GDI & Social Discovery London 2023: Summary

GDI’s annual European conference, and the first-ever Social Discovery conference took place in London last week. In this special summary article, our team shares insights into the themes that emerged across the two days.

The many uses of AI

Across two days in London, the letters A and I were never far away from the lips of our speakers.  Artificial Intelligence was cited as a tool to aid content moderation, it could root out fake profiles, confirm identities, and protect users.  AI could be used by the industry to solve many of its challenges – especially as services scale and regulators require further safety commitments.

Christoph Hermes from Irisnet and John Joyce from Veriff shared examples of how AI could help dating platforms reduce inappropriate content and provide more guarantees of user authenticity.

Michael O’Sullivan of HubPeople demonstrated how AI could be used to build a credible dating website in a matter of moments.

For attendees at the GDI and Social Discovery conferences, O’Sullivan created a dating site, on the fly, in just a few minutes. Picking up prompts from delegates, this instant site came together in a flash, showing the potential for AI in UX and UI development.

Bill Alena, Chief Investment Officer at The Social Discovery Group, revealed a new project underway at the global dating brand. He showcased EVA AI, an AI companion that will listen to, respond to, and appreciate every user that engages with the platform.

Trust & safety at the forefront

We heard much discussion about safety concerns, firstly in a session chaired by the Online Dating Association and featuring the Metropolitan Police, and then in a panel including Stacy Thomson of REDDI, Sanjay Panchal of Elate, and AI ethics expert Tess Buckley.

The importance of safeguarding users became even clearer when Nicky Wake, Founder of Chapter 2, discussed how users on her platform are particularly at-risk. As widows and widowers are financially and emotionally vulnerable, Nicky has to take extra special and personal care before allowing anyone to sign up.

According to data shared by Alexandra Popken of WebPurify, 45 per cent of all users do not feel equipped to detect fake profiles or information, and 70 per cent of them feel it is up to the platforms to do more to protect them.

Those numbers are scary for the industry, as the conference’s safety-focused speakers emphasised that ensuring positive user experiences would help revive the faltering reputation of online dating platforms.

Innovative new features

Attendees were fortunate enough to hear in-depth explorations of the cutting edge features driving improved engagement on dating platforms. 

Ross Gibson, Director of Engineering at Feeld sat down with Stream to discuss the formulation of powerful dating app UX. They explored how Stream’s chat tools helped the dating app take its chat capabilities to a new level with enhanced convenience and security.

Chat features, one of the core elements of dating platforms, are evolving on many fronts. Jakob Lundström, CEO and Co-Founder of Djungo, told attendees how bringing users together in group chats can spark conversation and connection better than 1 on 1 models.

Gamification can also significantly improve user engagement, David Simonarson, CEO of Smitten, explained. The Nordic dating app invites users to answer True or False questions about a potential match, helping singles to learn about one another and giving them an easy icebreaker.

Brand & business renewal

But there’s much more to a successful dating app than just the tech that powers it. Karima Ben Abdelmalek, CEO & President of happn, highlighted the power of brand and marketing in her presentation to conference attendees.

She highlighted how the French dating app recently redesigned and rebranded its platform with a new logo, layout, and marketing campaign. It had to navigate this renewal whilst staying true to its philosophy and USP of location-based matching, importantly.

Helen Virt, Chief Business Development Officer at Taimi & Hily, shared this appreciation of a business’ brand. She outlined that building a solid user base, a recognisable brand, and the perfect matching algorithm, were the keys to scaling a dating platform.

Nevine Coutry of Playdate shared her strategy for building the brand of her single parent dating app. She has launched a podcast that explores the challenges and journey of single parents, whilst also debuting short advertisements around an ITV show documenting the same demographic.

Social Discovery: A new focus

The Social Discovery Insights conference on Day Two – a smaller, more intimate affair – fostered many sharings of business advice and entrepreneurial journeys. 

The conference was a collaborative experience as founders like Dennie Smith of Geek Meet, Amarbayar Amarsanaa of Zaya, Darren Newman of Socially and Colin Jarvis-Gaum of Pawmates – to name just a few – all outlined the ever-growing need for social connection.

The platforms in attendance are now attracting a much wider interest as it becomes more socially acceptable for people to seek platonic interactions online. This shifting cultural attitude bodes well for the future of the Social Discovery market.

But there are still a few steps before these platforms reach world domination, as the Social Discovery attendees traded tips for sourcing investment, generating revenue, and retaining users long-term. 

Across the two days, founders and delegates were looking for the insights that could spur their innovations to even greater heights. And we’re proud to say that our events certainly provided plenty of food for thought. 

On behalf of the entire team, we would like to thank the speakers, sponsors, and attendees who took part in our conferences in London.

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