Interview with Dawoon Kang, co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel
Tell us about Coffee Meets Bagel.
Coffee Meets Bagel is a highly curated dating service where women call the final shot on who gets to talk to them among guys who expressed interest. Each day at noon, men receive up to 21 quality matches – known as “Bagels”. They either ‘like’ or ‘pass’ the Bagels. Then, CMB curates the best potential matches for women among the men who expressed interest. Finally, ladies choose who gets to talk to them.
CMB is very successful in the US, where you started the company. What made you decide to launch in Hong Kong?
First, in order for a dating app to be successful you need lots of single population packed in a small density. Hong Kong boasts about 2 million FB users between the age of 18-35 whose relationship status is either single or unspecified. There are not that many cities in the world that boasts this level of concentration of young singles. Second, CMB works well among busy young professionals who want meaningful relationships. Hong Kong’s young people are very ambitious and career driven and have very little time left for meeting new people so demand for a service like CMB is high. Lastly, whenever we launch in new cities, we leverage our existing users to invite their friends. We noticed that a lot of CMBers in the US had many friends in Hong Kong.
What makes you different from other dating sites?
Most millennial apps are all about swiping based on photos. It’s hard not to get jaded with this model. We want to make dating fun but also thoughtful and purposeful. We are extremely quality-focused vs. quantity so that you don’t have to wipe 100 profiles to find 1 person you might be interested or have to make a superficial decision based on looks only. You won’t end up being one profile out of hundreds that your potential matches swipe on in 10 seconds!
Can you tell us about your new model called #LadiesChoice?
#LadiesChoice is all about giving both men and women what they want in dating. One key insights we found in the last few years is that men and women have very different approach to dating. Men love selection (browsing lots of photos of women) while women are selective. Women hate wasting time on irrelevant men. Having control over their dating experience is also important for women. We give up to 20 quality matches per day to men so they can make the first move. We give women up to 6 potential quality men who already liked them. This way men gets lots of selection and women get to have the final say on who gets to talk to them and when.
What were the biggest challenges you faced building CMB?
The entire startup journey is a big challenge! Challenges differ with the stage of your company. In the beginning it was starting a company as a non-tech first time entrepreneur. Then came getting the first 10K user base. Then came fundraising. Then came recruiting the best talent and building a strong culture so we can retain them. All the meanwhile we constantly have to work on our product for bigger, better product-market fit in the ever-changing, competitive dating app world.
What is your most memorable moment so far?
I have to say it was when we made the journey “into the tank” for ABC’s reality show Shark Tank. I remember walking into the tank and thinking “Is this real life?” Getting a $30 million buy out offer from the billionaire investor Mark Cuban and saying no and hearing other sharks shouting “You didn’t even flinch!” was a lot of fun.
Could you share advice for people who want to start an App-based business?
Yes! First make sure you are passionate about the problem you are trying to solve. Think – is this something that I want to work on for the next 10 years of my life? If the answer is no, don’t do it! Second, make sure that the problem is a REAL problem, meaning that it’s a clear pain point for a large group of people. If it’s a problem that only 1000 people care about then it’s not really a problem.
What do you think of Hong Kong’s Startup Scene?
Every year I come back I am pleasantly surprised about how fast things are changing and developing in the HK startup scene. I just spoke to Erica Ma, a good friend of mine who started Cocoon, a community of entrepreneurs in HK, and she just shared with me that the Cocoon startups have collectively raised over US$30 million in funding so far – that is one impressive figure. It’s great that more and more startups in Asia are getting global visibility.
What are 3 things you want people to remember about Coffee Meets Bagel?
- We are THE dating app for women.
- We are hyper-focused on quality vs. quantity.
- We are a dating app for real dates & relationships – not hook up or entertainment
Interview by Ludivine Taverne