Tinder

Tinder doubles down on its casual nature, as Match invests in relationship-focused Hinge

Posted by | Apps, dating, Hinge, Match, Match Group, Mobile, Social, TC, Tinder | No Comments

Tinder has never really shaken its reputation among consumers as a “hook up” app, instead of one designed for more serious dating. Now, it seems Tinder is planning to embrace its status as the default app for younger users who aren’t ready to settle down. According to Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg, speaking to investors on its Q3 earnings call this morning, Tinder is preparing to launch its first-ever brand marketing campaign that will promote the “single lifestyle” with billboard campaigns and other digital initiatives.

The move is something of an admission that Tinder isn’t working for helping people find long-term relationships.

“Tinder was such a phenomenon when it launched and spread so quickly that the market defined the brand, versus the business defining the brand,” said Ginsberg, referring to its “hook up app” reputation.

“Tinder’s brand particularly resonated with 18 to 25 year-olds because it provides a fun and easy way to meet people. Tinder sometimes gets a bad rap for being casual,” she then admitted. “But keep in mind that people in the late teens and early 20s are not looking to settle down. It is a time to explore and discover yourself, meeting lots of people and being social.”

Tinder’s new marketing campaign will focus on the “single journey,” the exec said.

The dating app maker has already started publishing content that’s relevant to this “single lifestyle” on its Swipe Life website with stories relating to dating styles, travel, food, and more. For example, some of its recent articles have included things like: “7 Exit Strategies for Terrible Dates,” “Tinder Diaries: Which of these 5 Guys Will Get the Date?,” and “Study Abroad Hookup Confessions.”

Definitely not material for the relationship-minded.

Now, the company will promote Tinder’s “single lifestyle” even further with billboards across major cities throughout the U.S., as well as on digital channels.

The campaign’s goal, explained Ginsberg, is about “further reinforcing how Tinder can enable users to make the most of this fun and adventurous time in their life.”

It’s not difficult to read between the lines here: Tinder’s business model succeeds among people who want to stay single. It succeeds when they’re retained in the app, continually swiping on to the next person they want to meet.

To be fair, Tinder has never really invested in many features that push people to go on dates or exit its app. Instead, it has added addictive features like an in-app news feed – like a social network would have – and tools that enhance in-app chats, like sharing GIFs.

If Tinder was Match’s only dating app, this narrow definition of an app for those embracing their “single lifestyle” would be a problem.

But Match’s strategy has been to diversify its lineup of dating apps. Now it’s a majority owner of dating app Hinge, whose focus has been on helping people get into relationships. In other words, when people are fed up with the ephemeral nature of Tinder, they can just switch apps – while remaining a Match customer, of course!

The company also says it will invest more in Hinge going forward – a move that’s not unrelated to the decisions Match is making around Tinder. 

In fact, in another admission that Tinder wasn’t serving those in search of relationships, Ginsberg said Hinge will help the company to address the “previously underserved” audience of 20-somethings looking for a serious relationship.

She speaks of how Hinge’s user interface is clean and simple, and encourages people to be more thoughtful in their initial conversations. It’s a stark contrast to Tinder, which certainly does not.

Hinge downloads have increased five times since Match invested, the company also noted. It’s gaining traction in major cities throughout the U.S, including New York, as well as in international markets, like London.

The plan is to make Hinge the anti-Tinder, then pull in users as they exit Tinder in search of something real. The company said it’s going to increase the marketing spend on Hinge to drive awareness of the app across the U.S.

“We see a real opportunity to invest meaningful dollars in both products and marketing at Hinge to drive long-term growth,” said Ginsberg.

“We think it addresses a great gap in the market,” she continued. “If you think about when Tinder came into the market six years ago, it brought a whole new audience of young users, particularly college-age users. As they start to age…having a product that’s oriented to serious [dating] – but sort of mid-to-late 20s – is really compelling for us,” she added.

Tinder has evolved over the years from casual dating to include those who are more serious. But with Match’s decision to focus on those not looking for lasting relationships, it risks losing some users going forward. The challenge for the company is to pick them up in another dating app it owns, and not lose them to Bumble…or to an exit from dating apps altogether.

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Bumble drops its $400M lawsuit against Match, but this battle isn’t over

Posted by | Apps, bumble, dating apps, lawsuit, Match, Mobile, Social, TC, Tinder | No Comments

Bumble and Match’s ongoing legal battles are continuing today. According to a statement released by Match Group this morning, Bumble is dropping its $400 million lawsuit against Match, which had claimed Match fraudulently obtained trade secrets during acquisition talks. However, Bumble is preparing to refile its suit at the state level, we’re hearing.

If you haven’t been following, the two companies have been doing battle in the court system for some time after Match Group failed to acquire Bumble twice — once in a deal that would have valued it at over $1 billion.

Bumble claimed Match then filed a lawsuit against it to make Bumble appear less attractive to other potential acquirers. Match’s suit claims Bumble infringed on patents around things like its use of a stack of profile cards, mutual opt-in and its swiped-based gestures — things Tinder had popularized in dating apps.

Bumble subsequently filed its own lawsuit in March 2018, this one claiming that Match used acquisition talks to fraudulently obtaining trade secrets. It says this is not a countersuit, but its own separate suit. (This is the one being discussed today by the companies.)

Match says it wasn’t served papers for Bumble’s suit. But Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe had said they delayed serving papers to give Match a chance to settle.

After a failure to settle, Bumble announced on September 24, 2018 that it would be serving Match, and shared news of its IPO plans. The $400 million suit claims Match had asked for “confidential and trade secret information” in order to make a higher acquisition offer for Bumble, but that no subsequent offer came as result.

Match says Bumble asked the courts to drop its lawsuit just a few weeks after this announcement, and believes the whole thing is just a PR stunt around Bumble’s IPO.

Match today says it’s not opposed to the lawsuit being dropped. But it is now seeking declaratory judgements that will force these issues to be litigated in the right forums, it says. Match is looking for a judgement that would force this suit to be litigated in the Court of England or Wales.

It points out that Bumble had filed its state petition in Dallas County, rather than respond with counterclaims to Match’s suit in the Western District of Texas — “less than 100 miles from Bumble’s Austin headquarters.”

It asked the case to be transferred to federal courts in the Western District, where its IP case is pending.

Now, Match says that Bumble is asking the courts to drop its claims against Tinder’s parent company.

“We’re not opposing their request to dismiss their own claims, but we’re seeking declaratory judgements that will force these issues to be litigated in the right forums,” says a Match spokesperson. “As we say in section 132 of the amended counterclaim: ‘Match will not simply wait until Bumble decides whether or not it wants to pursue these claims – likely in connection with Bumble’s next media blitz. Match intends to litigate these baseless allegations now, and Match intends to conclusively disprove them.’”

Bumble responded this morning by saying it plans to continue to defend its business against Match.

“Match’s latest litigation filings are part of its ongoing campaign to slow down Bumble’s momentum in the market. Having tried and failed to acquire Bumble, Match now seems bent on trying to impair the very business it was so desperate to buy,” a Bumble spokesperson says. “Bumble is not intimidated and will continue to defend its business and users against Match’s misguided claims.”

It declined to comment on how, but we understand that the change from a state court system to federal courts is in play here. Bumble wanted to litigate at the state level, which means it has to dismiss its claims in the federal courts. Match could then accurately say Bumble’s lawsuit is being dropped, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Bumble’s plans have changed.

We understand that Bumble is preparing to refile its case in the state court system, but it hasn’t done so yet, because the court has to allow them to first dismiss this suit.

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Tinder launches its curated ‘Top Picks’ feature worldwide

Posted by | Apps, dating, Mobile, Social, TC, Tinder | No Comments

Earlier this summer, Tinder began testing a new feature that surfaces a curated list of your best potential matches, called “Top Picks.” The feature, which is only available to paying subscribers on Tinder Gold, is now available worldwide, Tinder says.

Top Picks had also quietly launched in the U.S. and U.K. last week following initial tests in Germany, Brazil, France, Canada, Turkey, Mexico, Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands, in addition to the U.K. However, Tinder waited until the global rollout was underway to announce its arrival.

The idea behind Top Picks seems a bit inspired by the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, which similarly focuses on curation of matches to reduce users’ impulse to continue swiping through what feels like an unlimited number of profiles. Humans don’t do well with too many choices – an overabundance of options can actually lead to anxiety, and – in the case of dating apps – an inability to settle on a decision, as users know there’s always another potential match just around the corner, or so it’s been argued.

Tinder’s solution for this is Top Picks, a more limited set of potential matches it thinks users will like based on information in users’ profiles like education, type of job, hobbies and interests. Tinder then uses this data to organize users into groupings, like “foodie” or “creative” or “adventurer” and so on.

This information is combined with users’ previous swiping behavior to determine the day’s Top Picks, which area available to toggle over to (via the diamond icon) on the app’s home screen.

While Top Picks will refresh daily, users can opt to buy more Top Picks in packs of 10, 20 or 30 a la carte, Tinder says. (Yes, by “packs” we do mean groups of user profiles – Tinder has turned people into in-app purchases you can buy. Yeah. Great.).

The feature is only available to Tinder Gold subscribers, meaning it varies in price. Tinder charges older users more for accessing Gold, and weights other factors like region, length of subscription, and recent in-app promotions when showing you its pricing.

Paid features like Top Picks have helped to fuel Tinder’s growth and its revenue.

Following the launch of its subscription service, Tinder Gold, the app quickly became the top grossing app in the App Store. And it has held a top spot ever since – even becoming the number 5 top grossing app of all-time, according to a recent report of the App Store’s biggest apps.

Paid subscribers are also soaring. Tinder parent company Match Group reported that Tinder added 299,000 paid members in the second quarter, totalling 1.7 million additions in the past year, and more than 3 million to date.

“We’re excited to finally share Top Picks with our users around the world given its early success,” said Brian Norgard, Chief Product Officer at Tinder, in a statement. “Data suggests users in test markets have loved the feature, and we’re happy to make one Top Pick available to all users each day with this global rollout. The feature refreshes every day, highlighting the diversity, talents and passions of our users in a simple, fun and useful manner.”

The launch of Top Picks arrives at the same time that a new documentary about Tinder’s outsized influence on dating culture, Swiped, has debuted on HBO.

The film takes a fairly damning view of online dating via apps like Tinder, by highlighting some of its worst attributes – like the men ordering women to their home the way they do Seamless; the swipe addicts who always think there’s someone better out there; the unsolicited sexual photos women receive; as well as the overall decline in value for genuine human connections, due to the abundance of choice offered by dating apps’ massive “catalogs.”

Top Picks won’t necessarily solve these problems. At best, it may at least help users narrow their focus and begin to understand there aren’t actually endless dating options when you have certain criteria in mind. At worst, it may encourage users to view people as even more of a commodity, as they click to pay merely pennies for more Top Picks “packs.”

The feature is rolling out globally on iOS and Android as of Monday evening.

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Tinder’s latest feature, Tinder U, is only for college students

Posted by | Apps, college, dating apps, Mobile, networking, Schools, Social, students, TC, Tinder, university | No Comments

Tinder is today rolling out what may be one of its smartest additions yet with the launch of Tinder U, a feature designed specifically for Tinder users in college. Once enabled, students with a .edu email address will be able to register with their school, then swipe on students who also attend their school or others nearby. Beyond limiting potential matches to other students, the overall Tinder experience is unchanged.

Students will still be able to view each others’ profiles, swipe right and left to match or pass, message mutual matches, use Super Likes, and more.

To use Tinder U, students will first have to be geolocated on campus and log in to the Tinder app using their .edu email address. They’ll then have to check their inbox for the verification email and tap the button to confirm their account.

After completing this process, users will be in the Tinder U experience the next time they launch the app.

Here, students will see their school’s logo appear at the top of the screen, and individual profile photos will have flair on the bottom left to indicate the user’s school. Tinder U doesn’t prevent users from swiping off campus, however – using a toggle button at the top of the screen (see photo above), users can choose to swipe by location instead, or by Tinder Picks by toggling over to the diamond icon, if they’re a Gold member.

Tinder U makes sense for the company, whose user base already skews younger – it has said before that half its user base is between 18 and 24, for example. And dating apps’ usage, in general, among this age group has roughly tripped from 10% in 2013 to 27% by 2016, according to Pew Research. And of course, there’s the fact that Tinder itself got its start on college campuses – a market that’s young, single, and more willing to adopt mobile dating apps than other, older demographics.

The feature arrives at a time when Facebook is poised to enter the dating market – a market Tinder and its parent company Match Group today dominate. Tinder now has an estimated 50 million worldwide users, and nearly 3.8 million subscribers.

“Five years ago at college campuses around the U.S, students first heard about Tinder through friends. Tinder spread like wildfire, because it was a really fun and easy way to meet people who went to school, but you didn’t know personally,” Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg recently said, when announcing the product. “We believe it is critical that Tinder maintains a strong foothold at universities around the globe, especially given that every 18-year-old who starts college is building a social life from scratch making new friends and starting new relationships.”

Tinder says the new feature is launching initially on iOS devices at 4-year, accredited, not-for-profit schools in the U.S. that deliver courses in a traditional face-to-face learning format – meaning, no online universities or virtual schools will be supported. The company didn’t provide a timeframe for the Android release.

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Snapchat launches privacy-safe Snap Kit, the un-Facebook platform

Posted by | Apps, Developer, eventbrite, facebook platform, Mobile, Patreon, Poshmark, Postmates, Snapchat, Social, TC, Tinder | No Comments

Today Snapchat finally gets a true developer platform, confirming TechCrunch’s scoop from last month about Snap Kit. This set of APIs lets other apps piggyback on Snap’s login for sign up, build Bitmoji avatars into their keyboards, display public Our Stories and Snap Map content, and generate branded stickers with referral links users can share back inside Snapchat.

Snap Kit’s big selling point is privacy — a differentiator from Facebook. It doesn’t even let you share your social graph with apps to prevent a Cambridge Analytica-style scandal.

Launch partners include Tinder bringing Bitmojis to your chats with matches, Patreon letting fans watch creators’ Stories from within its app, and Postmates offering order ETA stickers you can share in Snapchat that open the restaurant’s page in the delivery app. Developers that want to join the platform can sign up here.

Snap Kit could help the stumbling public company colonize the mobile app ecosystem with its buttons and content, which might inspire Snapchat signups from new users and reengagement from old ones. “Growth is one of our three goals for 2018, so we absolutely hope it can contribute to that, and continue to strengthen engagement, which has always been a key metric for us” Snap’s VP of product Jacob Andreou tells me. That’s critical since Snapchat sunk to its lowest user growth rate ever last quarter under the weight of competition from Instagram and WhatsApp.

“There have been areas inside of our products where we’ve really set standards” Andreou explains. “Early, that was seen in examples like Stories, but today with things like how we treat user data, what we collect, what we share when people login and register for our service . . . Snap Kit is a set of developer tools that really allow people to take the best parts of our products and the standards that we’ve set in a few of these areas, and bring them into their apps.”

This focus on privacy manifests as a limit of 90 days of inactivity before your connection with an app is severed. And the login feature only requires you bring along your changeable Snapchat display name, and optionally, your Bitmoji. Snap Kit apps can’t even ask for your email, phone number, gender, age, location, who you follow, or who you’re friends with.

“It really became challenging for us to see our users then use other products throughout their day and have to lower their expectations. . . having to be okay with the fact that all of their information and data would be shared” Andreou gripes. This messaging is a stark turnaround from four years ago when it took 10 days for CEO Evan Spiegel to apologize for security laziness causing the leak of 4 million users’ phone numbers. But now with Facebook as everyone’s favorite privacy punching bag, Snapchat is seizing the PR opportunity.

“I think one of the parts that [Spiegel] was really excited about with this release is how much better our approach to our users in that way really is — without relying on things like policy or developer’s best intentions or them writing perfect bug free code, but instead by design, not even exposing these things to begin with.”

Yet judging by Facebook’s continued growth and recovered share price, privacy is too abstract of a concept for many people to grasp. Snap Kit will have to win on the merits of what it brings other apps, and the strength of its partnerships team. Done right, Snapchat could gain an army of allies to battle the blue menace.

Snapvengers Assemble

Snap’s desire to maintain an iron grip on its ‘cool’ brand has kept its work with developers minimal until now. Its first accidental brush with a developer platform was actually a massive security hazard.

Third-party apps promising a method to secretly screenshot messages asked users to login with their Snapchat usernames and passwords, then proceeded to get hacked, exposing some users’ risqué photos. Snap later cut off an innocent music video app called Mindie for finding a way to share to users’ Stories. Last year I wrote how A year ago I urged it to build a platform in my article “Snap’s anti-developer attitude is an augmented liability”, as it needs help to populate the physical world with AR.

2017 saw Snap cautiously extend the drawbridge, inviting in ads, analytics, and marketing developer partners to help brands be hip, and letting hacker/designers make their own AR lenses. But the real transition moment was when Spiegel said on the Q4 2017 earnings call that “We feel strongly that Snapchat should not be confined to our mobile application—the amazing Snaps created by our community deserve wider distribution so they can be enjoyed by everyone.”

At the time that meant Snaps on the web, embedded in news sites, and on Jumbotrons. Today it means in other apps. But Snap will avoid one of the key pitfalls of the Facebook platform: over-promising. Snap Deputy General Counsel for Privacy Katherine Tassi tells me “It was also very important to us that there wasn’t going to be the exchange of the friends graph as part of the value proposition to third party developers.”

How Snap Kit Works

Snap Kit breaks down to four core pieces of functionality that will appeal to different apps looking to simplify signup, make communication visual, host eye-catching content, or score referral traffic. Developers that want access to Snap Kit must pass a human review and approval process. Snap will review their functionality to ensure they’re not doing anything shady.

Once authorized, they’ll have access to these APIs:

  • Login Kit is the foundation of Snap Kit. It’s an OAuth-style alternative to Facebook Login that lets users skip creating a proprietary username and password by instead using their Snapchat credentials. But all the app gets is their changeable, pseudonym-allowed Snapchat display name, and optionally, their Bitmoji avatar to use as a profile pic if the user approves. Getting that login button in lots of apps could remind people Snapchat exists, and turn it into a fundamental identity utility people will be loath to abandon.
  • Creative Kit is how apps will get a chance to create stickers and filters for use back in the Snapchat camera. Similar to April’s F8 launch of the ability to share from other apps to Instagram and Facebook Stories, developers can turn content like high scores, workout stats and more into stickers that users can overlay on their Snaps to drive awareness of the source app. Developers can also set a deep link where those stickers send people to generate referral traffic, which could be appealing to those looking to tap Snap’s 191 million teens.

  • Bitmoji Kit lets developers integrate Snapchat’s personalized avatars directly into their app’s keyboard. It’s an easy path to making chat more visually expressive without having to reinvent the wheel. This follows the expansion of Friendmoji that illustrate you and a pal rolling out to the iOS keyboard. But Bitmoji Kit means developers do the integration work instead of having to depend on users installing anything extra.
  • Story Kit allows developers to embed Snapchat Stories into their apps and websites. Beyond specific Stories, apps can also search through public Stories submitted to Our Story or Snap Map by location, time, or captions. A journalism app could surface first-hand reports from the scene of breaking news or a meme app could pull in puppy Snaps. The company will add extra reminders to the Our Story submission process to ensure users know their Stories could appear outside of Snapchat’s own app.

One thing that’s not in Snap Kit, at least yet, is the ability to embed Snapchat’s whole software camera into other apps which TechCrunch erroneously reported. Our sources mistakenly confused Creative Kit’s ability to generate stickers as opposed to sharing whole stories, which Andreou called “an interesting first step” for making Snapchat the broadcast channel for other apps.

Additional launch partners include bringing Bitmoji to Quip’s word processor, RSVP stickers from Eventbrite, GIF-enhanced Stories search in Giphy, Stories from touring musicians in Bands In Town, storytelling about your dinner reservation on Quandoo, music discovery sharing from SoundHound, and real-time sports score sharing from ScoreStream.

While other platforms have escaped their host’s control, like Facebook’s viral game spam outbreak in 2009 or Twitter having to shut down errant clients, Snapchat’s approval process will let it direct the destiny of its integrations.

Bitmoji Kit in Tinder

When asked why Snapchat was building Snap Kit, Andreou explained that “We think that giving people more tools to be able to express themselves freely, have fun and be creative, both on Snapchat and other apps is a good thing. We also think that helping more people outside of Snapchat learn about our platform and our features is a good thing. And most importantly, being able to do this in a way that doesn’t compromise our users’ privacy is very good thing.”

Without much data sharing, there’s a lot less risk here for Snapchat. But the platform won’t have the same draw that Facebook can dangle with its massive user base and extensive personal info access. Instead, Snapchat will have to leverage the fear of being left out of the visual communication era and tout itself as the catalyst for apps to evolve. The biggest driver of the platform might be youngins demanding their Bitmoji everywhere.

Snap needs all the help it can get right now. If other apps are willing to be a billboard for it in exchange for some of its teen-approved functionality, Snapchat could find new growth channels amidst stiff competition. Platforms can entrench apps. And after its user count shrunk in March, Snap has to find a way to keep from disappearing

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How Raya’s $8/month dating app turned exclusivity into trust

Posted by | Apps, dating, LinkedIn, Mobile, professional networking, Raya, Social, Startups, TC, Tinder | No Comments

The swipe is where the similarity ends. Raya is less like Tinder and more like a secret society. You need a member’s recommendations or a lot of friends inside to join, and you have to apply with an essay question. It costs a flat $7.99 for everyone, women and celebrities included. You show yourself off with a video slideshow set to music of your choice. And it’s for professional networking as well as dating, with parallel profiles for each.

Launched in March 2015, Raya has purposefully flown under the radar. No interviews. Little info about the founders. Not even a profile on Crunchbase’s startup index. In fact, in late 2016 it quietly acquired video messaging startup Chime, led by early Facebooker Jared Morgenstern, without anyone noticing. He’d become Raya’s first investor a year earlier. But Chime was fizzling out after raising $1.2 million. “I learned that not everyone who leaves Facebook, their next thing turns to gold,” Morgenstern laughs. So he sold it to Raya for equity and brought four of his employees to build new experiences for the app.

Now the startup’s COO, Morgenstern has agreed to give TechCrunch the deepest look yet at Raya, where the pretty, popular and powerful meet each other.

Temptation via trust

Raya COO Jared Morgenstern

“Raya is a utility for introducing you to people who can change your life. Soho House uses physical space, we’re trying to use software,” says Morgenstern, referencing the global network of members-only venues.

We’re chatting in a coffee shop in San Francisco. It’s an odd place to discuss Raya, given the company has largely shunned Silicon Valley in favor of building a less nerdy community in LA, New York, London and Paris. The exclusivity might feel discriminatory for some, even if you’re chosen based on your connections rather than your wealth or race. Though people already self-segregate based on where they go to socialize. You could argue Raya just does the same digitally.

Morgenstern refuses to tell me how much Raya has raised, how it started or anything about its founding team beyond that they’re a “Humble, focused group that prefers not to be part of the story.” But he did reveal some of the core tenets that have reportedly attracted celebrities like DJs Diplo and Skrillex, actors Elijah Wood and Amy Schumer and musicians Demi Lovato and John Mayer, plus scores of Instagram models and tattooed creative directors.

Raya’s iOS-only app isn’t a swiping game for fun and personal validation. Its interface and curated community are designed to get you from discovering someone to texting if you’re both interested to actually meeting in person as soon as possible. Like at a top-tier university or night club, there’s supposed to be an in-group sense of camaraderie that makes people more open to each other.

Then there are the rules.

“This is an intimate community with zero-tolerance for disrespect or mean-spirited behavior. Be nice to each other. Say hello like adults,” says an interstitial screen that blocks use until you confirm you understand and agree every time you open the app. That means no sleazy pick-up lines or objectifying language. You’re also not allowed to screenshot, and you’ll be chastized with a numbered and filed warning if you do.

It all makes Raya feel consequential. You’re not swiping through infinite anybodies and sorting through reams of annoying messages. People act right because they don’t want to lose access. Raya recreates the feel of dating or networking in a small town, where your reputation follows you. And that sense of trust has opened a big opportunity where competitors like Tinder or LinkedIn can’t follow.

Self-expression to first impression

Until now, Raya showed you people in your city as well as around the world — which is a bit weird since it would be hard to ever run into each other. But to achieve its mission of getting you offline to meet people in-person, it’s now letting you see nearby people on a map when GPS says they’re at hot spots like bars, dance halls and cafes. The idea is that if you both swipe right, you could skip the texting and just walk up to each other.

“I’m not sure why Tinder and the other big meeting-people apps aren’t doing this,” says Morgenstern. But the answer seems obvious. It would be creepy on a big public dating app. Even other exclusive dating apps like The League that induct people due to their resume more than their personality might feel too unsavory for a map, since having gone to an Ivy League college doesn’t mean you’re not a jerk. Hell, it might make that more likely.

But this startup is betting that its vetted, interconnected, “cool” community will be excited to pick fellow Raya members out of the crowd to see if they have a spark or business synergy.

That brings Raya closer to the Holy Grail of networking apps where you can discover who you’re compatible with in the same room without risking the crash-and-burn failed come-ons. You can filter by age and gender when browsing social connections, or by “Entertainment & Culture,” “Art & Design,” and “Business & Tech” buckets for work. And through their bio and extended slideshows of photos set to their favorite song, you get a better understanding of someone than from just a few profile pics on other apps.

Users can always report people they’ve connected with if they act sketchy, though with the new map feature I was dismayed to learn they can’t yet report people they haven’t seen or rejected in the app. That could lower the consequences for finding someone you want to meet, learning a bit about them, but then approaching without prior consent. However, Morgenstern insists, “The real risk is the density challenge.”

Finding your tribe

Raya’s map doesn’t help much if there are no other members for 100 miles. The company doesn’t restrict the app to certain cities, or schools like Facebook originally did to beat the density problem. Instead, it relies on the fact that if you’re in the middle of nowhere you probably don’t have friends on it to pull you in. Still, that makes it tough for Raya to break into new locales.

But the beauty of the business is that since all users pay $7.99 per month, it doesn’t need that many to earn plenty of money. And at less than the price of a cocktail, the subscription deters trolls without being unaffordable. Morgenstern says, “The most common reason to stop your subscription: I found somebody.” That “success = churn” equation drags on most dating apps. Since Raya has professional networking as well, though, he says some people still continue the subscription even after they find their sweetheart.

“I’m happily in a relationship and I’m excited to use maps,” Morgenstern declares. In that sense, Raya wants to expand those moments in life when you’re eager and open to meet people, like the first days of college. “At Raya we don’t think that’s something that should only happen when you’re single or when you’re 20 or when you move to a new city.”

The bottomless pits of Tinder and LinkedIn can make meeting people online feel haphazard to the point of exhaustion. We’re tribal creatures who haven’t evolved ways to deal with the decision paralysis and the anxiety caused by the paradox of choice. When there’s infinite people to choose from, we freeze up, or always wonder if the next one would have been better than the one we picked. Maybe we need Raya-like apps for all sorts of different subcultures beyond the hipsters that dominate its community, as I wrote in my 2015 piece, “Rise Of The Micro-Tinders”. But if Raya’s price and exclusivity lets people be both vulnerable and accountable, it could forge a more civil way to make a connection.

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Facebook should actually be Tinder too

Posted by | Apps, dating, Facebook, Facebook Meetups, Mobile, Opinion, Social, TC, Tinder | No Comments

 There’s beauty in the double-blind opt-in. That’s the way you match with someone on Tinder. You like them, they like you, you both find out and get connected. But to date, the feature’s largely been trapped in dating apps that match you with randos or that not everyone wants to be on. That means this anti-loneliness technology is leaving some people out. Facebook, meanwhile,… Read More

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Appeals court rules that Tinder’s pricing violates age discrimination laws

Posted by | Apps, lawsuit, Mobile, Social, TC, Tinder | No Comments

 A California appeals court has sided with Allan Candelore, a man suing Tinder over the pricing for its premium service, Tinder Plus. Specifically, Candelore and his lawyers argued that by charging $9.99 per month if a user is under 30, versus $19.99 per month if you’re 30 or older, Tinder is discriminating based on age. Read More

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Ripple, a Tinder spinoff backed by Match, launches app for professional networking

Posted by | Apps, business networking, Mobile, professional networking, Ripple, Social, Startups, TC, Tinder | No Comments

 A team of former Tinder employees, led by Tinder’s original CTO Ryan Ogle, are today launching a new app aimed at professional networking. The app, called Ripple, aims to be a sort of mobile-first alternative to LinkedIn that addresses some of the problems common to the aging, now Microsoft-owned business networking platform.
LinkedIn today has a heavy focus on job searching and head… Read More

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HQ Trivia arrives on Android in Canada in beta

Posted by | Android, Apps, computing, Gaming, Google Play, HQ Trivia, Mobile, smartphones, Software, TC, Tinder | No Comments

 App-based trivia sensation HQ Trivia is on its way to Android, as the company previously revealed, but a special group of users can access it right now — Canadians. The app is now live in the Canadian Google Play Store, though it’s an “Unreleased” beta version of the live trivia game (via MobileSyrup). HQ Trivia debuted on iOS earlier this year, featuring a twice… Read More

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