A former president at musical.ly (now often called TikTok), Alex Hofmann has already performed 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 round $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 development that I noticed in China that numerous 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 development that there are increasingly completely different curiosity teams. Serving them with only one product can work, however there’s a increased likelihood that you may join with extra individuals with completely different merchandise.”
Thus far, Wink is 9count’s most profitable app, which is fashionable amongst youthful customers who wish to make new pals 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 communicate the identical language. This design is intentional — the corporate didn’t wish to face the safety concern of individuals assembly up in actual life, for the reason that app is obtainable for customers 13 and up.
“Nevertheless it was attention-grabbing that among the 18-plus-year-old customers requested us, ‘Oh, it might be nice if I might search for individuals in my metropolis,’” Hofmann mentioned. “In order that was one of many the reason why we mentioned, you already know, possibly it might make sense to really create a courting app.”
In contrast to many fashionable courting apps, Spark doesn’t ask you to swipe left or proper. As an alternative, you may see individuals round you abruptly in a grid, form of like on Grindr. However in contrast to Grindr, you fortunately can solely obtain messages from individuals in case you’ve each “sparked” (or favored) one another.
“For us, it was actually attempting to grasp what would replicate the actual world in the absolute best method,” Hofmann mentioned. “So as an illustration, at a celebration, you’re not going to spend your time mentally pondering ‘sure’ and ‘no’ as you take a look at every individual 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 rapidly reply, so nobody has to play the ready recreation as they do in different apps proper now,” Hofmann mentioned.
Spark has already “tender 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 provides customers customary paid courting 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 in case you subscribe for 3 or twelve months at a time.
In relation to security, Spark makes use of Hive, an AI moderation instrument, to ensure 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 dangerous actors.
In fact, 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 individual. Match Group, the mother or father firm to apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, invested in Noonlight to allow safety features 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 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 obtainable now on iOS.