This Student-Funded, TikTok-Style Dating App Is Going After Tinder

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

This Student-Funded, TikTok-Style Dating App Is Going After Tinder

It may not be love, but this fund made its first match.

A Gen-Z dating app hinged on short-form videos closed its first round of funding last month with backing from the California Crescent Fund, a new student-run venture capital firm focused on Southern California.

Lolly, the dating app, lets users upload videos into a feed and scroll through them for potential matches. Instead of swiping left or right, users hit "clap" on videos and later "crush" on the user — what the company calls a "non-binary matching model."


"Not ready to fully commit to a potential match? Send some claps instead," reads a January statement from California Crescent Fund announcing the investment.

The student VCs only invest in startups that evolve on college campuses. The group did not disclose how much funding it has raised, but its first LP is Carey Ransom, founder and president of Orange County-based Operate. The venture studio is serving as co-general partner with California Crescent Fund in its first fund.

Managing partner Keyan Kazemian said the goal is to raise $1 million from SoCal university alumni and local investors and to eventually invest an average of $40,000 in 24 startups over the next two years.

"The point we're trying to make is that there's a lot more than Silicon Valley," said Kazemian, a senior at UC Irvine studying computer science and engineering.

He started building California Crescent Fund last summer with five co-founders and student entrepreneurs across the region who later led a "fundraising cold email frenzy" to find money and mentors. The fund's roster of advisors now includes Ransom and CRV investor Olivia Moore, who launched a student-run accelerator while enrolled at Stanford.

Their fund was modeled loosely after organizations like Dorm Room Fund, a student-operated VC firm created in 2012 by First Round Capital, focused on student entrepreneurs in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and San Francisco. There's also Rough Draft Ventures, a similar firm funded by General Catalyst.

Kazemian said he noticed a gap in capital distributed to college founders between Santa Barbara and San Diego.

"This geography is pretty uncommon when it comes to technical talent from universities," Kazemian said. "They don't have the same access to capital as students on the East Coast or in the Bay. VCs are obviously looking at Wharton and Berkeley before they will come down here."

The fund's student partners come from USC, UCLA, UCSB, UCSD, UCI, Caltech and Harvey Mudd.

In January, the TikTok-meets-Tinder dating app closed a $1.1 million seed round — $40,000 of which came from the California Crescent Fund. Other investors included Ron Conway's SV Angel, Next Coast Ventures and Sequoia Capital Scouts.

Marc Baghadijian and NYU-grad Sacha SchermerhornNYU grad Sacha Schermerhorn (left) and Marc Baghadijian are the co-founders of Lolly, a new dating app aimed at the TikTok generation.

It was founded by 21-year-old Marc Baghadijian and NYU grad Sacha Schermerhorn, who turned down a PhD in neuroscience to pursue the app. It went live in December.

"Tinder and Bumble first came out as a way to make dating easier, but almost 10 years later, they haven't drastically changed much, even though their targeted users drastically have," said Baghadijian, a senior at Babson College.

TikTok has changed how Gen-Z users interact with social media, Baghadijian said. They've come to expect video. On a dating app, a video-sharing feature opens up a new way for users to share different parts of their personalities.

"The thesis is that it's really hard to sell yourself with just pictures," Baghadijian said. "Not everyone can be a 10 out of 10."

"The same way TikTok made Instagram boring, we would like to make Tinder boring."

https://twitter.com/frosebillington
francesca@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Office Hours: Former Lawyer Turned CEO Diankha Linear on Cultivating Community

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

​Diankha Linear
Diankha Linear

On this episode of Office Hours, Community CEO Diankha Linear joins host Spencer Rascoff to discuss her foray into the startup world and the strategic approaching to scaling up.

Read moreShow less
https://twitter.com/spencerrascoff
https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencerrascoff/
admin@dot.la

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Dreamscape, LinQuest and PetDX Gain New CEOs

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Dreamscape, LinQuest and PetDX Gain New CEOs

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

***

Read moreShow less

This Week in ‘Raises’: ADARx Pharmaceuticals Lands $46M, PLAI Labs Scores $32M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: ADARx Pharmaceuticals Lands $46M, PLAI Labs Scores $32M
This Week in ‘Raises’: ContractSafe Inks $27.5M, Deal Box Collects $125M

A local RNA base-editing platform raised fresh funding to advance its drug development pipeline, while a local Web3 company founded by former MySpace and Jam City founders Chris DeWolfe and Aber Whitcomb scored funding to build out an artificial intelligence backed by generative AI that allows users to create and upload their own digital assets to the game.

***

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending