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Early TikTok Exec Behind New Dating App: Spark


Isadora Teich wrote this article


Here on the blog, we check in periodically with the general progression of different types of popular apps. Something we have covered before is how entrepreneurs and creators are responding to the current dating app fatigue.

While these apps gain users every year, it is more because people feel like they have to.

Studies show that the more we use dating apps, the less happy we are. Something we have explored before is the many problems of these apps. Many people feel almost like they are a scam, while some people are being actively scammed by malicious users.

So, how will Spark be different?

Let’s take a look.

The Founding of Spark

Via Spark

A decade ago, Tinder changed how Americans do everything from casually dating to starting families. Currently, about 40% of Americans say they met their partner via app. Over the last 20 years, this has gone from nearly 0% to almost 40% of romantic partners meeting on apps.

However, as we have already gotten into, even though everyone is on the apps swiping away, most people hate it. This is where early TikTok executive Alex Hoffman comes in with Spark.

Hoffman told Forbes:

“The feedback we kept getting was, Why isn’t there something that truly makes the dating experience more frictionless?”

The Next Generation Of Dating Apps Works To Get You Off Of Them

According to Hoffman, a big problem with the first generation of popular dating apps is that people spend more time trying to find dates than actually making meaningful connections.

This is an opinion echoed by a lot of other innovators in the dating app space. You can see it in how they create their applications. One great example of this is The Bar.

The Bar is an NYC and London-based app that hosts meetups once a week at different bars. The app itself is only available on Thursdays. App users only have 24 hours to get to know each other, and at the end of the day, everything resets.

This is meant to force real-life connection, rather than trap users in an endless cycle of in-app messaging that goes nowhere. Spark takes a different approach to prioritizing real connections too.

What The Spark Dating App Does Differently

Via Spark

Spark launched this month in the US after pilot runs in Ireland and the Netherlands last year. After its previous launches, Spark hit No. 1 in the App Store in Ireland and No. 2 in the Netherlands.

Spark differentiates itself from Tinder and all of the other dating apps that share its swiping function. Instead of that, Spark has a browsable grid, similar to what you might see on an e-commerce site. Hoffman says that this was done in order to combat swipe fatigue.

Spark is also different on how it prioritizes users. For most of Tinder’s history, it ranked users based on their “attractiveness.” This was called an Elo score, and this was how it worked, according to The Verge:

In the context of Tinder, the more people that swiped right (or Liked) a person’s profile, the higher their assigned score went up. Their card would then be served to other people with a similar score, thereby keeping the most desirable people interacting with one another.

It’s almost as if matching people solely based on what other people think they look like is an ineffective way to make long-lasting connections.

As of 2019, Tinder says they have abandoned this for something like the Gale-Shipley algorithm, which Hinge uses. This algorithm identifies patterns around likes.

But, what about the Bumble algorithm? You can actually find countless articles from Men’s dating coaches around the web telling men how to hack the Bumble algorithm, which has complex layers, one of which is an Elo based on “attractiveness.”

A Dating App That Rewards Active Users

On top of getting rid of the dreaded endless swiping, Hoffman says that Spark prioritizes active users. It rewards not only logging in, but regular interactions with other users.

This makes a lot of sense. Even if someone accrues endless likes, no one will be able to connect with them if they haven’t logged into their account in months. Spark motivates users to actually interact with people and answer messages. Hoffman says:

“Unlike other apps, Spark is not about endlessly accruing likes.”

He also says that another feature that makes Spark truly unique will roll out in the coming weeks.

Taking On The Dating App Industry

Right now, the dating app industry is more or less in the hands of Match Group, which owns Tinder and a few other apps. However, Hoffman is uniquely poised to take on that challenge.

He was the first president of North America at It began as a Los Angeles startup and sold itself to ByteDance in 2017. This is what would become the smash hit TikTok app. Hoffman joined a year before the sale and left a year after.

Hoffman co-founded the startup 9Count with Joe Viola, and together they have several apps in the works, including Spark. Spark has already seen some success in Europe. However, their most successful app so far is called Wink, a friendship-making app with millions of Gen-Z users.

After close involvement with the Beijing-based ByteDance, Hoffman is taking some pages from their playbook to attain app success. He told TechCrunch:

“There’s a trend that I observed in China that a lot of tech companies there don’t just build one product, but multiple products. Having one product is super exciting, of course, but we do 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 can connect with more people with different products.”

Final Thoughts On Spark and the Dating App Industry

Ultimately, what makes Spark interesting is the innovation it brings to the dating app industry on several levels. For one, it has a different interface than all of the other popular apps, which more or less lift aspects of Tinder and tweak them.

It also has a bit of a different algorithm, meant to reward users for using the app and interacting with people, rather than just raking in likes based on their appearance.

On the business side of things, Hoffman’s 9Count is taking the Chinese approach to the business of apps to the US market. As 9Count has already seen some success, it will be fascinating to see if Spark takes off and how influential it is.

What do you think of all this? What is your experience with dating apps? Comment below!

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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