Kippo, a startup that makes a dating app for gamers was created by an ex-Wall Street trader and Raya engineer whose codes helped predict the success of stocks.
But David Park said Kippo doesn't believe in algorithms. The dating app for gamers lets users sign up to create profiles where they can highlight their favorite games, astrology signs and even has their type of personality. The app matches users, who can then chat and play games with each other. Although it's free, there's a $9.99 premium version.
The idea of an app without algorithms is a bit contradictory, coming from what's known as an algorithmic trader, whose startup uses codes to match people.
"An algorithm implies that, if there's enough information about you, the perfect algorithm will spit out the one perfect person for you," he explained. "And then that's it, you don't have to do anything, you don't have to use a dating app. It just tells you who the person is supposed to be with and game over. Right? We don't think that that's the end game."
Instead, he has an algorithm to fix the algorithm.
"We're going to figure out a way that you can do as little as possible, through our super-advanced algorithm," he said. "And our philosophy is we want to make a fun experience so that you enjoy dating, you enjoy meeting people, and you enjoy this entire experience."
Park, an avid gamer, said he thought gaming and dating were a perfect match. Gamers already loved to interact online. They don't want to play alone. Gaming with someone takes the pressure off of dating. It's a shared experience. In the early days of Kippo, Park met his current girlfriend on the app. Going a year and a half strong, gaming is an activity that both of them enjoy together with playing games, like Blade and Soul and It Takes Two.
"At the end of the day, the best environment to get people to be open to meet each other is one where they're comfortable, and they're having fun," he said. "So the goal for Kippo is to create a fun environment. I think a lot of dating apps have this stiffness to them, where it feels like you're going to a speed dating event, and there's a lot of pressure, and everyone's there for the same reason: dating. But if you say, 'Hey, this is a great place to meet new people.'"
Last year, Kippo raised a $2 million seed funding. It's using the cash to revamp the app. with the emphasis on 'experience'.
We don’t do any of this bs at Kippo. We’re not scummy like that. #datingapp #kippoapp #sus #scam
Early in his career, Park worked on Wall Street as a quantitative analyst also known as an algorithmic trader, using algorithms to predict the performance of tech companies. It was a prelude to his time at Raya, a celebrity dating app.
After he created the company with Cheeyoon Lee, he began talking on TikTok about dating app algorithms and scams, sometimes deriding other apps for "selling" data.
"Three ways that dating apps are scamming you—number one dating apps will create fake profiles of hot girls and guys and they will show it to you first especially new dating apps," he said in one video posted.
(..) Number two dating apps will hold back your matches unless you start paying (..) Number three dating apps are selling your data and it's scary how they know you based off your swiping patterns."
For his part, Park said they are focusing on getting 10 million Kippo users. The app had about 25,000 users per month last year.
But Park thinks gaming is evolving with esports competitions and spaces like Twitch where gamers can livestream their play. Even Alexandra Ocasio Cortez has used as a platform to reach her constituents. Dating is no exception. The pandemic saw record levels of growth in gaming, which is predicted by some to reach more than $200 billion by 2024.
"Everyone is becoming a gamer to some capacity," Park quipped. "If you look at Gen Z, pretty much all of them play some sort of social video game because video games are becoming more of a social thing than just an activity to do."
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The latest entrant in Los Angeles' busy dating app scene has been testing audio elements and a speed dating feature as it builds toward its goal of creating meaningful relationships based on what matters most to people.
Matter is revamping its platform to capture the happy hour experience with audio. The app will soon include a speed-dating feature, allowing users to connect over a two-minute call to determine if they want to match.
Another feature called "communities" will allow users to connect with potential mates based on the interests and values that are most important to them.
Launched in November 2020, Matter grew its core users from USC and UCLA students who relied on it to meet classmates while campuses were closed.
UCLA student Jenna Rose, 22, says she was never a dating app user, but found herself using the app because many of the faces she saw in her feed were already familiar.
"A lot of the people that I was seeing on my feed were people I could actually see myself, you know, meeting up with or being friends with because they were students in the L.A. area," she says.
Matter CEO and founder Monji Batmunkh
CEO and founder Monji Batmunkh says starting off only at two of L.A.'s premier universities allows Matter to focus on solving one problem at a time before expanding nationally.
An Angeleno himself, Batmunkh, 35, says he formed his startup in the area because of the region's diversity and the experimental nature of college dorms' hothouse environment.
"I went to USC and established networks there. I'm very familiar with other schools like UCLA, Santa Monica College, CSUN, UC Irvine, etc. L.A. is a very diverse place where complex cultural communities will be a big part of it," he says. "They are the early adopters, if we can build the products that are liked by college, they happen to be very influential and [will] spread it across other areas."
Batmunkh moved to the U.S. at 16 from Mongolia. He got his associate's degree from Santa Monica College before focusing on business administration and finance at USC and getting his master's at Columbia. From there, he worked as a consultant at McKinsey for four years.
The pandemic, he says, has provided aspiring entrepreneurs with a silver lining.
"It's one of the best times to be starting companies, because the barriers to entry are becoming lower and lower," Batmunkh says, "I think this is a great time to do it especially if you have a network and established connections in your home country, that could be an arbitrage opportunity."
In 2020, Batmunkh launched his first startup, Simpozium, a social network focused on Los Angeles college students. Most of Simpozium users were female and conversations in the app trended toward the dating scene at a time when in-person connections were next to impossible.
Simpozium soon made the switch to a dating app and traded its name for another: Matter.
Last September, Batmunkh was able to bring on Swiss Founders Fund as an investor. The proptech-focused venture firm led an early round that helped Matter raise half a million in pre-seed funding.
The dating app scene is crowded. Big dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge have relied on their simple format and ease of use to streamline the process. A new crop, led by apps including L.A.-based Lolly and S'More, borrow from popular short video apps like TikTok and Instagram to focus on Gen Z singles.
Matter's format is similar to Hinge, focusing on user likes and prompts. But the app aims to focus on the things that matter to its audience through its user experience, which is more akin to an Instagram feed. The app generates questions that cater to L.A. residents by asking, for instance, "which they prefer: saddle ranch or urth cafe?" and "what's your ideal date in L.A." There are no character limits for the answers.
They allow users to customize the section of "what are you looking for" with users' own words.
Batmunkh focused on honing his app with students at his alma mater, USC, and UCLA before expanding to other college campuses. He's also keen on providing students with opportunities to gain experience and income working for a tech startup. USC student Katrina Nguyen, 20, worked for Matter as a growth development intern.
"Monji did a really great job capturing what startups should be at least like really new startups," she says, "I love that he didn't helicopter us, he really trusted the interns, despite us being college students. We really had a lot of responsibilities as we were basically paving the way for Matter."
Matter will start their pre-registration process for virtual happy hour in the coming week. They plan to re-release their app in Los Angeles in late June.
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