A dating app developed in Leeds is winning hearts and minds on the other side of the Atlantic.
JigTalk has become the first UK startup to be accepted onto a San Francisco-based accelerator programme run by the tech stock exchange NASDAQ.
Aimed at early-to-mid-stage entrepreneurs, the Milestone Makers programme provides participants with a package of mentoring, coaching, training and support from business leaders that is worth an estimated quarter of a million dollars.
Just 10 people are picked for each round of the programme from hundreds of applicants and NASDAQ’s latest batch of high-flyers includes JigTalk chief executive and co-founder Alex Durrant.
He told Digital City: “I am very excited to represent the UK within the home of tech.
“Building JigTalk has been a challenging experience, but witnessing the response makes it all worth it.
“I’m looking to build connections with the other entrepreneurs and mentors in San Francisco and raise the profile of UK tech outside of London.
“As we all know, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the main tech hubs of the world, so I hope that forming these new bridges will encourage and help other young northern entrepreneurs.”
JigTalk was set up after co-founder Max Adamski became frustrated with dating apps that solely focus on a user’s looks.
Photos of people using Max and Alex’s personality-driven app are initially covered by 16 jigsaw pieces that are removed one by one as an online conversation progresses.
JigTalk also employs gamification techniques to offer fun activities and provide a fully interactive consumer experience.
The first version of the app was released in February and gained more than 10,000 users in the space of 16 weeks.
An updated version is now in the pipeline and talks are under way with a number of potential investors as the company seeks to push ahead with its international expansion plans.
JigTalk is also supported by two local non-executive directors – Jonny Filewood, chief executive of digital marketing agency Enjoy Digital, and Stuart Clarke, director of Leeds Digital Festival.
Stuart said: “It’s great to see a Leeds startup flying the flag for the city in the US.
“Alex and Max have built a strong product on a unique idea and have already caught the eye of international investors.
“Becoming the first non-US Milestone Maker will help in their search for further investment.”
JigTalk’s profile received another recent boost when the concept behind the app was turned into a dating show on the Made Television network presented by former Big Brother winner Josie Gibson.
The Yorkshire Evening Post runs a regular Digital City column in partnership with Sky Betting & Gaming.
The platform aims to highlight the giant strides being made by a sector that boasts around 3,000 organisations in Leeds.