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An early TikTok exec just launched a dating app, Spark – TechCrunch

As the former president of musical.ly (now known as TikTok), Alex Hofmann has already done what seems impossible: he helped build an app that could compete with social giants like Meta, YouTube or Snapchat. After ByteDance acquired musical.ly for around $1 billion In 2018, Hofmann left the company to become an investor, but soon decided to go back to developing apps. So Hofmann founded 9countthe parent company of apps like everland, hotline, whoops and the Friendship app Winkwhich has millions of users.

“There’s a trend I’ve seen in China that a lot of tech companies are building not just one product there, they’re building multiple products,” Hofmann told TechCrunch. He noted that while Twitter continues to work on the same flagship app, a company like Meta grows by acquiring apps like Instagram and WhatsApp. “Of course, having a product is super exciting, but we see the trend that there are more and more different interest groups. Serving them with just one product can work, but there is a higher chance that you will connect with more people with different products.”

So far, Wink is 9count’s most successful app, popular with younger users looking to make new friends online (Hofmann says the app has a content moderation team of 15 people working 24/7). But Wink connects people regardless of location, as long as users speak the same language. This design is intentional – the company didn’t want to deal with the safety issue of people meeting in real life as the app is available for users 13+.

“But what was interesting was that some of the over-18 users asked us, ‘Oh, it would be great if I could search for people in my town,'” says Hofmann. “So that was one of the reasons we said maybe it would make sense to actually make a dating app.”

Photo credit: spark

Unlike many popular dating apps, Spark doesn’t ask you to swipe left or right. Instead, you can see everyone around you at once in a grid, similar to Grindr. But unlike Grindr, thankfully, you can only receive messages from people if you’ve “ignited” (or liked) each other.

“For us, it was really about understanding what would best replicate the real world,” Hofmann said. “For example, at a party, you don’t spend your time mentally thinking ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as you look at everyone around you.”

Similar to an app like Bumble, sending a like or message to Spark only takes 24 hours to request.

“We really want users to be responsive so that nobody has to play the waiting game like other apps currently do,” Hofmann said.

Spark has already been soft launched in hundreds of countries and climbed to #1 in the iOS App Store in Ireland and the Netherlands within a day. While the app is free to use, there’s also a subscription option that gives users standard paid dating app perks like the ability to see everyone you like, extra “sparks,” and more. Hofmann pointed out that the exact pricing and benefits are subject to change, but that a subscription currently costs $19.99 per month, with slight discounts if you subscribe for three or twelve months at a time.

When it comes to security, use Spark beehive, an AI moderation tool to ensure users do not upload malicious or NSFW content to their profiles. Like Wink, Spark has a 24/7 trust and security team. Spark also hired a security expert to catch bugs and vulnerabilities on the platform before they can be exploited by bad actors.

Of course, regardless of a dating app’s security measures, users should always exercise caution when meeting strangers in person. Match Group, the parent company of apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Hinge, invested in midday light to enable security features such as emergency assistance, location tracking, and photo verification. This business decision followed an investigative report by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigationswhich revealed how Match Group allowed high-profile sex offenders to use their free apps.

Founded in 2018, 9count has raised $21.5 million in funding led by Redpoint and GGV Capital. The latest Spark app is available now iOS.

An early TikTok exec just launched a dating app, Spark – TechCrunch Source link An early TikTok exec just launched a dating app, Spark – TechCrunch

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