering the goods and services (as Viola.AI is available worldwide), and merchants will not be burdened by the unnecessary hassle of users backing away from the deal.
Q. There are many aspiring entrepreneurs out there. Any advice you’d like to give them?
A: First, it is important to know what you are getting yourself into. If you think that being an entrepreneur will give you more time and freedom as compared to your job, you will be sorely disappointed. I am working much harder than I ever had in a job. Fortunately, it does not feel like a chore, because I enjoy what I do. Not everybody is suited to be an entrepreneur.
When you are an entrepreneur, you are no longer judged on how many hours you put in; you are only rewarded when your effort produces results. Hence, do an honest assessment of whether you are suited for the entrepreneurship path, and if you are, congrats! You are embarking on one of life’s most exciting journeys. As you go down this path, never hesitate to ask, as many have walked down this same trodden path and they are only too happy to share so that you do not commit the same mistakes.
Q. What is your favourite country to do business? Why?
A: I don’t have a particularly favourite country to do business as each country that we currently have a presence in – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Indonesia has its own distinct and unique flavour and opportunities.
With that being said, Singapore will always have a special place in my heart as the first country I co-founded Lunch Actually in with my then-fiance-now-husband Jamie Lee. The government support in Singapore for companies in the dating industry is also something I cannot find elsewhere yet.
In Singapore, Lunch Actually is an accredited dating company by SDNTrust, under the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
This accreditation is a sign of trust from the government that Lunch Actually continually strives to attain high standards of professionalism and service delivery to singles.
This support from the Singaporean government in establishing Lunch Actually as a reputable dating company has certainly assured many of our clients, leading them to trust us with their love lives. Overall, we’d love to see other governments also have dedicated ministries for social development as well, to help curb romance scams.
Another great thing is that in Singapore, we can work with ROM (Registry of Marriage) to run marriage checks for all our potential member – something that we have not been able to do in our other countries.
Q. Do you work alone or do you have partners? Care to share a bit about yourself and (if any) your team?
I love working with people, and I definitely would not be able to do what I do without my team! The core team of Viola.AI consists of 7 people, one of whom is my husband and co-founder of Lunch Actually and Viola.AI, Jamie Lee. There’s also Zam Ong, another co-founder and the A.I. & Crypto Protocol Architect, and Martti Dumageng, the Blockchain & Technology Solutions Heads.
Li Yhee Chin takes on Viola.AI’s Business Development and Partnerships role, while Christina Thung and Freddie Lacorte complete our team as the Head of PR and the Head of Community Management respectively. We’re a diverse team that comes from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and also the Philippines.
Q. What do you plan next for yourself and Viola.AI?
Even though we already have two school-going children, Jamie and I have always wanted more children. So, God-willing, we would love to have a third child shortly. Having benefited from many mentors who have been so generous with their time and advice, I would also want to be able to pay it forward by mentoring young aspiring female entrepreneurs.
As for Viola.AI, this is just the beginning. I believe with our community’s support; we will be able to build a product that would revolutionise the dating and relationships industry as we know it, and help millions of singles and couples worldwide fulfil their dreams of finding love and happiness.
Q. Where can we keep up with you? (Shameless plugs and self-promoting goes here!)