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'One match, one date:' Ottawa-based dating app pushes in-person dates

Midweek Mugging: Ottawa-based dating app Wandure pushes in-person dates to help avoid common pitfalls of online dating

Online dating apps have revolutionized the way people date and meet each other, but it's far from perfect, so an Ottawa-based app is trying and address some popular pitfalls in the current ‘swipe-based’ dating world.

Wandure, the brainchild of high school friends Ali Kazal and Ismail Bembarek, started in the fall 2018 with the goal of making it easier to meet friends for travel, tours and other real-life experiences. But the perception became that it was a dating app, and it became popular for couples looking for date nights.

“It wasn’t travellers using the app, it wasn’t tourists coming to Ottawa and going on these experiences,” Bembarek said in an interview with

“It was just locals basically using our activities as date ideas."

He added, the app was getting a lot of traction online, especially for couples.

“The users were laying out the road for us.”

The trio at Wandure, which includes the team’s Chief Communications Officer and co-founder Chelsea Sauve, explored marrying the two ideas this past summer before an official launch in late December, and so now, users are ‘sliding’ to meet or passing on potential matches.

The most popular complaints about current dating apps and culture are that old-fashioned ‘dates’ are non-existent -- it’s easy to get stuck in endless messaging conversations and it’s very possible you never meet that clearly perfect person you’ve matched with, according to Sauve.

“You’re spending an incredible amount of time messaging with people who are essentially strangers… it’s hard to keep track,” she said, adding, the idea is to help make an in-person date within a week.

The app takes matches and schedules a first date based on interests, availabilities and what the two users have set for a budget.

For example, if two matches were interested in nature and history, the app could schedule a visit to the Museum of Nature.

A bit of a twist, though, is you don’t know the location of the date and can’t chat with your match until 24 hours before.

Kazal said it added some “anticipation” to the dating process and was fun for both sides.

“It’s a big deal to have a date planned for you, like you have to meet some person,” he said, adding it takes a certain level of confidence.

The app targets all ages, but Bembarek said it’s more popular among those looking for dates rather than someone in their late teens or early 20’s who isn’t there to take it seriously.

“Most of them may not be serious about, just looking around seeing what’s out there,” Bembarek said, adding it’s going for more “authentic experiences.”  

Wandure hopes to grow its base in 2020 and build on the success the group has had to far, with all of them acknowledging the challenges of building a startup where a failure rate is generally high.

Kazal, a computer programmer, and Bembarek, a chemical engineering grad from the University of Ottawa, said they are driven by the challenges and successes that have driven themselves.

After a few go rounds in school, Kazal decided he wasn’t good at taking orders and given his vast computer programming experience, he wanted to take a shot at running his own business.

“I’ve just wanted to be my own boss,” he said. He’d been repairing computers for cash since he was a pre-teen.

Sauve wanted to feel challenged as well, moving from the world of law to a tech startup.

“I’m used to a really different pace and I didn’t enjoy being a lawyer at all, so I appreciate the more dynamic environment it provides,” Sauve said.

“I like that I can be creative in this environment and I felt as a lawyer that was stifled…and actually interacting with people not sitting behind a desk all day."

For those looking to start their own Internet-based startup or business in general, Bembarek said to “just keep going.”

“If it’s not stimulating intellectually or emotionally, it’s a waste of time,” he said.

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