Drum roll, please. Today, I’ve managed to corner Mike Cavaioni, the CEO of Critique Match, a new platform that allows writers to find critique partners. It’s a beautiful website, but, more importantly, it’s easy to use and fills a gap in the writing universe: how to find yourself the right critique partner.Alison: Providing a community for writers to swap work is simply genius. How did you come up with the idea for CritiqueMatch?Mike:I’ve been a blogger for a couple of years now, writing on technical subjects, such as artificial intelligence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve edited a blog, passed it through Grammarly, and yet, my lovely wife still caught errors! I realized one always needs a second pair of eyes, someone who can give honest, constructive feedback. Yes, one could rely on a professional editor, but a critique partner goes beyond a professional service transaction. Writing is such a solitary journey. The encouragement and companionship a partner can provide are crucial to keeping one’s momentum going. So I knew critique partnerships were crucial to writers. The next question was: where do you find the right critique partners? And how do you know if they are any good? Hence, the idea of creating a community of writers who can easily find each other and rate the critiques they receive.Alison: For someone who hasn’t seen the website, can you give a quick description of what CritiqueMatch offers writers? Mike: Sure! Our platform is currently in beta mode and free to all users. It helps writers connect and exchange critiques securely and privately (we are not trying to be the next Wattpad, where an author’s work is shared with all users and anyone can comment on it). On our platform, you can find writers based on multiple search criteria that match your preferences. Additionally, down the road, we want to allow those writers who have demonstrated strong critiquing skills to complement their income via giving paid critiques.Alison: The website is beautifully designed and so easy-to-use (even on my phone!). What went into creating it? Mike: You are too kind, thank you! The creative portion was a lot of fun! I’m an engineer and, unsurprisingly, I love to build things from scratch—from software to homemade bread! So I knew from the beginning that I wanted to create a fully customized platform, instead of merely using a pre-made template like WordPress. Overall, it’s been an iterative process that started with the basic need for a directory of writers with different searchable characteristics, such as their genre, sub-genre, location, etc. But was that enough? Would a telephone directory be enough to help you pick a restaurant? I didn’t think so. Instead, what if the writers rated each other, and just like a restaurant, you could see first-hand accounts of how good someone’s critiques were? I interviewed many writers as I was developing the first few features and got constructive feedback that I incorporated them into the site. I had to put my ego aside and quickly adapt to make this work. I still encourage users to give me suggestions! There were many technical aspects, including creating wireframes, hiring software developers, until here we are, live and growing every day, with plenty of critique partner matches already! I hope years from now we’ll be receiving those types of messages from writers celebrating their critique partnerships that started on our site in a retreat somewhere beautiful, like Iceland.Alison: When I browsed through the members, it looked to me like there were writers from all over the country and the world. What are you seeing in terms of who’s using CritiqueMatch? Mike: According to Facebook, there are 40 million users who have listed ‘writing’ as an occupation or a hobby. That’s just in the US and Canada! I think that writing, as with many other forms of art, has no geographic boundaries and people should find those sharing the same passion, no matter where they live. Someone in a remote cabin in Iceland, like the one shown on our home page, might be the perfect partner for a New Yorker. We are thrilled that our user base is already a melting pot of people from all over the world! So far, we’ve seen users connecting based on the specific sub-genre of their interest. For example, for those writing a police procedural mystery, like your book Alison, Blessed Be The Wicked, they could find a critique partner or beta reader in that exact sub-genre, instead of broadly in mysteries. The granularity of the search is what makes CritiqueMatch unique.Alison: I can’t let you go without asking you what you’re reading right now, and what’s next on your TBR list? Mike: Does the “All summer long” script I’m reading for my acting class, count? I’m joking… I typically mix and match various art mediums. I have To Kill A Mockingbird on my nightstand at the moment. This classic had escaped me up until recently when I saw the incredible Broadway performance based on the book. Maycomb, Alabama of 1936 is more relevant today than ever. But that’s a whole other discussion… In non-fiction, I love listening to the How I Built This podcast for inspiration on how to grow a business. Because you’ve been terrific, I will spare you the details from the artificial intelligence papers lying on my desk!On behalf of writers everywhere: Thank you, Mike and CritiqueMatch!