Coffee Meets Bagel, an online dating site that provides a friend-of-a-friend match every day, is now making matches nationwide. Launched in New York City in 2012, the startup is also today releasing its iOS app, which includes the same features as the free web service.
Co-founder Dawoon Kang says that with the new iOS app, Coffee Meets Bagel is looking for the happy medium between traditional subscription services and newer, casual dating apps. ”We want to deliver you a very good-quality match, one that you would expect from subscription services, but with the fun of mobile apps,” Kang says.
For those unfamiliar, Coffee Meets Bagel works like this: After signing up through Facebook, you can specify such information as religion, ethnicity, height and personal details about yourself, as well as what you look for in a date. At noon each day, you then receive one match, or “bagel” as the company calls them, that has some sort of connection to you. You then have a time limit to either “Pass” or “Like.” If two people mutually like each other, they are put in touch through a private company texting line. Kang says the one-match-a-day approach is meant to keep users from feeling overwhelmed and to keep them engaged.
The service is designed to be as gamified as possible. Users earn coffee beans in the app by inviting friends, filling out information or similar actions. They can then use beans to buy special features. Sixty-five beans reveals your match’s mutual friends, 265 lets you go back to a missed match and 500 beans gives you a score and ranking. Coffee Meets Bagel also sells coffee beans, which Kang tells me are bought by 3 to 5 percent of their users.
One notable feature was Coffee Meets Bagel’s partnership with local businesses in New York City and Boston to offer free gifts to use on a first date. However, Kang says the company abandoned this in other cities in favor of quicker expansion. After New York, the startup added Boston and San Francisco and, in March, expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Now they are releasing the service to everyone.
Coffee Meets Bagel could run into some initial issues in smaller cities with fewer users, and there might be days when the app is unable to provide a bagel. Kang tells me the service has mainly expanded through word-of-mouth, which means the user base is densely connected and leaves some outliers.
“As we grow, our member base is going to become a lot more diverse,” she says. “[We'll] have to refine the algorithm very quickly … to be able to deliver a personal, relevant match.”
While the company shares some similarities with other popular dating services, Kang says most services are usually at one end of the spectrum or the other. Sites like Match.com and eHarmony require browsing through strangers’ profiles, which can be very time-consuming. On the other hand, dating apps like Tinder are more geared towards quick matches and hookups.
Coffee Meets Bagel is more like Are You Interested or Hinge, which match users with people their friends might know. The difference with Coffee Meets Bagel is it slows the flood of matches, and is monetizing its free app by selling “coffee beans.”
Coffee Meets Bagel has raised $600,000 from Lightbank and has accumulated about 80,000 users. The startup has made more than 1.5 million matches, with 70 percent of members checking the service daily.