New dating app for students to match, break the ice, and save money

Julia Mahavier, Life and Arts Reporter

From a young age, Tucker Sawyer struggled with a variety of neurological disorders, including Tourette Syndrome. During his time at UT, he worked on a startup dealing with atmospheric water generators as a comfort and coping mechanism.

“The reason I’ve really taken up entrepreneurship is because I found that responsibility and pursuing acts of creating things was the biggest antidote for me,” Sawyer said. “My tics, my OCD, all that stuff, I have the most control over it when I have the most purpose and when I’m creating the most.”

Sawyer, a radiation physics and chemical engineering junior, channeled his passion for entrepreneurship to solve a common problem among his peers: dating. In August 2021, he launched IceBreak Dating — an app distinct from Tinder or Bumble for its video call feature and partnership with various Austin venues — to allow UT students to make real connections.

“I was thinking about why it is so hard to find a bond over (common dating apps). I started to realize … when you’re in a conversation with someone or when you see somebody, the one thing you can always use is a conversational icebreaker,” Sawyer said. “(IceBreak Dating) (brings) the fun, the experience of the bond that forms when you first meet.”

By September, the app had 150 registered participants. Pairs of users have virtual “mini dates” before unlocking the chatroom, where they play get-to-know-you games such as couples trivia. Once users schedule in-person dates through the chatroom, IceBreak generates a coupon to redeem at over 11 partners around Austin, including Cain & Abel’s, Pinballz Arcade and The Escape Game on Red River Street.

Arthur Williamson, a nutrition and exercise science junior who downloaded IceBreak Dating two weeks ago, said he feels the new app runs smoothly and accomplishes the mission of providing a safer and easier solution to dating for students.

“Every time you join the video chat, it’s essentially a confirmation that you matched with the person you swiped right on,” Williamson said. “You don’t have to think about what to say too much because an activity is presented for you, so it’s an automatic ice breaker that helps ease into conversation. ”

Dixon Smith, IceBreak Dating’s Chief Operating Officer, said he found IceBreak’s unique model promising, especially the video chat and local discount features. He jumped into Sawyer’s project headfirst.

“Getting up the nerve to just start cold approaching random businesses (asking to partner) when the app wasn’t even out yet, was a struggle,” Smith said. “I just went door to door starting out at all the food trucks … until I got a yes (for discounts).”

As the startup develops to reach even more users, Sawyer said he plans to update IceBreak to not only an app for single people, but an app for couples as a way for them to stay connected.

“(If) you’re in a marriage or a relationship (where you) travel a lot, IceBreak would be really nice,” Sawyer said. “You’d be able to watch a movie over FaceTime, or over our video (feature). You know, what couple doesn’t want to save money on dates? … (this) is the endgame.”