Dating apps usage is up compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to Sensor Tower’s data. Global usage of Match Group’s Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge grew 17% last month compared to January 2019. But now people are meeting in person again, FilterOff wants to take online dating to the next level: video speed dating before the meeting.
An old-fashioned speed date is a matchmaking event where singles can meet and talk to potential partners in a very short time. FilterOff started in February 2020 with the purpose to bring that experience to online dating apps.
The founder and CEO of FilterOff, Zach Schleien was an active online dater. He was used to the traditional swipe apps like Tinder, Bumble, but said it was “quite frustrating”, as he would be swiping for hours, would then get some matches but oftentimes those matches didn’t even message him back. If he was lucky, he would meet them in person.
“The moment I met them in person often they didn’t look like the photos, or we didn’t have chemistry,” he said. So he started asking his dates if they were open to video chatting before meeting in person. “The ones that I met on video chat made all the difference in the world, see them face to face, get an idea if they were attractive, had chemistry, and then I would meet them when I had that feeling of connection.”
Even though video dating was not usual, Schleien says the pandemic normalized the video-first dating experience. When Covid-19 hit, Tinder also rolled out a feature for video dating.
“With the pandemic, people felt very lonely, they wanted to connect with other people so they turned to apps like FilterOff to have that video-first experience,” states Schleien.
As the pandemic waned, the CEO says more daters got back into the market, and the app continued to become more popular, especially in its homeland, the United States. “We have seen that now on average the online dater is comfortable with video dating and they prefer video dating, because why would meet in a bar if you never met them when you could just jump on a 3-minute video speed date, see if you connect, and then meet in person,” he adds.
The app is also available to all of Latin America, but it has been growing at the greatest rate in Colombia, where it recently ran its first real-life events.
Video speed dates are not as accepted in Latin America as in the United States, according to Schleien. But he believes it takes time. “When your friends or loved ones meet their significant other on FilterOff, people are more likely to participate. There is some shift involved and that requires time,” he says.
FilterOff is set to announce new fundraising soon and says it is looking to run more events in Brazil, where it already had some virtual speed date events in Rio and Sao Paulo.
Speedtest Global Index, which ranks mobile median broadband download speed monthly shows that Latin America’s countries still are far from the ones with the best connectivity: United Arab Emirates, Norway, and South Korea. Brazil is in the 78th position with 23.22 Mbps.
“LatAm is now building upon their infrastructure. Obviously, with videos, a speeding experience, you need a strong telecommunication infrastructure. Now with 4G, 5G it better supports our app, that’s what is exciting about our experience. The app will only get better as telecommunications infrastructure improves,” says Schleien.
The app currently has two core features. The first one is virtual speeding events, where users can attend an event that is hosted by FilterOff. In these events, in a course of like an hour, users may go on 10 video speed dates of 90 seconds. The other feature is called matchmaker, which gives the user four daily picks based on their preferences. If both like each other, they can coordinate a time to video chat. The app is free, but if the user wants more than four daily picks, he can pay for it.
Communities also can host FilterOff’s events. It means that it is possible to have video speed dates through an organization. A non-profit can create virtual speed events for their members, and even sell tickets through the app, where FilterOff takes a percentage of the ticket sales. “Our goal is to help communities bring revenue and grow their audience,” says the executive.
“It’s not a winner takes all industry. Most people have three dating apps on their phones. Tinder did a great job normalizing online dating, but there’s a new generation of online daters that want to connect with people.”