German startup Spotted, which plays in the serendipitous connections space, with a location-sensitive app that lets users view and message the people they’ve crossed paths with — a la Happn — has pulled in a new chunk of funding which it says it’ll be using to expand to the U.S., Korea and Japan, as well as seeking to beef up its user-base in Europe and North Africa.
Investors in Spotted’s new $14.5 million Series A round hail from its home market, including Media Ventures (Cologne media mogul Dirk Ströer’s capital investment firm), professor Wolf M. Nietzer’s Wolfman Holdings, and the Deutsche Balaton affiliate based in Heidelberg, Germany.
The funding brings Spotted’s total raised to-date to $15.3 million. It’s already touting for further investment, with CEO Nik Myftari currently knocking on doors in Silicon Valley in the hopes of catching U.S. investors’ eyes.
The Series A funding deal also includes a “long-term media partnership” with Media Ventures, which will give Spotted access to ad formats and inventory with “various partners in the out-of-home sector and digital advertising channels” — to help it spread the word. As with any network-focused app, the chicken and egg problem of growing users in order to grow usage makes media partnerships especially valuable.
Spotted currently has around one million users, according to co-founder Tung Nguyen, who says usage is growing by around 3,000 downloads per day. The main markets at this stage are German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), as you’d expect, but Nguyen says it’s also gaining traction in French-speaking markets including France, Canada, Algeria and Morocco.
Spotted was launched back in 2013 — so Nguyen says it was actually the first mover in the ‘crossed paths’ app space, predating the launch of Happn (although the latter has evidently grown faster, passing three million registered users a year after launch — and expecting to hit 10 million by the end of this year).
The idea for the app grew out of the co-founders’ time at university, inspired by the core social community of like-minded youths interested in making eyes at each other.
Aside from being earlier to market than rivals, Nguyen argues that Spotted’s less ‘transactional’ approach to connecting strangers who might want to become romantically involved also sets it apart from the swipe-to-like dating app competition — asserting, for instance, that it has been successful in attracting a “way above average” proportion of female users.
“It is very hard to build a dating product that attracts women and we believe that we have achieved this with Spotted, as we have a way above average percentage of women using the app,” he tells TechCrunch, singling out one feature of the app as especially female friendly: the ability to send anonymous love notes as a way to initiate contact with a stranger.
“Our anonymous and romantic Love Notes, which are used to initiate contact, stand out in particular, compared with many other dating apps in which ‘purely’ voyeuristic satisfaction and visual impressions are the focus,” he says, not specifically name-checking any rival apps (but doubtless making an implicit reference to Vanity Fair‘s Tinder ‘dating apocalypse’ takedown).
Of course Spotted is not the only dating app hoping to stand out by putting a female-focused spin on its features. Ex-Tinder employee Whitney Wolfe’s Tinder alternative, Bumble, is explicitly designed to give female users more control over the dating experience, for instance. While U.K. startup Antidate also offers a gender-skewed asymmetric twist that’s designed to get women initiating contact.
One thing’s for sure: in today’s digital era, there’s more than one way to swipe a love match — and Tinder’s crushing size isn’t going to appeal to everyone, even as its massive media profile gets dating apps onto more and more people’s radar. All of which sounds like a recipe for a few less brash dating app startups to nab some attention. Spotted’s investors evidently think so, at least.