Yet another dating app

Beware: Unfiltered ramblings

Beyond swiping

Services seem to have a tendency to get stuck at a certain phase of development. My cynical feeling is that the service is born with a real mission to deliver something new, something amazing.

And sometimes they do.

And it's kind of awesome.

Tinder was a breakthrough. And Bumble added a different flavor. And others add their own flavor variations. And the whole universe of dating apps is ok.

But for the last 5yrs we've basically been stuck.

Again, my cynical view, the successful apps shifted their attention to short run monetization of the platform. And there are all kinds of reasons to do this. I can see how it could happen. In part it's because it's so easy to tell ourselves a story like this, "This app is really delivering a great user experience! People really like it and we're helping improve people's lives! And we're still investing in making it better. So it won't hurt us if we turn a portion of our attention to monetization..."

All of that might be true. And this pathway could 100% be the best that's possible. I really don't know.

My sense of it is that we've reached the end of the Web 2.0 model. Facebook and Amazon are probably the premier examples. Facebook held off on monetization, felt like a long time at the time. And now it feels like forever ago. And now they protect their market share by (1) buying potentially threatening competitors and (2) just keeping the ship afloat.

The core approach of Web 2.0 businesses: Use VC money and a legitimately innovative product/service to gain marketshare and get the product to scale. And then keep the foot on the gas with respect to scale while ramping up monetization until the numbers are pretty enough to find an exit via IPO or M&A.

The problem here is that there's basically a 5-10yr attention span in terms of the key people - (1) the founding team and (2) the VCs. The company is either on track for most of that timespan or it gets abandoned. But once the attention of the owners (VCs and founders) is lost, then it's really hard to keep on track in terms of delivering real innovation and value to the user

Because that's just not the goal of the company anymore.

That is the goal at the beginning - because it has to be. If the company isn't delivering value in the beginning, then they never get off the launchpad.

The issue is that later on, once they've achieved some degree of scale, then the company doesn't have to care as much. They have a large enough installed base that, in broad strokes, they can start acting like a cable company.

The big difference is that companies like Facebook and Bumble don't have actual regulatory guardrails keeping competitors at arms length. Companies that achieve Facebook-level scale in core areas don't really need actual laws to protect them. Their scale is so significant that it creates it's own gravity - scale alone is enough.

For someone like Bumble, their position is more precarious. They're still at risk from new entrants. But they've got a few key defenses: (1) they've got mountains of resources they can use to buy competitors or (2) they can use their money and dev team to build their own version of a competitors service.

And the worst case is still pretty great, at least for founders+VCs: Given that competitive landscapes tend to change fairly slowly (2-5yrs), they've got time to (1) milk their users for more and (2) sell more of their stakes before the value of the company craters bcs a competitor came along and ate their share.

By the end of the story the VCs and founding team are too rich to care much. Even if it goes to zero. And it won't go to zero. Bcs the brand is worth something. And some people will stick around.

What happens after Web 2.0? Web 3.0 companies have evolved a strategy that's resistant to defenses of entrenched competitors: User ownership.

It's something that won't be adopted by Tinder or Facebook or Bumble.

And it's an essential ingredient for (1) getting a foothold in marketplaces that are dominated by long-standing players and (2) consistently outcompeting competitors bcs delivering real value to users is baked into the DNA of the company.

  • Commitment to learning
  • Commitment to delivering value

(It's not obvious that "delivering real value is baked into the DNA. A company can be user-owned and struggle to deliver "real value". So that language needs to change. There's the issue of (1) delivering what the customer doesn't know they want yet and (2) finding a way to commit ourselves - formally and/or through culture - to innovation and learning. Really not clear how to do that...)

Ok, so I've proven that I can ramble!

What is Oui already?

Oui is a user-owned dating app that's committed to learning and embodying those lessons in the service.

The basic "dating app" model feels pretty cookie cutter at this point. In this non-engineer's mind it should be pretty simple to create a copy-cat competitor. And that's the initial goal: Look at the top dating apps and get a list of non-IP protected key features and build a competitor that copies them.

And once we've developed the cookie cutter version, we can add some features of our own.

  • A few default settings that mimic current leading competitors (bumble, tinder, etc...)
  • An initial default setting that, using best current evidence, picks default settings that optimize for your goal (entertainment, finding connection, etc...)
  • A wide range of settings that users can control: Much more fine-grained user control over search. and data.
  • Verifications: ability to verify all kinds of things. Background check, social media, income, etc...
  • Experimental features:
    • Ratings?!? Would this be a disaster? Hot or Not? Or a modified version - How attractive are you to the people you are matching with?
    • Ask people to prioritize wants - if you've got 10 characteristics that matter to you and you're not willing to be flexible on any of them...
  • Meetups: In-person social gatherings, picking up trash at the beach, group hikes, volunteer/"Do good", Learn to X, DIY this/that, exercise, etc... Ability to send anonymous invites to people. Who is going will be revealed once a certain number of group members is achieved. Idea to have at least two potential matches in each group.
  • Learning about ourselves / Evolving ourselves: Tools for us to understand ourselves (like our attachment style) and tools for us to work on ourselves


Does swiping help us find love? Or is it more about entertainment? Or is there something darker going on, is swiping driving us away from love and connection while simultaneously making us feel bad? So that it's neither entertaining nor effective. It's just a way of getting our attention (and money).

I don't think we know the answer. But we should.

An open experiment in discovering what works. Acknowledging that different approaches will probably work differently for different people.

As I write more about this, I start to lose interest... Is this product really what I want to work on?

At one level I love the idea of promoting connection. Or facilitating love.

Esp given that I believe that the world desperately needs more love + connection.


Could Oui really deliver on that? AND be successful as a company?

I wonder if enough people are really ready to do the work of inviting love into their lives. Or whether they're content to just keep swiping their way through life.

Also, how does this product really distinguish / differentiate itself from existing products? Bcs if it's just user ownership, that's really not enough. There need to be a few compelling features.

Talk to some sociology / psychology grad students - what's the science here? How would they develop a new dating app that really worked? That was a step-change improvement relative to existing options.