A former president at musical.ly (now often known as TikTok), Alex Hofmann has already finished one thing that appears unimaginable: he helped construct an app that might 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 turn out to be an investor, however he quickly determined he wished to make apps once more. So, Hofmann based 9count, the mother or father firm to apps like Everland, Helpline, Juju and the friendship-making app Wink, which has hundreds of thousands of customers.
“There’s a pattern that I noticed in China that lots of tech firms 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 pattern that there are increasingly totally different curiosity teams. Serving them with only one product can work, however there’s a increased likelihood which you could join with extra individuals with totally different merchandise.”
To date, Wink is 9count’s most profitable app, which is common amongst youthful customers who wish 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 individuals with out regard to location, as long as the customers converse the identical language. This design is intentional — the corporate didn’t wish to face the safety concern of individuals assembly up in actual life, because the app is accessible for customers 13 and up.
“However it was attention-grabbing that a few of the 18-plus-year-old customers requested us, ‘Oh, it could be nice if I might search for individuals in my metropolis,’” Hofmann mentioned. “In order that was one of many the explanation why we mentioned, , perhaps it could make sense to truly create a courting app.”
Not like many common courting apps, Spark doesn’t ask you to swipe left or proper. As a substitute, you’ll be able to see individuals round you abruptly in a grid, sort of like on Grindr. However not like Grindr, you fortunately can solely obtain messages from individuals if you happen to’ve each “sparked” (or appreciated) one another.
“For us, it was actually making an attempt to grasp what would replicate the actual world in the very best method,” Hofmann mentioned. “So as an example, 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.”
Much 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 shortly 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 a whole lot 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 choice, which provides customers customary paid courting app perks like the power to see everybody who appreciated 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.
With regards to security, Spark makes use of Hive, an AI moderation instrument, 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 courting app, customers ought to all the time train warning when assembly strangers in particular person. Match Group, the mother or father firm to apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, invested in Noonlight to allow security measures like emergency help, location monitoring and photograph verification. That enterprise determination adopted an investigative report by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations, which revealed how Match Group allowed identified 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 accessible now on iOS.