The problem with Tinder is women don’t trust strangers, so matches don’t turn into meet-ups. Hinge uses the same hot-or-not style but only shows you trustable friends of friends based on its “romance graph”. That’s led to insane retention in D.C., upcoming funding, and now an expansion to New York City with plans for Boston and Philadelphia. Hinge want to be a younger Match.com for the mobile era.
Founder Justin McLeod got the idea while finishing up at Harvard Business School. There was a “Last Chance Dance” and the organizers thought it would be cute to let students submit names of their crushes and match up people who liked each other. It was too much work and fell through, but McLeod thought “I could build that”, and over the summer he did. Hinge launched in February, and was incubated in D.C. by The Fort with $625,00 from investors including 500 Startups and Piedmont Capital.
Just how popular are Hinge’s free iOS and Android apps in D.C.? McLeod tells me there are 110,000 single college grads in the city, and over 20,000 are active on Hinge. The app is focused on the dense network of young professionals and grad students that are starting to think about settling down. It’s got 30,000 total users with an average age of 27, and has made 200,000 matches. 85% of those who download it are still active a week later, and 75% are still active a month later. How? Because it’s not a hook-up app.
The Affection Connection
Hinge might not get you laid right away like Tinder, Grindr/Blendr, and many other “dating” apps say they will. It’s not designed to match you with just anyone that’s super close by and also using the app at the same time.
Hinge looks deeper. Not quite into your soul, but at least into your Facebook profile. And the result is a ton of transparency and tailored matches that give people the confidence to progress online flirting to an in-person encounter.
- You can only join if you already have friends on the app, and it’s only active in D.C. and New York while just getting off the ground in Boston and Philly.
- It displays your last name. Act sleazy and people can track you down.
- You’re more than just your photo. Hinge makes your age, mutual friends, school, and work place immediately visible.
- It uses all that information to each day send you a set of potential matches who are your style.
- If you and a potential date approve of each other, Hinge sends you both a cute half-truth icebreaker like “Cindy also went to Georgetown and she grew up in a treehouse” and lets you start chatting.
The secret to Hinge’s success is what I call the “Romance Graph”. Hinge has been watching to see what kinds of people who get matched actually end up messaging each other. McLeod explains “it’s about social proximity. Did they go to the same kind of school? Have the same kind of job?”
For instance, he tells me “Let’s say you work for Google. We might connect you with someone who works for Facebook because you’d have something to talk about.” It’s not just about the obvious matches, but pairing people in the same industry, or people from a prestigious college with a nearby state school they seem to be fond of.
Eventually, McLeod tells me Hinge will look to monetize through premium subscriptions that give you more insight into who is checking you out, or put you in front of more potential dates.
In the end, Hinge is about taking the clunky but accurate old class of dating apps into the modern age. It doesn’t need to ask you a hundred questions to figure out who you’re into. It just needs to know a few biographical traits and your social graph. McLeod concludes, “OKCupid, Match, eHarmony — they were all invented before Facebook, before mobile, before big data. We want to be the disrupters.”