The mobile dating industry has taken off. IBISWorld, an analyst, reckons the U.S. market to be worth some $2.1 billion, of which around a third is commanded by Match, the owner of Match.com, OK Cupid, Meetic, People Media and, last but by no means least, Tinder.
There are now apps catering to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans communities, as well as those marketed to hookups, relationships and even marriage. Women, too, have had plenty to be pleased about in the industry recently.
Whitney Wolfe, the co-founder of Tinder who left after filing a sexual harassment case, has now launched Bumble, which gives women – and only women – the power to choose potential suitors.
“Women run the world right now,” Wolfe told the New York Post. “Why can a girl not make a first move with a man, but she can go out and conquer her career? Why? Tell me why. There’s no rhyme or reason.”
Her, known until this week as Dattch, recently received $1 million in funding, and focuses on connecting women with other women.
While it’s widely accepted that, despite early reports, Tinder is not worth $5 billion, it does boast a staggering level of user engagement that even Facebook cannot lay claim to. The app’s users, of which there are 50 million, swipe through 1.5 billion profiles each day, making 21 million matches. That equates to almost 90 minutes of swiping left or right each day.
A new premium service is set to test the brand’s loyalty, though it has already come under fire for making over-30s pay double the registration fee.
Electronic dating services have been laying claim to romance since the 60s, when eager singletons could file off a few details about themselves and receive a host of potential matches. But the market’s current guise evolved in August 2000, when eHarmony began to use algorithms, rather than searches. The Santa Monica-based firm now has revenues of $310 million.
Zoosk, which recently filed to go public, has mastered the pay dating app model. It boasts 30 million users in 80 countries, focusing on relationships rather than hookups. “The model that works best is the removal of questionnaires so there’s no barrier to entry,” says David Pedersen, senior communications manager.
“In terms of paid apps versus free, it just depends on what you’re looking for,” he adds. “People use paid apps like Zoosk when they are serious about dating, whereas free apps are typically used more for hookups.”
Grindr might be considered a ‘hookup king’, having become the app of choice for the majority of the gay community in the U.S., Europe and other territories. Its location-based platform allows users to see other Grindrs in their vicinity, and stoke up a conversation. Today it has 1.6 million active daily users exchanging 70 million chat messages and 5 million pictures.
“We picked a simple solution to a big problem early on and Grindr hasn’t deviated from that,” founder Joel Simkhai tells Red Herring. “We’ve been self-funded from the start, which means we answer to our users and do everything we can to evolve the app in ways they find appealing.
“Endless messaging back and forth can be a waste of time if you have no chemistry in-person – so we make it as easy as possible to meet someone,” he adds. “Quite frankly, if I think of a failure, it’s the fact that around the world it’s still illegal to be gay in some places.”
Pedersen and Simkhai may be working in very different spheres: hookups vs relationships. But both are clear that mobile technology has completely revolutionalized the industry. Questionnaires are no longer necessary, and love, or lust, may be just a touch of the screen away.
The U.S. is still the world’s biggest mobile dating market. But China, and India, have already begun to exploit a potentially massive user base. Momo, backed by Alibaba and classified ads site 58.com, enjoyed a ‘smashing success’ of an IPO in December, according to Bloomberg – despite its CEO Tang Yan facing allegations of corruption and misconduct. Other brands include Tantan, a Tinder facsimile, and Baihe and Zhenai, both of which claim to fix long-term relationships.
India also has plenty of dating apps that span the industry’s wide spectrum. Woo, for example, claims to match 10,000 people per day, whom it connects on the basis of founding “meaningful relationships” with a “life partner”.
Shaadi, Vee and Truly Madly have also tried to corner the relationship app market, while Thrill has positioned itself nearer to the casual, Tinder end of the scale.
With a rapidly-modernizing society, and a population of 1.25 billion people, it’s little wonder that India presents a huge opportunity for western platforms. Hinge, a $20 million-backed London venture, launched on the subcontinent this week, as CEO Justin McLeod stressed the time is right to enter a massive market.
“We are the Facebook of online dating services,” he said. “India is the second-largest market for Facebook after the U.S. Also, with a rise in number of smartphone users and growing access to internet, we believe this is the apt time to enter the Indian market.”
The dating app industry is changing fast. And with no shortage of people looking for love, or just a quick bit of fun, expect it to continue on its upwards trajectory. But with a combined population of 2.6 billion, expect China and India to be garnering the biggest revenues in years to come.