Tastebuds, the London-based startup that matches people based on their musical tastes, has been kicking around for a while now. A graduate of the accelerator Springboard (now TechStars London) back in 2011, the company has ploughed along bootstrapped ever since — garnering a not-too-shabby 100,000 registered users along the way. Now the company looks like it’s finally set to step on the gas. Today it’s announcing a $600,000 seed round from Black Ocean, which will be used to launch mobile apps, grow its developer team, as well as formally launching in the U.S.
In addition, Tastebuds is currently developing features to connect members offline through gigs, festivals and music meetups, thus building on its existing online-to-offline social networking proposition.
Originally positioned as a dating site that focused on music as a way of matching prospective dates, Tastebuds appeared to have hit onto something, gaining a reputation for its ability to reach users who wouldn’t normally consider doing the online dating thing. Accordingly, it says that almost half of its users haven’t used a dating website before. However, that appears to have only taken it so far. Online dating is one of the most competitive spaces with very high user acquisition costs and high user churn. So, perhaps smartly, the startup has since broadened out slightly and can now be thought of as a competitor to services like Badoo, along with the usual online dating suspects.
“We first launched as a dating service but we’ve grown way beyond the dating use case,” says co-founder Alex Parish. “The site is designed to make it as easy as possible for people to meet others who share their tastes, in whatever capacity. It’s obviously working in a dating respect as we’ve had numerous weddings off the site.”
To build your profile on Tastebuds, you search for and select your favourite bands/artists. Alternatively, you can import data from your Last.fm account or import your Facebook music-related “Likes”. In addition, you add the usual demographic information required for social networking, along with, crucially, your location — the end goal is to meet people offline, after all. You also get to state if you’re looking for a date or just want to meet like-minded people. Tastebuds then begins displaying potential matches, including which artists you have in common, so that you can start conversing.
You can also “Like” users so that their Tastebuds status updates show up in your news feed, such as what they’ve recently listened to. You can also see any gigs they are planning to attend if they’ve linked their SongKick account.
Finally, last May Tastebuds launched a Spotify app, which essentially embeds the service inside of the streaming music site. As one of the first apps on the platform, around half of its users have come via Spotify, although this has petered out somewhat. “When we launched we were registering thousands of users per day from the app,” says Parish. “This has dropped since the number of apps [on Spotify] has ballooned but the app is still significant for us, making up around a quarter of daily registrations.”
Tastebuds is free to join, although the company has experimented with a number of premium micro-features, such as “Incognito mode”, which hides your online status and enables you to browse profiles anonymously. However, it isn’t ruling out a more standard recurring subscription model in the future. “We’re also going to investigate the possibility afforded by offline events and live music,” says Parish. “The focus until now has mostly been on growth and achieving the right product-market fit.”
As for what’s immediately around the corner for Tastebuds now that it has money in the bank, Parish says that, along with much-needed mobile apps and growing the team, the company is busy “building technology to help people meet offline at live music events which we’re really excited about.”