7 Famous People & Startups That Started Or Started As Dating Apps

Johnson Khoo Chong Sheng
Oct 2 · 15 min read

You’ll be surprised how many successful entrepreneurs once tried to start a dating app & how some successful products you use today actually started as a dating app.

**This piece first appeared on johnsonkhoo.com. You can find more related stories and articles on his 10 year journey to build ASEAN’s first world-changing start-up that would help everyone in this world find true love and build lasting romantic relationships here.


Dating is a global problem that everyone in the world faces at some point in their lives.

It is a fundamental human need to want to find a life partner to settle down & start a family with at some point of most people’s lives. With that in mind, it is only natural that one of the first problems an entrepreneur would seek to solve is dating, especially if you are a young male who’s thinking of starting something — since a significant portion of aspiring entrepreneurs so far tend to come from that same demographic.

Reid Hoffman Started A Social Network With A Dating Element Called SocialNet Before He Joined Paypal & Started LinkedIn

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, the key person who introduced Peter Thiel to Facebook so he could make the first outside investment into Facebook — he did not lead the round himself because of a conflict of interest, he was building LinkedIn at the time, which was also a social network, Paypal Mafia and partner at Greylock Partners revealed during a fireside chat with founders that one of the first start-ups he started before even joining Paypal was a social network called SocialNet — this was really early days even before Friendster, Myspace or Facebook came about — which included a dating element.

Bill Gates Once Tweaked The Class Sorting Software He Built For His School So That His Class Would Have More Girls

While he was learning how to code with Paul Allen in high school, one of the interesting projects he recounted was this class management software he built for his school where he tweaked the code so the software would put more girls in his class.

Youtube First Started As A Dating App

Many might not know this, but when Chard Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim left Paypal to start Youtube, youtube was meant to be a video version of an online dating service, where singles would upload videos introducing themselves so other singles can find them and get to know them.

Basically, Youtube started as a video based dating app.

Eventually, people started uploading cat videos and all sorts of other videos, and the rest was history. Instead of becoming the platform that solved dating, Youtube became the world’s largest video repository and second largest search engine.

The First Start-Up Ex-Sequoia Asia Partner Yinglan Started Back In Stanford Was A Dating App Called LoveMatch That He Started With His Current Wife

At the time of writing, I have yet to meet Yinglan, but I read and heard that he is one of the better and more forward thinking VCs in the region, the kind that truly innovative start-ups solving global problems like mine might need.

I like to do my research and background check on potential investors to determine whether they might be a good fit for my start-up, because the wrong investors would kill you or severely derail your start-up. Hence, I looked him up.

That’s when I found out that his first start-up when he was at Stanford which he built and sold was a dating site he started together with his current wife called LoveMatch — you can read about it here.

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Putting His Insignia On The Southeast Asian Tech Startup Scene

His VC firm Insignia Ventures and previous firm Sequoia Capital Asia, generally invests in Series A and above, so my start-up is still too early for him. However, I’ve always wanted to meet him to see what his thoughts on the future of online dating are and what he has learnt from building and selling an online dating platform.

We were both invited to speak at a conference in Vietnam last year and we were supposed to meet, but he couldn’t make it because of a typhoon.

Would love to know what his thoughts are. Let’s see what happens.

Monk’s Hill’s Partner Peng Was The Co-Founder Of A Classifieds Startup With A Dating Section That Eventually Became match.com

One of the co-founders of Match.com, which used to belong to IAC and has since spun out to become Match Group, a dating conglomerate that also owns Tinder — started from an internal hackathon — OkCupid, PlentyOfFish and much more.

Their market capitalisation started at roughly 2 billion USD when it was first spun off from IAC in 2015 but have since grown their annual revenue to 1.8 billion USD and a market cap of close to 20 billion USD.

I met him briefly during a fireside chat which he spoke at. He was in a hurry and there wasn’t much time to talk to him but I managed to ask him some key questions. It turns out that much of Match.com and Match group today really had nothing much to do with him, he started a classifieds website in 1993 but it din’t really work, the only section that seemed to be working was the dating classifieds known as Match.com. That was the only classifieds that someone was interested to buy, so they sold it in 1997.

Fellow founder Gary Kremen left in 1996 and Match.com changed hands a couple of times and eventually ended up with IAC in 1999, who built it into the dating conglomerate that also owns Tinder today.

He told me that dating is not a VC fundable business, and that I should do something else. He told me that in order for dating to work, it needs to be free, and something everyone can use daily, like Facebook, and if someone can truly solve it, perhaps it would be a company like Facebook.

The funny thing is, I totally get where he is coming from, and totally agree with him. Dating, as it exists today is a stupid business, and not VC fundable, as I’ve written about in the article below. It also needs to be free and something everyone can use daily, which is the exact way I am building Wowwwz, as a social network for romance, where both couples and singles can use everyday to fulfil all their relationship needs, and its free for the users.

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Why Investors Hate Dating Apps

I’ve also said many times that Facebook still is the largest dating app in the world today, and tried to build Facebook’s dating feature and exactly what was today’s secret crush back in 2013.

I understand exactly where he is coming from, that is why I am so confident I can solve dating thoroughly and become the last and best dating platform in the world that would be worth as much as Facebook. Given sufficient resources, I am confident we can do it and even beat Facebook to it, because solving dating is Wowwwz’s core mission, it isn’t Facebook’s. There is a reason why Microsoft lost to Google in Search and Google + lost to Facebook in social networking and Dropbox can still be worth 10 billion USD when Google launched Google Drive at the same time as Dropbox.

The team that is most focused on the mission and led by a visionary founder truly passionate about solving the problem thoroughly will always end up building the better product and win.

Brian Chesky talked about this in the fireside chat below.

Peng made most of his money from his subsequent start-ups, and wasn’t really involved in building Match.com to where it is today, that was mostly IAC. It’s also clear from what he said that day that he isn’t really passionate about solving dating, the dating classifieds just happened to be the only more valuable asset in an otherwise failed classified venture. Because of that, there’s probably a lot he does not know and does not see about the potential of truly solving dating.

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Are Early Stage ASEAN VCs Valuing Start-Ups Wrongly?

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to share what my views on solving dating are and how it is the next 100 billion USD opportunity the way I am doing it.

It is important for VCs to always be open to listening to what founders have to say and not categorically shut off their mind once they hear certain key words or come across something that they tried and failed because what used to be true years ago might not be true today. Furthermore, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about life and businesses, it is that there is always something you don’t even know you don’t know.

As Peter Thiel rightly pointed out, the best and most disruptive start-ups are the ones that usually sound absurd at first, they’re usually CONTRARIAN, but RIGHT. If you always shut your mind off after hearing something contrarian, or contrary to your own believes based on your own limited world view, you are never going to find out whether someone is just contrarian and wrong as usual, or are they actually contrarian, but RIGHT.

Adding someone as a friend on a website to stay in touch? Sounds extra, we have letters and telephones, it is not a problem, and you would have just missed Facebook.

Organise all the information in the world? Sounds impossible, and you would have just missed Google.

Getting strangers to stay at strangers homes and homeowners to open up their homes for guests? Sounds creepy, who would do that? And you would have just missed Airbnb.

The fact that I actually agree on everything he said about dating and how it is not a VC investable business as it is today, but can still see how I can truly solve dating throughly and build it into a 100 billion USD business says something.

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Most People Where Wrong

I can see everything you see, but there is something I am seeing that you are not seeing.

Perhaps one day we would have the opportunity to sit down properly and have an honest in depth discussion so he can find out what it is that he is missing and not seeing.

We shall see.

Once Popular Social Network Hi5 Actually Started From A Dating Event

Through the first ever Y-Combinator Start-Up School Program, I had the opportunity to be introduced to the founder of Hi5, one of the first and largest social networks along with MySpace and Friendster when Facebook was still just a college directory.

At one point, Hi5 was growing by 500,000 users per day.

I asked him many questions to which their answers confirmed what I already knew about building the next 100 billion dollar start-up, and that I was on the right track with Wowwwz.

What I found out from him about the truth about the social networking wars and more further confirmed what I already knew, the the wrong investors would kill or severely derail your start-up, that you need to stay true to your mission, and solve the problem thoroughly. That’s the difference between a Facebook and all other social networks that were much bigger and much more well funded that came before Facebook.

Wowwwz wants to be the Facebook and Google of the dating wars, not Friendster, Myspace or Yahoo, Metacrawler, Altavista, many of these early search engines and social network, some who were even listed and market leaders for some time that most millennials never even heard of.

You want to be the last and the best, not an also-ran.

Anyway, one of the interesting things I’ve learnt from him was that Hi5 actually started from a dating event. I asked him how did he get his first user base before focusing on increasing retention and their viral coefficient by keep iterating on new features, to which he said it all started with a speed dating event.

Many people on Hi5 got married via the platform and are still together today.

I’ve asked him many more very specific questions to which you can meet me in person to find out more, like how doing things that don’t scale at the start like having dating events and photographic apartments personally like Airbnb did is definitely the right way to go during the early stages, but the interesting point I wanted to bring out for this article was that Hi5 first started as a dating event too.

That tells us how big a part dating plays in our lives, and remains a problem that hasn’t been solved thoroughly today.

Facebook Started As A Website To Connect Students In The Same University, But Really Though?

During a speech Mark Zuckerberg gave at Stanford in 2005 when Facebook just started, he mentioned that the reason he started Facebook was simple. He thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just type in someone’s name and find out some information about them?”.

That’s how he started with the first version of Facebook which was essentially a college directory. In his other talks, he denies how the movie portrayed one of his earlier side projects FaceMash and the early version of Facebook as a tool for dating.

While that might be true, we can’t rule out the strong possibility that one of the main reasons why Facebook caught on was due to the lure of the opportunity to find and meet new people on campus whom we might end up dating.

If you are a teenager or a college student, dating is one of the things that you would be thinking about quite a lot.

Dating — The Next 100 Billion USD Opportunity

Because dating is such a fundamental and basic human need, it takes up a huge portion of our lives, from finding a suitable life partner when we are single to building and maintaining a romantic relationship once we are attached or married.

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The Next 100 Billion Dollar Start-Up Will Be A Dating App

Dating takes up a huge part of our time, money and energy. Just ask yourself how much time do you spend with your significant other and how much money do you spend a month going out on dates once you start dating and how much time do you spend thinking about who you might date when you’re single to know the answer.

Come on, let’s be honest with ourselves.

Dating is a global problem that could be solved much better and whoever solves it thoroughly would have built a solution that everyone would be using every day of their lives, and is definitely at least a 100 billion USD company.

Why Has No One Solved Dating Yet?

Dating is an extremely complex problem to solve, it is not as simple as matching 2 single people who are in the same location to each other.

You need to introduce 2 people who share compatible values, complementary interests, are at the right stage of their lives, at the right location, have compatible life goals, are able to get along well, grow together, are physically attracted to each other and can go on a lifelong adventure together at the right time as a mutual friend would.

You also need to build tools to help them truly get to know each other better, create memorable memories and experiences together, resolve conflicts and grow together as a couple in their long journey through life.

Otherwise, there would be plenty of heartbreaks, broken souls, divorces and broken families. The world needs a proper dating solution, not just hookup apps.

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How Is A Dating App An Innovative Idea?

Not everyone can solve it. You need to have a founder who deeply understands the problem, is extremely passionate about solving it, has the vision to solve it and has the ability to attract top talent to help him or her build it and can execute on it.

Who Would Be The One To Finally Solve Dating?

I believe I can be that founder.

Unfortunately, I am stuck in an ecosystem that isn’t ready for truly innovative start-ups that are solving big global problems. We are only ready for regional copycats or instant revenue generating offline-to-online or b2b Saas solutions, where key stakeholders and gatekeepers do not know how to identify truly world-changing start-ups that could become the next Facebook or Google because no one here has done it before.

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Why Am I Sacrificing My Life To Build My Startup — Wowwwz?

That’s why I am trying everything I can, from having learnt how to code myself, building the app, data graph and algorithms myself, to starting a Youtube Channel on love and relationships that will be launching soon and everything I can possibly do in order to start a paradigm shift in thinking so that we could get enough resources from investors to at least get a chance to properly get started.

If you’d like to live in a world where everyone can meet the love of their lives, build lasting relationships and live happily ever after with much less heartbreak, broken souls and broken families, please give us a chance by downloading the app, SHARE this article and many other related stories with your friends so we can get enough funding to properly built a solution that could help everyone in this world find and build lasting relationships.

Hopefully, Wowwwz will be the first 100 billion dollar app from ASEAN that truly changed the world and finally solved dating thoroughly, but for that to happen, I need your help.


I hope you will help me so that I can build the tools to help everyone in this world find their soulmate whom they can grow old together and live long happy lives with.

If you have access to a brand, company, working building, community or even VCs, let me know; I can help you build a community of people who like your product or brand and introduce them to each other, or bring a community closer by introducing people at the same building or company to each other!

You can reach me at johnson@wowwwz.com or LinkedIn.

Don’t forget to share this story and all related stories to as many of your friends too, we need to more people to spread the word so we can start a positive paradigm shift in our ecosystem.

Also, you can help by downloading the app, give us a good rating, subscribe to my Youtube Channel about relationships-coming soon, leave your email, join this Facebook Group and check back every few months for cool updates.

*Search for Wowwwz on the App Store or Play Store to download

JohnsonKhooTV — Subscribe to my upcoming Youtube Channel where I will be talking about real life stories about love & relationships

FB Group To Stay Updated On Wowwwz’s Journey — Join this Facebook Group so you can stay updated on our journey, new features and new stories and new updates on our quest to build a start-up that could help everyone in this world find true love and live happily ever after

You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

More stories and articles can be found on my blog johnsonkhoo.com or via this link to a list of all published stories here.

Help me out, because many people’s lifetime happiness is in your hands.


Once you’ve downloaded the app and signed up, you can also start to meet other amazing single people in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore who share the same values and interests as you by scanning the QR codes below.

*Search for Wowwwz on the App Store or Play Store to download

SCAN with Wowwwz to meet amazing single people in Kuala Lumpur!

SCAN with Wowwwz to meet amazing single people in Singapore!


Do SHARE this with as many of your single friends as possible so they can find their soulmate soon, we can get more traction, and raise the funding necessary to build you more cool features that will help amazing single people meet each other and amazing couples grow their relationship!

Let’s do this together!

The world needs YOUR HELP so all of us can find true love!

You have the power to become a superhero!

Johnson Khoo Chong Sheng

Written by

ASEAN Scholar | Founder @ Wowwwz | Start-up entrepreneur from Malaysia trying to help everyone in this world find true love and live happily ever after.

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