With its innovative features and cool design, the DATTCH app is a phenomenon in the world of lesbian dating. Recently named the Huffington Post’s Entrepreneur of the Week, founder Robyn Exton is expanding the app into the US, Australia and Canada. Tom Sykes asked her about the secret of her success.
Tom Sykes: How and why did you first set up DATTCH?
Robyn Exton: I used to work for a branding consultancy and one of my clients was a dating business. I learned a lot from them about the business. Later on I was in the pub helping a friend sign up to a dating site. It was basically a site for gay men, which had been re-skinned for gay women. It asked questions like “How much body hair do you have?” That may be relevant to a bear or a twink, but not really to a lesbian!
There were fake accounts on this site and you’d get straight guys sending you messages trying to “convert” you or asking for a threesome. So I realised that lesbians had two choices: these re-skinned sites or straight sites where, even though you’d select “interested in women”, you’d still get harassed by straight men. Seeing a gap in the market for a lesbian-specific dating site, I quit my day job and spent 6 months raising the bootstrap funds for a brand new app. It launched in the UK in September 2013.
TS: What features did you build into the app that would distinguish it from the competition?
RE: We architected our app around what women want from dating, which is very different to what men want. We started with a standard engine – the type that all the other dating sites use – and found it didn’t work for females. Our users weren’t messaging each other and the interaction was really poor.
Unlike other sites we don’t show you the user who is nearest to you geographically because girls tend to find that a bit creepy. We discovered that women are really bad at describing themselves as compared to men. On gay male apps we found that men tend to exaggerate characteristics like height, saying they’re 6 foot instead of the truth which might be 5 foot 9. On the other hand, women tend to undersell their body types. They won’t, for example, say they have an athletic body type unless they go to the gym every single day.
We took the emphasis away from writing about yourself and onto using images to describe who you are. DATTCH is a mobile platform and our phones are filled with images of how we spend our time and where we’ve been going out and so on. In many ways our pictures are a far more accurate reflection of the kind of person we are. So our profiles on DATTCH have Instagram built into them so you upload images that show how you spend your time, the food you eat, the sports you play etc. It’s also possible for users to “like” each other’s content.
We also have an interaction game called ‘Would You Rather’ where you get shown the profiles of two girls and you decide which one you’d rather have a conversation with. If it’s a mutual match then DATTCH will let you know. Our ‘Relationship Mode’ allows users to retain membership even after they have found a steady partner. Your profile is updated to say that you’re off the market, even though you can still access the blog and chat with other users
TS: There’s been a lot of bad press about fraud and abuse on dating sites. How does DATTCH safeguard against those threats?
RE: We verify everyone who joins the app, ensuring that they are both female and genuine. We mostly use Facebook to do that as well as Skype and phone calls. Obviously we can’t guarantee that at some point somebody who shouldn’t get through will get through, but so far the system has worked fine.
The downside with our approach is that some people who we’d like to join aren’t able to at the moment. While we are accepting female-identified trans users we are not accepting male-identified trans users, but that could change in the future.
TS: Have you tried it DATTCH yourself?
TS: Was it successful?
RE: I have gone on dates through it, but I’m not now in a relationship as a result. However, I did meet a couple recently that, having met on DATTCH, are now moving in together. They described each other as “soul mates” which was really nice!
TS: So where next for DATTCH?
RE: The Android version has just come out and last Friday we launched in New York. We are then expanding across the US city-by-city before hitting Canada, Australia and then the non-English speaking countries.