Name: Anton Gu
Position and company: Founder of Hitch
Tell us a little about Hitch.
Hitch lets people introduce their friends. We call it Social Introductions. The idea is simple: people introducing their friends for a chat. It works through Facebook, after you login, select two of your existing friends that you want to hitch. They chat. You wait and see what happens.
When did the idea come about, and how long have you been working on the app?
We launched in June 2014. The idea came about from a personal situation really. I’ve always been a fan of introducing people and wondered if there was a tool online that allowed you to do that. There wasn’t, so we decided to build it.
What is your background in?
I spent 3 years in an investment bank, left this year to set up Hitch.
What makes it different from the current crop of dating apps?
All current dating apps are very similar in how they work. You get a bunch of single people together and try to guess if they are a good match through a very sophisticated proprietary mechanism. Or you just match people randomly and see what happens. We’ve taken a step back and replaced that process with a human being – your friend.
Why do you think friend of a friend matching is so successful?
People do it in real life. Friends know everything there is to know about you and hence are much more likely to select a good match for you as opposed to a mega-clever algorithm that is still bound by whatever rules they use.
Do you think initially removing the aspect of attraction might turn some users off?
The fact that the chats are anonymous at first? We leave everything in the hands of the friends that make the introduction. If they think it’s meant to be, it’s worth a shot. We just streamline the process and make everything easy. A lot of our users come from existing dating platforms – maybe they are just fed up with spending lots of time online, searching for that special someone, only to be disappointed again and again.
How many users do you have? What is engagement like, and where are the users from?
We have presence in over 50 countries worldwide. People are currently making thousands of hitches every month. The beauty of Hitch is not in the number of users. It is in the fact that for people on the app, 95% start talking to their introduction or “match” done by a friend. Think about that for a minute. All the apps out there boast about how many matches they do every day, but in reality how many of those are random and never ever get to even saying “Hi”? The majority. For us, it’s the reverse – quality over quantity wins every time.
Do you plan to expand the app into new markets?
One of the markets we’ve seen tremendous unexpected growth is India. Matchmaking is part of their culture. It is common for even parents to introduce their sons or daughters to someone. That is a very interesting market for us, particularly because of their ridiculously high growth rates in smartphone penetration.
Do you have a monetisation strategy?
Currently, Hitch is available on iOS and Android for free. We are constantly looking for opportunities, however, our main priority for now is growth.
Have you had any funding and investment for the project?
We have had funding for Hitch, we have approximately 8-9 months of operations covered which gives us a lot of time to expand, develop and grow.
What do you think will be the biggest online dating trends in 2015?
Moving away from algorithms. In fact, this is a much longer trend that has been taking place slowly but surely. People have realised that algorithms are good at suggesting what movies to watch but when it comes to relationships and dating in general, it is a disaster. Players in this space had no incentive to change because there weren’t many alternatives and there is a consistent demand for online dating services every year. This will change.
What are your plans for the next year?
We are working on a number of really cool features that I can’t talk about, but 2015 has some very exciting things in the pipeline for Hitch. We will also be expanding in US more aggressively and hopefully will show that a London startup can compete in US.
Download Hitch here.