OPW INTERVIEW - Aug 4 - Fondoo has message blasts which self destruct after 12 hours. So users can interact in the moment, with people who are active on the app. Here's Keith's overview of the app. - Mark Brooks
What's your founding story? What does Virgin Labs do?
I used to work for Wildfire Interactive, one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley. After three years we were purchased by a very large, well known technology company, and I moved to NYC with the new parent company. It was in NYC where I started to become interested in proximity based mobile dating apps. It seemed like a fast growing market with a low barrier to entry, if you had the right concept. The stigma with meeting someone online with this NYC crowd of millennials seemed to be non-existent and many of these fast paced young professionals are using not just one dating app but 3 or 4 simultaneously. This NYC millennials crowd seem to be hungry for the next new, fun social app especially if it is focused on meeting new people. At the end of the day, that is why many of these people move to NYC for in the first place.
With my large background in social media platforms, from my work at Wildfire Interactive, I developed Fondoo, which is hugely influenced by a handful of core social media features that everyone is already in tune with. We took the traditional social media feed and applied an algorithm that would be able to create matches allowing users to send out a post (Fondoo Post : Dip) and feed that content into the appropriate Fondoo Users' (Fondoo User : Dipper) stream (Fondoo Stream : Melting Pot). We launched last week.
What did you learn from Wildfire that inspired you to start a dating app?
I learned a lot about social media in general. We actually played a large role in promoting and educating marketers on how social media can be leveraged as a legitimate marketing channel well before it was recognized as one. We had to develop very unique and original strategies during these early days of Facebook Brand Pages and Twitter Brand Handles that were then executed using our technology by many first mover type brand marketers. In order to do so we had to understand how and why people use different social media platforms, and how these brands can focus on key features from these platforms that would help them engage their consumers through earned media.
These learnings and experiences had a huge influence on Fondoo's concept and user interface. Fondoo was built with features that everyone has already grown to love over the past 10 years, such as the Real-Time Feed, Broadcasted Post and a Direct Message Inbox. In many cases, what truly differentiates many of these social media platforms are their feed algorithms. Facebook has an algorithm that is optimized to connect you with your friends and family. Twitter has an algorithm that is optimized to connect you with the content from public figures and publishers. Fondoo has an algorithm that is optimized to connect you with like minded singles you might be interested in meeting. The three are all very much focused on the feed (real-time cascading content). My Wildfire days were hugely influential on this concept approach.
How is your app better than other mobile dating apps, like Tinder?
I wouldn't say better, this all comes down to user opinion, but different in terms of the experience and how it is meant to be used. Since the Fondoo Dips (posts) only last for twelve hours, are based on the user's location, and are in real-time, it is a platform people will be using while they are out and about. It is a way for them to connect with other people that are in the same mindset of wanting to do something with someone new right now or at least within the next 12 hours. We also have users taking on more of a proactive approach to using Fondoo since they need to either create and broadcast out content (Dips) or respond to the content (Dips) that appear in their Feed. If you get a response to your Dip or you respond to someone else's Dip in your Feed it then has the potential to turn into a one on one direct chat. So users can really only be discovered on Fondoo if they are active.
Why dating? Sounds like you could have gone the route of 'social discovery' with your app.
It is a lifestyle app that is meant for meeting strangers of interest. In many ways you can consider it to be a 'social discovery' platform. Right now the focus is connecting like minded singles but the Fondoo platform and Feed will have the potential to branch out into so many other valuable 'social discovery' opportunities and settings.
How's your first week post-launch going?
It is going well. We are making some key product changes and our marketing approach through well networked events seems to be paying off. We conducted our "soft-ish" launch event in Manhattan at a well known venue in the Meat Packing district. There was a turn out of over 600 people. So the interest is definitely there.
How are you getting your initial users?
We have a very unique marketing approach. We have partnered with upscale restaurants, lounges, bars and nightclubs. Everyone that visits these venues in most cases fit the Fondoo demographic perfectly; they are young and social millennials that are out and about with their friends and interested in meeting new people. We have a number of fun events lined up this Summer in New York City.
What other things is Virgin Labs, Inc. working on?
Right now we are focused on the development of Fondoo. Reaching an initial critical mass in NYC is our first goal before we really roll it out to any other US metropolitan area. However, Virgin Labs, Inc. does have a large network and a team of diverse professionals so there will always be a possibility of new creative and exciting projects emerging in the coming months.