Robyn Exton, founder of Dattch, has hit it big in the U.K. with her new women-only dating app. Unlike other dating apps, like Tinder or Grindr, Dattch users create Pinterest-like profiles with visual boards of their interests and personal photos.
Now, Dattch has made it across the pond into the U.S. The app just launched in San Francisco and Exton plans to release it in New York in the next few months. We spoke with Exton about her app and what makes it so special.
Metro: What does Dattch mean?
Exton: Dattch, in its short version, means "date catch."
When did you come up with the idea for the app?
The idea originally came up about two years ago now. I had been working at a branding agency and was working with a dating business and I found the space really interesting. I got the idea for it and spent the next six months building a bootstrap fund and started saving money for it. I quit my job coming up to a year and a half ago.
How did you come up with the idea?
The actual trigger was when I was in a pub with a friend and she had broken up with a girlfriend. She didn't want to use a dating site and we said, "Get over it - just deal with it. Everyone does it." As we went through the process, we thought, "This is terrible. We use these products we don't even like. It's a hugely missed opportunity not to use a product people actually like and want to use.
Is your app geared only toward lesbians?
It’s geared toward women. Sixty percent of our user base identifies as lesbian and the other 40 percent identifies as other, which includes bisexual, curious, pansexual, flexisexual ... anyone who doesn’t identify as fully gay. The reason that’s important for us is that I think there’s clearly a market for it. There was a survey recently in the U.K. about five months ago that found that the number of women having sexual experiences with women was much higher than previously thought. I think there’s a much bigger demand among women to have a safe secure space to meet other women for friendship, sex, relationships or anything else.
Why did you choose to create such a visual concept?
We did that because we had just an exclusively female community for the very first time and we wanted to see how women wanted to use our app. During our beta tests we found that when we were using those structures that were similar to other dating products, it just didn't work. The way women behave when they're dating is completely different, so we started building based on what we were seeing and learning. Everything in the app is optimized in female technology: what a woman wants to see on a profile that’s going to make her understand who someone is or what makes it as easy as possible to show who she is.
Why pictures instead of words?
We found that women were terrible at making profiles. They’d fill in as little content as possible and say they’d come back later and fill it out and not do it. Women hate describing themselves. They’ll always undersell and never know what to say and say things that don’t sound too arrogant or over the top so the profile quality is really bad for a lot of women on other dating sites. We use a route of images to explain who you are so we have huge libraries of content on what you do on your day-to-day life, like what you eat and where you go and that’s kind of the best way to show who you are. Women really enjoy crafting these boards and profile of who they are.
What kind of photos do most women put up?
There are a lot of selfies but food is really popular. We ask users when they sign up to show pictures of what they do on the weekend, so they upload what their interests are. It’s quite topical. People update on a weekly basis, which is great for profiles because when you see new content, it prompts a conversation.
It sounds like Pinterest meets Instagram.
It is exactly that. The structure is very Pinterest in nature because it's boards that you craft and curate, but the content is very Instagram-led.
Do you think queer women behave differently on dating sites than straight women do?
The only thing I’ve seen so far - and I don’t think it’s a difference between gay and straight women - is that by creating this female-only space we’ve had a lot of people looking just for friendship. The way men often approach women in dating kind of rules out the option of friendship. It’s super sexy or hookup-y. In our product, we have a huge number of people looking to make friends or hang out with or go to a bar with.
Are you a lesbian?
I am bisexual. It was because of my experience on other sites that I created Dattch. I didn't enjoy them and thought, "There has to be a better platform to use."
Why do you think it’s taken so long to create a buzzworthy queer women's dating app?
I don't know. It's been very frustrating for my own personal dating experience. It has to be a combination of the fact that tech is a very male-dominated industry and so is dating. It takes someone with insight and experience in the first place. People said Grindr doesn't work for women, and no, absolutely it won't work for women. It has to be a completely different experience. And no one thought about how that experience would differ if you just looked at a female community.
You're planning to open Dattch in New York soon. What's next?
A lot of people request Portland and Chicago and Boston are also pretty highly requested. After that, Canada, Australia and then China and Latin America.
Why not just let people in regardless of their city?
For us, it’s about creating a great experience when people first come onto it. We're a community-led app and I don't want a user - if there's a girl who comes on and is possibly not sure about her sexuality and just wants to say hi to someone and there's no one in her area, it has the reverse impact of what we're trying to create. We want to establish an existing community for new users when they sign up.
Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark