This is a post by regular contributors Roy Malkin and Don Oparah
Dating is big business, especially online. But with such difference cultures in romance around the world, can a single platform really be flexible enough to go global? Israeli startup Heystack believes it can.
Founded in May 2012, its launched its first beta in Israel this past February. CEO and co-founder Shai Wolkomir told Silicon Allee at The Next Conference in New York earlier this month that Europe was the company’s main goal, with the plan to go country by country.
SIICON ALLEE: What is different about Heystack?
SHAI WOLKOMIR: Heystack is all about finding the right people and using the right people to find it. We know how to sift through all your people in your social graph – meaning Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. Vetting and vouching for people (which social networks inherently do) is a key factor when it comes to meeting your significant other. When we see a nice connection between you and say a girl you are probably looking to find, we draw a direct connection from you to her. No one is a stranger anymore, we are really making sense of the word six degrees of separation.
SA: Which region is the most important for you:
SW: Our goal is Europe. We are thinking about going country by country, and that’s our trajectory. Europe makes sense for us, because Europe is close to us. We do believe that, as our end goal, we will go to the US and set our company there. But Europe is so interesting right now because it’s growing fast.
SW: The UK and Germany are very interesting for us, going forward to the European continent. They are very liberal in their dating and their usage of apps and number of early adapters, et cetera. We are still learning if Berlin should be the first place in Germany to go to attract users, comparing it to Frankfurt and Stuttgart, relating to the crowd and how would users direct their app. We are actually open up worldwide but never did an official launch — something that we want to do much more interactively with the users and pump it up. We are getting users from Germany everyday and it’s growing by small portions, so I’d say we are still learning about the competitive side and how German people like to use their dating apps today. Dating is a cultural thing and each country has its own tweaks and things but the main backbone of Heystack will stay the same.
SA: Will everything be virtual, or would you set up a physical office and hold events in somewhere like Germany?
SW: We talk about dating, and it’s never only virtual. It always has something that relates to that tangible domain. Dating is about brand, it’s about an entity. So my guess is once we go live, a campaign we will start virtually, once we know it has the relevant traction we are looking for, the first thing we do is to set up offices, because dating never stops only in the virtual domain. … We believe that real nice dating is not sending a message, but going on a first date. The whole interaction and integration go into the environment, may be the local bars, pubs or restaurants. Everywhere you can take personality to a date is very interesting to our business model and us as well in the long term.
SA: What services do you provide once you have successfully matched people up? Or is it just about the initial contact?
SW: We think we can do a lot, since we know a lot of information about our users. One of those cool features is that we curated thousands of videos on YouTube. For instance, if a girl mentions that she likes Coldplay on her social network, you will automatically get YouTube videos of Coldplay to share with her. So we do a lot of things with the social DNA up until the point that they reach their initial date. Dating is a service where you constantly lose users, because once people find love they no longer use the service again. So we need to bring in more new users. That’s why we are now focusing on getting people to the first date, not beyond.
SA: How do you think you can match people well?
SW: My take on love is very simple. There’s a very successful website called eHarmony. Their users walk through 200 questions and they can match people with a perfect algorithm. I never used it so I’m not sure if it works or not. But I’m a true believer that, like war and love, there are no rules. We do not scientifically give people matches, but provide them the best knowledge and tools to help them make decisions.
SA: Have you or any of your team used your own service?
SW: Obviously my wife does not like it when I use it! But one of my teammates is always on it. That’s all I can say right now.
SA: Are there any adjustments you make or foresee making between countries based on their own dating culture and your dating customers?
SW: That’s a good point that you touched on. For example, Asian people are very shy, and matchmaking in Asia is huge. Most people don’t know that but you can go to a specific place on Sunday morning in Japan and a matchmaking grandmother will just pick this and that and match people. And beyond that, there are a lot of shy cultures such that if a guy gets rejection in China it is very hurtful. Not like in Western cultures, where men will just be like “I don’t care” and move on to another one. So the settings in the app will change how people would talk, meet and how long there is between getting rejection and making another action. These are all features and tweaks for a relevant culture, but the backbone will stay the same.
SA: What’s the most surprising thing that people find out about your product?
SW: That the CEO has been married for ten years!