Tinder rival Paktor launches ‘Labs’ division to experiment with the future of social apps

It turns out that Asian dating app Paktor’s quiet acquisition of Down was more than just a one night stand. The deal, which TechCrunch broke news of last week, was part of a number of acquisitions that has led to the creation of Paktor Labs, an experimental division that is led by Down founder Colin Hodge.

Paktor, best known as a Tinder rival in Asia, has been pushing to diversify its business for some time. Speaking when it closed a $32.5 million funding round in October, CEO Joseph Phua told us that he was looking to move into “social entertainment” and tap into consumer media trends such as live streaming. It is retaining the focus on its core Tinder-like swiping app called Paktor, but Labs is how it will look to the future and develop spin-off services.

“It’s an experimental and high-paced lab that works with acquired apps or new projects that have the chance to grow and prove themselves,” Hodge told TechCrunch in an interview. “We want to develop a formula for releasing a social app, and growing it to significant revenue and user activity.”

The current Paktor Labs projects include Down (and sister app Sweet), Taiwan’s Goodnight and Brazil-based Kickoff, each of which are new acquisitions announced today, and one unnamed internal project. Led by Hodge, it is staffed by a team of eight which includes most of those behind recently shuttered Spanish app Groopify, including its CEO and co-founder Pablo Viguera.

Hodge revealed that he began collaborating with Paktor back in May 2016 before selling the company and formally coming aboard later in the year. Already, he claimed, Paktor Labs has increased Down’s monthly revenue 24-fold — while he didn’t state a figure, he said the app was already profitable. Down is Labs’ largest project with over five million downloads to date and around 200,000 monthly active users.

Goodnight, the Taiwanese app that uses voice memos and is focused on finding friends, is another Hodge said has seen the benefit of Labs. Revenue went from nothing to “quite a significant amount,” he said.

Paktor is primarily focused on Southeast Asia, but it also offers services in other parts of Asia, Latin America, Europe and the U.S. via partners and now these acquisitions.

Hodge, who is currently based in Bangkok, Thailand, said Paktor Labs is looking to Southeast Asia for its new app development ideas to keep it “focused on playing to Paktor’s strength.”

Paktor has raised more than $50 million from investors such as Yahoo Japan-affiliate YJ Capital and Singapore’s Vertex Ventures. The four-year-old company claims over 25 million users worldwide across all services and over 120 staff. CEO Phua said the firm was net profitability when it closed the recent round, he said there was plenty of money in the bank since it hadn’t touched its previous $10 million round — now we know where some of those resources have been channeled to.

Post updated to clarify that Pakor did not acquire Groopify