Coffee Meets Bagels Co-founder Dawoon Kang

Coffee Meets Bagel Co-founder Dawoon Kang

Coffee Meets Bagel, a US-based dating app gathering momentum in Singapore, will be rolling out a total revamp of its service in the Lion City today by introducing #LadiesChoice.

Instead of matching a ‘Coffee’ (the user) with one ‘Bagel’ (a potential date) per day, the company is launching a curation service to help women find men interested in them — with the goal of filtering out the weird, pointless and even scary, encounters from apps like Tinder.

“The way we think is ‘how can we become a better dating service for women’? How can we provide more quality dates and relationships?” Dawoon Kang, Co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel told e27.

The basics of the revamp are as such:

The process begins by giving men 21 potential dates. They then go through the list and choose the ladies they would be interested in connecting with.

The women then receives a list of 5 curated men. These men have already said yes to the idea of connecting with the woman. If she says ‘yes’, a connection is made and the two can begin to chat — hence, the name #LadiesChoice.

The idea behind the model is based on research that suggests men prefer selection while women want to be more selective, hating to waste time on men that are not serious.

“It is a very competitive market, but there really is a shortage of services that really understand how women want to date. A lot of dating apps are about putting in front of [the user] as many profiles as possible. That works for a lot of people but it can be tiresome for women, because what women typically look for is quality dates that will hopefully lead to a relationship,” said Kang.

With this ideal in mind, Coffee Meets Bagel has sometimes been referred to as the ‘anti-Tinder’.

“We operate like the opposite of Tinder. I think in dating, ambivalence makes things tough. If you are on an app and someone is looking for a friend or something else — whereas someone is looking for a relationship — that can cause frustration. Coffee Meets Bagel is where you come to go on dates, not just browse and muck around,” she says.

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Coffee Meets Bagel launched in Singapore late last year and is one of two Asian cities that became a surprisingly successful market for the Bay Area company (the other was Hong Kong). According to Kang, the app has made about 2 million matches (not dates, but virtual matches) in Singapore and facilitated 2 million chats.

An interesting anecdote was Kang acknowledging a reality for Coffee Meets Bagel that may be familiar to many startups — balancing ideals and goals with a lean team and limited resources.

When asked if Coffee Meets Bagel tailors its service to Asian culture, Kang said she thinks it is very important.

“But we actually have not, mostly because we have such a lean team. But now that we are seeing good traction in Hong Kong and Singapore we do want to start thinking about how to localise the app so it works better here,” she says.

“But I suggest everyone to take a more scrappy approach, to try it and see [if they like it], I am only thinking about localisation now because we are seeing traction in Singapore and Hong Kong”.

Kang says Coffee Meets Bagel was not the inspiration of some terrible ‘date from hell’, but a result of the founding sisters — Dawoon, Arum and Soo — constantly complaining about modern dating culture. Eventually the team gathered enough data to think the service was worth a launch, outsourced a simple platform to test out some concepts and were buoyed by positive feedback.

The app uses Facebook’s Social Graph API to match people through ‘friends of friends’. It allows for a stronger authentication process because people tend to avoid outright lying on Facebook. It’s not perfect, but it does create a filter so the profile is closer to the actual person.

It offers a freemium service (users can buy ‘Coffee Beans’ to unlock certain features — one being a ‘like’ feature that allows users to be more forward with a profile).

The key metric the company tracks is number-of-dates-per-user-per-week. To make that happen, says Kang, Coffee Meets Bagel needs to make at least 3-4 virtual connections per week.

Despite being marketed towards women, Kang says her company never had any issues getting enough men onto the platform.

“Dating category is one of those categories where it is very easy to get guys, it is very difficult to get women. Guys are just more active in dating as well, so even if you have fewer men — which is never the case — it still works out because they are more active,” says Kang.

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For curious readers, the name Coffee Meets Bagel comes from the company’s roots in New York City. Anyone familiar with the Big Apple will know bagels are a staple of the local diet.

“Because the first model used to be ‘you get one match at noon per day’, we wanted to be a brand that people look forward to every day at noon. For young professionals, what is that thing everyone looks forward to every day? Coffee break right? And what goes well with coffee?”