A New Wave of Dating App Takes Cues From TikTok and Gen Z

The pandemic could have condemned online encounters. Instead, he sent singles swiping more than ever. Sanctions on in-person meetups have led to the adoption of new products, such as video dating, and convinced more people to pay for premium features. All in all, the industry had it a chartbusting year.

“Acceptance and normalization of online dating were already underway before Covid-19,” says John Madigan, an analyst at business research firm IBISWorld, but pandemic tailwinds have accelerated growth. Over the next four years, IBISWorld predicts that the global online dating industry will increase its value from $ 5.3 billion to $ 6.4 billion.

Where there’s the money – or at least its smell – there are also startups. In the United States, at least 50 appointment companies were founded between 2019 and 2021, according to Crunchbase data. While the rate has not changed much in the last decade, the total amount of funding has grown. These new startups represent some fresh ideas in the appointment space, and a hope that the next unicorn appointment can emerge after a year of isolation.

For the most part, the most recent appointment applications focus on Gen Z, a demographic that has come of age in a post-Tinder world and represents the lion’s share of the industry’s projected revenues. Snack, which billed itself as a sort of “TikTok meets Tinder,” invites users to upload short videos for potential games to scroll through. So he does Lolly, an app that allows you to “correspond with people while exploring sweet video content.” Marc Baghadjian, the 22-year-old founder of Lolly, says the app’s focus on video gives its users a better online dating experience. “You can be funny, you can be interesting, you can be talented, and you can show it all in a video, in a way that you can never do with your photos.”

You feel it it also features a short-form video carousel on profiles, where people are supposed to express themselves in more dimensions. It’s marketed as an “anti dating app,” for people who believe “swiping is boring” and that platforms like Tinder are too superficial. Laurent de Tapol, co-founder of Feels, says the app has attracted 150,000 users since its April launch. It also recognizes that most of those users will also create accounts in mainstream apps like Tinder and Hinge, if they don’t already have profiles. But de Tapol hopes people will be drawn to the experience at Feels, “where you can share a lot more about who they are, what they like, and express their very unique personality.”

Other dating apps avoid images at all. Lex, a dating app for “queer, trans, gender non-conforming, two spirit, and non binary people,” is inspired by newspaper staff: Their profiles use only text. So Synchronized, based in London, corresponds to people according to their Myers-Briggs personality type.

Singles may be ready for some fresh ideas in dating, but these startups will be largely in competition with each other – not with the whales of the industry. One society, Match Group, is behind the biggest online dating brands, including Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and Match; together it represents almost a third of the market, according to an October 2020 report report from IBISWorld. eHarmony controls another 12 percent. The rest is shared between about 2,000 appointment companies, most of which “operate with a market share of less than 1 percent.” For the most part, the boys compete with each other, doing little to defeat the Group Match as the dominant player.

Which is one of the reasons investors have been hesitant to fund appointment startups. Andrew Chen, a colleague of Andreessen Horowitz, reunited several others in 2015 blog post: It is difficult to retain users, there is an integrated churn, and profitable outputs are unusual. An analysis 2019 from Crunchbase found that while there were a number of new entrants into the online dating space, venture capital did not follow. Without substantial support from investors, appointment startups are having an even tougher time competing with larger players.

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