Why Shasta is backing an emerging leader in mobile dating
For two decades, the Internet has been used by people to meet each other, both online and in person. Yahoo!’s directory contained more than 15 dating sites back in 1996, around the same time Match.com started to gain traction. Millions of people have met, dated, fallen in love, and spent lives together after finding each other online. More recently, a crop of startups, such as Tinder and Grindr, have used mobile to offer new ways for women and men to connect and meet. Tinder’s growth has been impressive, and it has struck a nerve with users; but it caters to a casual, hook up, almost game-like dating experience, where users often run into fake accounts and a lot of spam. And the traditional, more serious dating sites like eHarmony and Match have negative social stigmas, don’t cater to millennials, and have thus failed to gain mindshare amongst the mobile generation.
Justin McLeod was finishing business school when he attended a last chance dance party for students to get together before graduation. The party got him thinking that there should be a way for people to connect more naturally online, facilitated by mutual friends and in a light-weight manner. A way for you to meet online like you would serendipitously at a party at your school. A way for you to meet through friends of friends like you would at a dinner party, rather than by searching and filtering through hundreds of profiles. A way for you to get matched without fear of rejection and without investing a significant amount of time. A way for you to engage in a real conversation in a trusted setting, rather than get spammed.
Hinge’s matchmaking connects to your Facebook account to foster friend-of-a-friend connections, a novel concept in a sea of dating apps that prioritize immediate, nearby and mostly anonymous relationships.
-TIME, in the Top 10 Apps of 2014 list
Hinge began with Justin’s friends as users, and has spread to over 28 cities in the past year and a half.
At Shasta, we have been hearing about Hinge over and over again from its users over the past year. One user in NYC told us that he’d matched with the very same woman on both Hinge and Tinder, and they engaged in a nice conversation on Hinge, but had a very negative conversation on Tinder. Here’s what a user in San Francisco told us, a sentiment echoed by many:
Tinder for hooking up, Hinge for dating. That how we singles describe it!
Today, Hinge is announcing that Shasta Ventures is leading a $12M Series A investment in the company. Why are we investing? Here are six reasons:
- It is built by a team that is laser-focused on delivering a better experience. At Shasta, our philosophy is that the best companies are manically focused on building the best end user experience. Hinge’s dedication to creating a natural connecting experience is a great example of this philosophy. Through the showcasing of relevant information such as work, education, mutual friends, and Facebook profile photos, Hinge profiles are authentic. The focus on matching people with friends of friends leads to real conversations.
- It has spread by word-of-mouth. Almost all of Hinge’s users hear about and start using the app organically. This is unique in the dating category, where most products rely on paid customer acquisition to drive growth.
- It has a new group of people talking. Half of Hinge’s users have not used an online dating site before. In the urban young professional demographic, people know about and talk about Hinge.
- There are signals, both quantitative and qualitative, that users love the application. Hinge has high daily engagement and retention. Dating apps have natural churn (people stop using the product when they find a great match in real life), but the active Hinge users are highly engaged, and stick around for longer than we would have expected.
- Relationships are core to life. We believe that new, large companies will emerge in the dating market. The dating category has seen waves of new companies. Match.com, eHarmony, OKCupid, Zoosk, Tinder have all gained significant mindshare in the U.S., and there are other large players abroad. There’s a reason for these successes — this is a really important space. Relationships and finding life partners are some of the cornerstones of life. With Hinge’s mobile-first approach, and its focus on mutual connections and more natural matching, it caters to a millennial generation that relies on the smartphone. A generation that craves for a better experience. We believe new winners will emerge in dating over the next decade, and that Hinge will be a leader.
- This is the team that will make it happen. At Shasta, we back entrepreneurs who will break through wall after wall to make their vision a reality. Justin and the team iterated to find success in their current product, and continue to experiment to improve the user experience. The company has three core beliefs — be bold, be human, be real — that drive decision-making on product and everything else, as outlined in the title photo above. We could feel this spirit in the team in every conversation we had with them.
We could not be more excited to support the team at Hinge, and to join existing investors Lowercase Capital, Red Swan Ventures, Great Oaks, Founders Fund, ENIAC, Social+Capital, CAA, and more on this journey.
If you are interested in joining a fast-growing tech company in NYC, check out what it’s like to work at Hinge here, and open positions here. And if you’re ready to be bold and meet new people, download and start using Hinge!
-Tod, Nikhil, Sean, and the Shasta team