Unlucky with love or just using a bad dating platform?
Online dating has become an integral part of the modern world. It makes it possible for you to find someone who shares your interests without so much as having a conversation. All you have to do is read a person’s profile, and that would give you a fair idea of what they’re into.
The ease of finding your perfect match online has led to massive growth in the global online dating business. The industry has a market size of US$7.35 billion, and it is expected to grow to US$10.87 billion by 2028, with the key players behind this growth being apps, like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge. While these apps may have found success in the online dating market, not every digital matchmaker fares well. Here is a list of dating platforms that crashed and burned instead of helping people find “the one”.
Marketed as “the Tinder for cuddling”, Spoonr (formerly Cuddlr) was a location-based app meant to help you find purely platonic, cuddling partners. Founder Charlie Williams said that since a cuddle is longer than a hug but shorter than a date, it would take out all the awkwardness of sitting face to face with someone if you decide they aren’t the one for you. The app was reviewed by publications, like the Washington Post and Metro UK, and was called out for being creepy for matching people based on locations without giving details, like their age or gender. Moreover, the app also had a tough time making its users understand that it was strictly meant for platonic intimacy and not to be used as a hookup app. This, added to the technical problems the app was facing, led to its shutdown in 2015, after which it was relaunched as Spoonr. It eventually permanently shut down in 2017.
You know what unites people just as much as—and sometimes more than—common interests? Common dislikes. Goldman Sachs employee, Brendan Alper, came up with the idea for dating app Hater, quite literally as a comedy sketch. When he shared the idea with people, they all loved it, and that convinced Alper that his idea needed to be a real app. With that, he took Hater to the reality business pitching show Shark Tank, where Mark Cuban gave Alper US$200,000 as a starting investment.
Launched in 2017, the app quickly amassed interest and was downloaded by one million people. Users could match with each other based on 4,000 topics, like cargo shorts, the tedious task of constructing IKEA furniture and vomiting sounds. Unfortunately, despite the hype it received in 2017, it didn’t end up succeeding in getting the support it needed to stay afloat. It closed up shop in 2018.
The Harry Potter and Twilight books’ fandoms should tell us that people love hanging out with those that read the same books as them. So, why not consider dating them? Started in 2010, Alikewise was a website that helped connect those who had similar tastes in books. Since the site catered to a very specific niche user base, it struggled to generate any profits. When founder Matt Sherman spoke to Business Insider in 2012, he said that he and his partner on the project, Matt Masina, had to work full-time jobs to support themselves. The struggle to keep Alikewise going must have finally got to them, as the website was shut down in 2016.
Yes, you read that right! YouTube was originally created as a dating platform. YouTube’s co-founder, Steve Chen, says that he believed that dating would be the practical application of the video streaming platform. The original slogan for the platform was, in fact, “Tune in, Hook up”. Chen said that they were so desperate to get some dating videos on the platform that they went to advertising company Craigslist and offered women US$20 to upload videos of themselves to the platform. When no one came forward despite being offered money, the website was opened to everyone and the rest is history!
Bang With Friends
The name should tell you everything you need to know about this platform. It began as a web app to connect you with your Facebook friends who were looking to hook up. The app would make you sign up via Facebook and then show you the names and photos of your Facebook friends who installed the app. Once you found someone you were interested in, you could click the “Down to Bang” button.
In 2013, the app was forced to change its name to “Down”, because the term “With Friends” had been copyrighted by game developer Zynga (the company behind Words With Friends). With this rebrand, Down has introduced a new recommendation algorithm that suggests possible matches based on mutual friends and a hotness score, which is calculated based on the number of people interested in your profile. They have also changed their logo in this rebrand, as the original one depicting a heterosexual couple having sex turned out to be a huge turn-off to a lot of people.
This rebranding might have done them good. As of 2021, Down had a user base of eight million, and its revenues continued to grow by 100% year-on-year.
Looking at these dating platforms, it is more than evident that even the best of ideas, as was the case with Hater and Alikewise, sometimes don’t end up doing as well as you expect. Bang With Friends and YouTube are lessons in pivoting and changing the direction your startup takes based on how users respond to it. Their failures serve as a lesson to budding entrepreneurs on what they need to do to make their online dating business a success.
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