A former president at musical.ly (now often known as TikTok), Alex Hofmann has already completed one thing that appears unattainable: he helped construct an app that would compete with social giants like Meta, YouTube or Snapchat. After ByteDance acquired musical.ly for around $1 billion in 2018, Hofmann left the corporate to develop into an investor, however he quickly determined he needed to make apps once more. So, Hofmann based 9count, the mum or dad firm to apps like Everland, Helpline, Juju and the friendship-making app Wink, which has tens of millions of customers.
“There’s a development that I noticed in China that a variety of tech corporations there don’t simply construct one product, however a number of merchandise,” Hofmann advised TechCrunch. He famous that an organization like Meta grows by buying apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, whereas Twitter continues iterating on the identical flagship app. “Having one product is is tremendous thrilling, in fact, however we do see the development that there are an increasing number of totally different curiosity teams. Serving them with only one product can work, however there’s a greater likelihood that you would be able to join with extra folks with totally different merchandise.”
Up to now, Wink is 9count’s most profitable app, which is standard amongst youthful customers who need to make new associates on-line (Hofmann says that the app has a content material moderation staff of 15 individuals who work 24/7). However Wink connects folks with out regard to location, as long as the customers converse the identical language. This design is intentional — the corporate didn’t need to face the safety difficulty of individuals assembly up in actual life, for the reason that app is on the market for customers 13 and up.
“Nevertheless it was attention-grabbing that a few of the 18-plus-year-old customers requested us, ‘Oh, it might be nice if I might search for folks in my metropolis,’” Hofmann mentioned. “In order that was one of many the explanation why we mentioned, , possibly it might make sense to really create a relationship app.”
Not like many standard relationship apps, Spark doesn’t ask you to swipe left or proper. As an alternative, you possibly can see folks round you suddenly in a grid, sort of like on Grindr. However not like Grindr, you fortunately can solely obtain messages from folks if you happen to’ve each “sparked” (or favored) one another.
“For us, it was actually attempting to know what would replicate the true world in the very best method,” Hofmann mentioned. “So as an illustration, at a celebration, you’re not going to spend your time mentally considering ‘sure’ and ‘no’ as you take a look at every particular person round you.”
Just like an app like Bumble, when you ship a like or a message on Spark, the request solely lasts 24 hours.
“We actually need customers to rapidly reply, so nobody has to play the ready recreation as they do in different apps proper now,” Hofmann mentioned.
Spark has already “delicate launched” in tons of of nations, climbing to #1 within the iOS app retailer in Eire and the Netherlands inside a day. Whereas the app is free to make use of, there’s additionally a subscription possibility, which supplies customers normal paid relationship app perks like the power to see everybody who favored you, further “sparks,” and extra. Hofmann famous that the precise pricing and advantages are nonetheless topic to alter, however that proper now, a subscription is $19.99 per 30 days, with slight reductions if you happen to subscribe for 3 or twelve months at a time.
In the case of security, Spark makes use of Hive, an AI moderation device, to be sure that customers aren’t importing dangerous or NSFW content material to their profiles. Like Wink, Spark has a 24/7 belief and security staff. Spark additionally employed a safety professional to identify bugs and vulnerabilities on the platform earlier than they are often exploited by unhealthy actors.
After all, it doesn’t matter what security measures are in place on a relationship app, customers ought to at all times train warning when assembly strangers in particular person. Match Group, the mum or dad firm to apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, invested in Noonlight to allow safety features like emergency help, location monitoring and picture verification. That enterprise resolution adopted an investigative report by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations, which revealed how Match Group allowed recognized intercourse offenders to make use of its free apps.
Based in 2018, 9count has raised $21.5 million in funding led by Redpoint and GGV Capital. Its latest app Spark is on the market now on iOS.