The pandemic could condemned online dating. Instead, he sent singles dragging more than ever before. The sanctions on in-person dating have led to the adoption of new products, such as video dating, and have persuaded more people to pay for premium features. Overall, the industry has a record year.
“The acceptance and standardization of online dating was already underway before Covid-19,” says John Madigan, an analyst at business research firm IBISWorld, but favorable winds from the pandemic have accelerated growth. Over the next four years, IBISWorld predicts that the global online dating industry will grow in value from $ 5.3 billion to $ 6.4 billion.
Where there is money – or at least the smell – there are also startups. In the United States, at least 50 dating companies were founded between 2019 and 2021, according to data from Crunchbase. Although this rate has not changed much over the past decade, the total amount of funding has increased. These new startups represent some fresh ideas in the dating arena and hope that the next dating unicorn may emerge after a year of isolation.
For the most part, new dating apps 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 revenue. Nibble, which bills itself as a sort of “TikTok meet Tinder,” invites users to upload short videos to scroll through potential matches. Likewise Money, an app that lets you “reach out to people while exploring enjoyable video content.” Marc Baghadjian, the founder of Lolly, 22, says the app’s focus on video gives its users a better online dating experience. “You could be funny, you could be interesting, you could be talented and you can show it all in a video, in a way that you never could with your photos.”
Feels Also features a carousel of short profile videos, where people are expected to express themselves in more dimensions. It’s marketed as the “anti-dating app” for people who think “swiping is boring” and that platforms like Tinder are too shallow. Laurent de Tapol, co-founder of Feels, says the app has attracted 150,000 users since its launch in April. He also acknowledges that most of these users will also create accounts on mainstream apps like Tinder and Hinge, if they don’t already have profiles on them. But de Tapol hopes people will be drawn to the experience on Feels, “where they can share a lot more about who they are, what they love and express their very unique personalities.”
Other dating apps avoid pictures altogether. The ex, a dating app for “homosexual, trans, gender nonconforming, two-spirit and non-binary”, is inspired by newspaper ads: its profiles use text only. So synchronized, based in London, matches people based on their Myers-Briggs personality type.
Singles might be up for some new dating ideas, but these startups will largely be in competition with each other, not the whales of the industry. A single company, Match group, is the originator of the biggest online dating brands, including Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid and Match; in total, it represents nearly a third of the market, according to an October 2020 report report from IBISWorld. eHarmony controls an additional 12%. The remainder is distributed among some 2,000 dating companies, the majority of which “operate with a market share of less than 1%”. For the most part, the little guys compete with each other, doing little to dislodge Match Group as the dominant player.
This is one of the reasons investors have been reluctant to fund dating startups. Andrew Chen, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, summed up several others in a 2015 blog post: It is difficult to retain users, the churn rate is built in, and profitable exits are unusual. A 2019 analysis of Crunchbase found that while there were a number of new entrants to the online dating space, venture capital did not follow suit. Without substantial investor support, dating startups find it even harder to compete with the bigger players.