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An App for Intimacy—Without the Intimacy

Pair is a social network for just you and your partner
From left: Jamie Murai, Michael Petrov, Oleg Kostour, Anton Krutiansky, Aswinkumar Rajendiran
From left: Jamie Murai, Michael Petrov, Oleg Kostour, Anton Krutiansky, Aswinkumar RajendiranPhotograph by Winni Wintermeyer for Bloomberg Businessweek

First there was the Facebook “poke”—press an image of a finger to send a flirty signal to another user on the social network. Now online affection has been updated for the smartphone era with the “thumbkiss.” Two users slide their thumbs over the screens of their separate iPhones. When their fingerprints line up, the screen turns red and the phones vibrate.

This bit of mobile matchmaking was thought up by Pair, a social network where three’s a crowd. Founded in February by five former classmates from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, the app has become the latest Silicon Valley sensation. After launching it onstage at a startup showcase, the quintet scored strong applause and meetings with venture capitalists. In the first week of April, Pair was close to raising about $1.5 million in a round of funding that would value the two-month-old business at approximately $10 million, according to a person familiar with the transaction who declined to be identified because the terms were private.