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#StartupStories: Love is in the air when Coffee meets Bagel

An interview with Dawoon Kang, Co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel

Have you ever felt like it is impossible to find a real relationship on dating apps? Don’t give up just yet! We met Dawoon Kang, co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel, who is working towards delivering a better dating experience.

W Hub Startup Stories series, interviewing Dawoon Kang, cofounder of Coffee Meets Bagel

A different approach to the dating app market

Coffee Meets Bagel is a female empowering dating app. The app provides a limited curation of quality matches (which are called bagels on the app) to users, who can then decide if they want to connect with any matches within 24 hours. When both parties show interest in connecting, a private chat line will be opened for seven days.

Dawoon says they have invested a lot of time on the algorithm of the app, in order to provide users with matches of good quality, while the mechanics are pretty simple. The reason behind this is that women focus on three things when it comes to online dating: safety, privacy, and quality. Dawoon wants to make sure they deliver those three elements and that service fits the way women want to date.

When they started creating the app, there were two main phenomena that caught their attention:

1. There is an increasing population of working singles, who are very driven and have limited time left for anything else but their career. They have very little time to meet new people. “This is also a global phenomenon,” says Dawoon. “In 2014, for the first time in American history, there were more singles than married adults.” Dawoon believes that this shift in social trends works in the app’s favour. “The Coffee Meets Bagel model works the best when there is a huge concentration of professional and busy singles looking for a serious relationship,” she says.

2. There are no services that understand the way women want to date, and a lot of people don’t realize women and men want different things when it comes to dating. “A lot of dating apps tend to cater to the way men want to date,” Dawoon explains. “Men like selection while women are selective.”

Delivering matches of quality. Bettering the user experience.

In order to provide users with high-quality matches, Coffee Meets Bagel imports necessary data from Facebook, and ask their users a lot of questions before setting up a profile. The algorithm observes and picks up users behavior to predict the type of people users tend to like.

Dawoon also wants to end the phenomenon of ‘ghosting’ which exists in most dating app, which means users don’t have a conversation with their matches after connecting.

To lower the percentage of ghosting on the app, users only received a limited amount of matches every day, up to 21 matches for men and six for female users. The app also provides users with ice-breaker questions to motivate them to initiate a conversation. “The conversation is only valid for seven days, which creates an incentive for users to take action before the chat expires,” Dawoon explains.

W Hub Startup Stories, Interview Dawoon Kang from Coffee Meets Bagel

From the United States to Hong Kong

Founded in New York in early 2012, the Coffee Meets Bagel app officially launched in Hong Kong and Singapore earlier this year. Dawoon thinks their business model can translate well to Hong Kong without having to customize the app. Including the fact that English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong, Dawoon says it is an ideal place to test their product in Asia. “Influenced by traditional Chinese culture, a lot of singles in Hong Kong are looking for a real relationship,” she says. “So Coffee Meets Bagel resonates well in this city.”

Dawoon has observed that women in Hong Kong are less selective on the app than their users in the US. “Contrary to popular beliefs, female users in Hong Kong are generally more forward compared to women in the US.” Hong Kong users are also very active on the app, with 66% users logging in daily.

In Hong Kong, Coffee Meets Bagel has made more than 5.5 million introductions on the app, with about 12 million chats being exchanged since the launch. “There are 600 dates in real life happening in every week in Hong Kong through Coffee Meets Bagel!”

Men and Women date differently?

Understanding the differences between men and women, Coffee Meets Bagel decided to launch a new model named “lady’s choice” in Hong Kong to cater to the habits of the genders. “Every day at noon, we give 21 bagels, which is more than what we used to give, to our male users. Then we give up to six bagels to women if they log on. We curate the matches based on interests, and we only show bagels that already showed interest in your profile. With this model, women can see bagels that really like them, and therefore can focus their time on people that are interested in taking the next step. Also, women have the final say whether they want to accept the matches, creating a better dating experience,” Dawoon explains.

After rolling out the new model in April, Coffee Meets Bagel has received a lot of positive feedback from their female users, and the founding team is planning to implement this in other countries.

Exposure: From Shark Tank to Word of Mouth

Dawoon and her sisters, Arum and Soo Kang, appeared on Shark Tank in 2015, receiving a $30 million offer from Shark Tank host Mark Cuben- the largest offer in Shark Tank history. Dawoon and her sisters turned down the offer at the end, but Dawoon says appearing on the show gave them the visibility they need and the $30 million offer has proven that their business model has potential. The visibility was important, however, Dawoon says they rely more on their members for word of mouth when they hack into a new market.

W Hub interviewing Coffee Meets Bagel founder Dawoon Kang, Shark Tank

Pitching is Like Dating?

Coffee Meets Bagel also raised $7.8 million in Series A funding, in addition to the $30 million Shark Tank offer.

When pitching, Dawoon says the most important thing is to find the right audience. “For a lot of startups, pitching works like dating, you need to have the right chemistry, you have to find people who buy into your thesis on how your business is going to pan out. Just like dating, there is no right or wrong answer, but you need to find someone that shares the same values,” Dawoon points out. “You should also do some research before setting up a meeting, check out what other companies they have invested in and whether they have expertise in your business category.”

The Entrepreneurial Family

Dawoon says growing up in an entrepreneurial family makes her think differently. “It is very inspiring. I think being Asian, we have been told that we need to behave in a certain way, without thinking what kind of impact we want to make in the world,” the founder says. “We drive our identity or pride in the work we do, many of us spend so much of our time in work. Therefore, knowing that what you are doing is meaningful is essential.”

Dawoon is grateful that she is able to run a business with her sisters, and she wouldn’t do it any other way. “Starting a business is a long journey, and it is crucial to have partners that you know you can completely trust, able to deal with all the ups and downs together. My sisters are the ones that picked me up when I wanted to give up,” Dawoon says.

W Hub interviewing Coffee Meets Bagel, startup stories, founder interview series

The Future. The Passion.

Coffee Meets Bagel plans to continue to develop the app to deliver better user experience, and it is aiming to expand further into Asia. The team is working on localizing the app in order to enter other Asian markets like Taiwan and Korea.

Dawoon says she is passionate about making a positive impact in people’s life. “I love the fact that we are transforming people’s life by helping them to find their significant other. I also care about our team, who make all these daily miracles happen. I want to make sure my team comes to work very excited, and go home feeling appreciated,” she says.

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