When it comes to mobile dating apps, Tinder defines the market. The startup, which sees more than 600 million swipes per day from users, pretty much owns its space in North America, but things are different in other parts of the world. Paktor, a Singapore-based company, believes it has the answer for Southeast Asia, and it has just announced a $3 million-plus funding round to build out its vision for mobile dating.
The Tinder and Paktor apps may be similar from a side-by-side comparison, but Paktor CEO and co-founder Joseph Phua told me that his real battle is to convince (the many socially conservative and traditional) Asians of the benefits of dating apps and service. In that respect, Tinder is more of a help than a hinderance.
“Other apps like Tinder can help to break the connotation that dating is a purely offline experience,” he said. “The publicity and visibility [from other apps] can help us move on from early adopters and reach those who aren’t using any dating apps at all.”
Tinder hasn’t done any sustained marketing in Asia, and if it were to Phua believes it would likely target China, Korea and Japan, three markets that have robust mobile app ecosystems. Southeast Asia may have 600 million people, but the fragmented nature of the region makes it tougher and less appealing for international companies, he believes.
Plus, Phua said that it’s expats and others who follow international news and culture who are more likely to gravitate towards Tinder, rather than true ‘locals’ — that’s a fair point.
10 Million Swipes Per Day
Paktor’s dating app for iOS and Android has 1.5 million registered users, 60 percent of whom are aged 18-24, with over 40 million matches made to date. The company said its network is particularly strong in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan — it has a physical presence in each of those four countries. While it did not reveal active user numbers, Paktor said it sees 10 million swipes from users each day.
Phua, who started the company with friends Ng Jing Shen (CTO) and Charlene Koh (CMO) in July 2013 after being dumped (he’s now happily taken, thanks to a Paktor match, of course), revealed that the funding will go towards a more sustained marketing push in other parts of Southeast Asia.
“We are not limited to Southeast Asia, but it is our focus for now,” he said, when asked whether China, Japan, Korea or other countries in Asia are in the grand plans.
Wider Marketing Efforts And A Desktop Version
The undisclosed round was led by Vertex Venture — a subsidiary of Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, which has invested in Uber-rival Grabtaxi. Phua did not reveal specifics, including the valuation, but he did say that it takes Paktor to $5 million in funding to date. The round itself is in excess of $3 million, since Paktor previously closed a $500,000 round and an earlier $1.3 million seed round.
For now, Paktor isn’t “switching on the monetization tap,” as Phua phrased it, but it approaches its business in a different way to Tinder, which is actually preparing to introduce subscription services for its app.
Phua said subscription-led services could be introduced in the future, but Paktor is making a platform play with a second offline service that offers more specialist one-on-one matching and “social dating services.” That service (which is not an app) debuted in Singapore this summer, where it is called Gai Gai (‘going out’ in local slang), and the funding will go towards launching differentiated versions in Paktor’s four largest markets over the next year.
There is also now a web-based version of Paktor which the company believes is important for increasing engagement, particularly in markets where mobile connectivity can be problematic. (Read almost anywhere in Southeast Asia.)
The money raised will also be channeled into making the desktop site more feature-rich and useful for users, but mobile remains the key medium.
“Everything has gone mobile in Asia, it impacts every part of your life,” Phua told me. “And there’s no reason that dating shouldn’t be the same.”