A new startup called SwoonMe aims to solve the problem of shallow dating apps, where users mostly make decisions based on how a person looks in their photos. Instead of browsing profiles, the idea of SwoonMe is to use a combination of avatars and audio to encourage users to connect based on someone’s personality, not how they look.
To use the app, you take a selfie which SwoonMe converts into an avatar. This is what others will see when they come to your profile. You then record a voice clip to tell others about yourself and what you’re looking for in a partner. You will also answer a few questions, such as whether you are looking for a wedding or something more casual and what your love language is (eg, physical touch, gifts, affirmation words, etc.), among others.
The upshot is that when people scroll through SwoonMe, they don’t make quick decisions based on what they see, but instead make more thoughtful decisions based on what they hear. When two people match, the app encourages them to keep getting to know each other using voice messages and soon icebreaker games – no texting or photo sharing. As they communicate, their avatar will slowly reveal their real photo.
The idea for SwoonMe came from Tanvi Gupta, a former Facebook product specialist who has been involved in a number of high profile products, including those that shipped in Messenger and Instagram Direct, such as Messenger Reactions. , a Messenger overhaul, Android discussion heads, and more. This experience taught her a lot about launching new products built from the ground up and helping them find products that fit the market, she says.
But Gupta decided to start SwoonMe because of her own personal struggles with modern dating apps, where the men who messaged her immediately wanted to share selfies and meet her without having read anything on her profile.
“The dating world has always felt super indexed to looks, given the proliferation of apps like Tinder and Bumble,” says Gupta. “And what I felt was that they weren’t addressing my personal need for someone who wants to hook up for a long term relationship,” she says.
Gupta started working on SwoonMe during the pandemic, when the market was hungry for new ways to connect people online – a trend that had led to the launch of audio apps like Clubhouse, and later, its many clones. The founder says she was also inspired by Clubhouse, as it demonstrated the potential of audio-based social media, including how it could be used for more personal connections.
“Platforms like Clubhouse have shown that taking video and stares out of the equation allows people to look at real matters,” Gupta said. “It creates new levels of intimacy and interaction, and we’re basically trying to capture that with SwoonMe, but in the dating world.”
While SwoonMe isn’t necessarily limited to people looking for connections, it may initially appeal to this demographic as it requires a bit more time and focus to listen to sound bites and engage in audio messages. This experience would be more likely to appeal to someone who takes dating more seriously, and not someone looking for a quick connection or a causal link.
SwoonMe isn’t the first social app to use avatars instead of photos, however. Avatar-based social discovery apps have been popular in other markets in Asia and Brazil, but have yet to make their way to the United States. – its biggest acquisition ever at $ 1.73 billion. Augmented reality-based avatars are part of the application portfolio provided with the agreement.
The startup is also not the first dating app to incorporate the idea of ”face reveal” – a somewhat fanciful concept popularized by online creators – into the dating world. There are a number of voice-based apps in app stores today, which have had varying degrees of success.
In February, for example, an app called Jigsaw raised $ 3.7 million for its own so-called “anti-superficial” dating app that places puzzle pieces on users’ faces that can only be removed after a predefined amount of commitment in the application. . But in Jigsaw’s case, the pieces of the puzzle had to be applied to full-body photos, and he had banned selfies. This means that the app was doing the opposite of what it offers. Instead of encouraging daters to ignore images, some users were probably making decisions based on what someone body looked like their picture with their face deleted. It’s even worse. (After expressing my concerns to Jigsaw and refusing to cover them up, the startup told me they’ve ended their selfie ban and are now accepting a wide range of images.)
Gupta also believes that women, in particular, deserve a different way of meeting people that is not limited to their looks.
“As a woman, one of the main driving forces in starting a business like SwoonMe, which is first and foremost audio and not photo, is because I am personally tired and tired of being objectified by men… We let’s live in the 21st century. and I’m done with it. I want someone to love me because of my personality, because of my voice, because of what I bring to a relationship, ”she says. “Of course, physical attraction is important, but it’s not the only thing,” Gupta adds.
Ultimately, there is also a demand for a less superficial dating app from men. In fact, SwoonMe currently has more male users than female users. (To be clear, the app is open to all gender identities and sexual orientations, as the issues it aims to address can impact anyone. It also offers an inclusive sign-up flow.)
While it’s too early to report user numbers and growth, Gupta says the app has “a fair number” of early testers and so far have been able to get solid user feedback.
The bigger question for SwoonMe is whether or not this may or may not attract people looking for real relationships, as many of these people avoid dating apps altogether. It also competes with a growing number of video dating apps, like Snack, aimed at Gen Z users who are more comfortable filming themselves through their use of social media platforms like TikTok.
At launch, SwoonMe does not generate revenue, but plans to add premium features if it reaches scale. Longer term, the company wants to expand its platform beyond dating to also help couples stay connected during their relationship.
SwoonMe launched smoothly on the App Store and Play Store for beta testing, but today announces its official launch. Currently, SwoonMe is targeting the San Francisco and Los Angeles dating markets, but is open to anyone who wants to try it out.
The startup is a small team and is currently working to raise $ 1 million in seed funding.