With the mobile dating market controlled by a few big players, many of the newest mobile startups are looking to carve out a slice of the growing market by offering niche services to a generation of singles who have just started online dating.
And this is a viable plan – as if(we) CEO Dash Gopinath said at the GDI Amsterdam Conference last week, over 80% of active online daters use more than one dating app, so there is space on singles’ phones for a number of complimentary services.
One dating startup looking to offer a different type of service to stalwarts like Tinder & Happn is INSTNT, a UK app that wants to put the spontenaeity back into online dating with selfie-based instantaneous group dating.
Launched earlier this year by entrepreneurs Chris Seddon and James Gee, INSTNT is harnessing online dating’s emerging place in nights out by offering a Snapchat-style on-demand group dating service.
Earlier this year we spoke to INSTNT’s founders about the new app, and their interesting strategy of focusing their efforts on student cities like Manchester & Newcastle to try and help the brand take off.
Read our interview with Seddon and Gee below:
Can you give us a brief summary about INSTNT and what it does?
CS: INSTNT is the first real time group dating app that enables you to meet other groups in a fun, safe and friendly environment.
You simply take a group selfie, select your travel distance and start matching. You can then start up a conversation with other groups and arrange to meet instantly.
What is your background in? How did the INSTNT team come together?
JG: We both come from different professional backgrounds. I’m an equity trader in the city and Chris works in fashion marketing. We have always had the ambition to start something together. We nearly started a business a few years ago and we would discuss different business ideas over Skype for hours, but it was hard to commit as we were living in different cities.
We then moved in as housemates and the INSTNT idea was born. The app was created and developed with both of us in full time employment, which has been difficult, but worth the effort given how far we have come.
Can you talk us through the signup process of the app? How do groups connect together?
JG: A friend usually takes the lead by uploading a selfie with their friends. The app will then link to Facebook so they can tag everyone in the photo and a push notification will then be sent to those tagged. If you already have a profile set up on INSTNT then your push notification will let you know that you have been tagged. If you haven’t yet downloaded the app then the notification will direct you to the App Store where you can download for free. Once downloaded, you will then have access to any group matches you receive and can message within your group chat.
Once the leader has tagged their friends, they can then select the distance the group is willing to travel and also the age range that they are interested in. Your search results are defined using an algorithm that provides the best match for your set preferences.
When you receive a notification that you have a match, you will then be able to connect and message within a group chat window. Anyone tagged will be able to send a message to the group and arrange a group date ASAP.
What are the advantages of group dating as opposed to one-on-one encounters? Is the app also designed to be a friend-finding app too?
CS: Conventional dating has virtually become extinct, and this is partly due to the development of one-on-one dating apps. As a result, we are in danger of becoming lazy, impatient and anti-social. No one seems to be spontaneous any more and we rarely interact with others away from our smartphones. That’s why real time group dating is the future – it’s fun, sociable and breaks down the social barriers.
One-on-one apps are proven to be daunting, time consuming and have a low success rate. According to research, one third of users claim to have never been on a date with someone they met on a dating app. This is one of the major inefficiencies that we are trying to provide a solution for — we are actively promoting spontaneity with instant meet-ups, eliminating weeks of messaging and multiplying your chances of meeting someone.
We are marketing ourselves as a dating app, however we are also realistic and appreciate that not every meet-up will lead to a romantic connection. Unlike one-on-one dating apps there is no pressure if the chemistry is not there – you are with your friends and can continue your night! We have a vision that INSTNT will eventually facilitate group meets on a platonic level also, helping people who are new to a city and want to make new connections, find activities in their area or join sports teams etc.
There hasn’t been a stand-out platonic “friend-finding” social app that has emerged so far in tech – why do you think this is?
JG: Safety might be a big factor, as unfortunately you can’t control what someone will use an app for. It’s often risky for individuals to put themselves out there and to find new friends or romantic relationships through social platforms. However if you have your friends by your side, meet-ups are safer, less daunting and more relaxed. So whether you are just looking to meet new people or find a potential soul mate, you are in safe hands!
Social discovery apps are on the rise and are proving to be an effective product. People use dating apps now because they are not meeting enough potential partners in their daily lives. We have the power to encourage meet-ups and make new connections – why not multiply your chances and have a good time while doing so!
Do you think, as there was with online dating, there is still a stigma around meeting people socially via an app? If so, do you think this will change in coming years, and how can companies look to solve this problem?
CS: There used to be a stigma, but we believe people are now starting to realise and experience the benefits of social apps. We are part of a society that expects everything instantly, at the click of a button or swipe of a screen in every aspect of our lives including our relationships. We are so busy trying to advance our careers, see friends or play sport etc. It’s hard to meet new people and when we do we have limited time. Dating apps have become the most efficient and prosperous way of finding a partner.
People used to be embarrassed to admit they were on an online dating site, but it’s now the norm. Almost half of the population knows someone who has used a dating app or who has met a spouse or partner via a dating app. Therefore, the attitude towards meeting new people using technology is growing progressively more positive.
Another group dating app, Double, recently received investment on Dragons’ Den – what do you think of the app? Do you think group dating will become more of a dating industry trend in coming years, and why? Is it a reaction to the current market?
JG: We were pleased to see another group dating app on the show for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a lot of people have made the connection and asked if it was our team standing up there! But secondly and more importantly, it was so encouraging to see a similar concept receiving great feedback from the Dragons.
However, there is a big difference between our apps – INSTNT is real time. It’s sometimes hard to arrange dinner with your friends, so trying to organise a double date for a set time and place is difficult. That’s why INSTNT is so easy — you are already out with friends and your group match is also out in the same area. No groundwork needed!
Real time group dating is the future. The one-on-one dating market is saturated with apps, people are growing tired of fake profiles, endless swiping and texting. We are bringing the spontaneity back.
Can you tell us a little about the real time selfies your users can upload to the app? How does this work to improve match rates?
CS: The real time selfie aspect of INSTNT is very important. By using pictures taken in that moment, you know who you are meeting and what they look like at that precise moment, not years before. It’s safe and eliminates fake profiles/users. We have read so many horror stories about other dating apps, users looking nothing like their pictures or pretending to be completely different people, so transparency is very important.
Real time images also help the matching process because it gives users the confidence that they can swipe right and won’t be surprised when they meet up. The app also enables you to filter your selfie just like you can on Instagram, so you can look your absolute best!
Tell us a bit about your bar promotion feature. Which restaurants/venues have you partnered with?
CS: We are currently speaking to several bar chains nationwide with a view to entering into partnerships in the next year. We want to be able to offer users a great experience from start to finish – for example if two groups match but are on opposite sides of town, INSTNT will suggest a bar to meet in a neutral location.
We are very excited about this feature and the potential to offer users cool date locations & deals on drinks, and it will also decrease time the spent messaging and deciding on a location.
When do you plan to launch the app, and where will it be available?
JG: We carried out a soft launch in March in two university cities, Manchester and Newcastle, which proved very successful. We officially launched in April, and the app is now available to download for free from the App Store. So far we have recorded over 5,000 downloads in the first three weeks, which is fantastic!
In such a competitive market, few dating startups manage to acquire enough users for the platform to be a success, how do you plan to build your user base?
CS: We are in a very competitive industry, which is why it’s so important to really know your target market and offer something fresh. We are confident in our strategy and will initially be focussing on student cities and towns, as the student market is big target audience for us. We had great success in Manchester and Newcastle, so we will continue to run more student nights across the country.
We have invested in PR and social marketing campaigns to really drive the brand forward and gain traction in the next six months. We will also see organic growth through the ‘tagging’ feature on the app. Every time an INSTNT selfie is taken there will be multiple tags as users have to invite friends to join. Multiple downloads per picture will help us build our user base.
Do you have plans to monetise?
JG: Hopefully we will have the option in the future to become a freemium model but for now the app is free to download from the App Store. We currently don’t charge users for any features but will look to add premium features in the not too distant future and offer bars / restaurants a platform to promote their services.
Did you raise any investment for the app?
CS: We raised our capital through close friends who have been very supportive along the way. It’s great to have the belief of your investors from the very beginning. Our seed round investment was done through the government’s SEIS scheme which is fantastic for startups trying to raise initial funding and offers the investors tax relief.
Find out more about INSTNT here, or visit its official site here.