NearGroup chatbot startup lands $1.6m Seed round led by OpenOcean

In Arabic, Indian or Eastern cultures where people can’t really have an open dating profile, the traditional Tinder/Happn/Bumble/Badoo etc dating apps don’t work too well as they are based on images. It turns out chat bots may be the way forward in these markets if a recent VC investment is anything to go by.

NearGroup, a chatbot allowing users to connect with like-minded people based on proximity, personality and their creative content has raised a $1.6m (£1.2m) seed round led by OpenOcean, with participation from Neotribe and BoostVC. NearGroup will use the funding to expand in Asia Pacific, the US and Europe.

The NearGroup chatbot (open in for Messenger) allows users to read the ‘stories’ of individuals nearby, and reply to people they want to start a conversation with. The theory goes that by showing someone’s content first, not their face, you are more likely to find something in common and avoid the “body-shopping” culture of Tinder etc.

It claims to have 2m users, with 2bn messages to date. The team is aiming for 100m users within a year, and to bring nearby businesses onto the platform.

It now runs on FB messenger, Kik, Viber & Android, and there are plans for Twitter, iPhone, and Telegram. The company was founded a year ago by Prashant Pitti, who earlier served as a director at India’s 5th largest travel portal

Pitti says: “We are transforming the social and dating culture in many countries where having an open dating profile may cause you trouble. That especially applies to girls and LGBT individuals. NearGroup solves this by making profiles hidden until users choose to selectively disclose them to those they’ve built a trusted conversation with.”

Patrik Backman, managing partner at OpenOcean said: “Traditional apps are at risk of getting uninstalled if they fail to find a good match for the user, resulting in high churn rates. With NearGroup, we have a chatbot that is not eating any real-estate on your mobile phone. Hence even after 2 months, they can still notify you about your newly-found match and get you back with 40% probability, which would be less than 5% on an app.”