Investing in Connection: What's Next for the Online Dating Industry

In February of 2021, Bumble Inc. BMBL investors felt the love when the company announced its IPO at $43 per share. And ever since then, Bumble and its rival Match Group, Inc. MTCH have been engaged in a heated battle to own the online dating market. But as the world of digital intimacy continues to evolve, the two titans need to pay attention to what’s next. If they don’t continue to innovate, they’ll miss out on opportunities for growth and monetization in the future.  

The way some see it, the online dating industry is now transforming into something much bigger. As Dating Group Chief Strategy Officer, KJ Dhaliwal, explains, the dating industry is about more than just dating; it’s all about social discovery. 

Is Social Discovery The Future of Online Dating?  

“Personal connections aren’t always going to be about romance,” said Dhaliwal. “Relationships can be for platonic friendship, entertainment, hobbies, travel, work…. you name it. And that’s social discovery; people connecting around mutual interests and creating deeply personal long-term, non-ephemeral interactions.”      

Although Dating Group has invested significantly into the dating market, it is now making significant investments within the broader social discovery category. And Dating Group is betting heavily on the evolution of dating into categories like the metaverse, travel, music, video and much more. Anything with connective tissue that brings people together and helps cure things like loneliness and boredom is on the company’s radar.  

Bumble and Match Group

Match Group also appears to be heading in a broader direction. The company recently revealed that it has its eyes fixed upon the metaverse. 

During its most recent earnings call, Match Group CEO Shar Dubey said, “Now, the technology that is relevant to our world is the one that allows us to create experiences online where people can meet each other, discover each other more serendipitously and real-time through shared experiences in a way that is more akin to how they would do in real life." 

On the other hand, Bumble has indicated that it is keeping its sights on the online dating category. The company recently announced that it had acquired Gen Z dating platform Fruitz for an undisclosed sum. In a news release,  Bumble founder & CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd said: 

“Fruitz is a brand and leadership team that I’ve been following for years. Julian, Fabrice, and Arnaud are dynamic and brilliant leaders who have built a unique product that has struck a powerful chord with consumers in France and across Europe. By plugging Fruitz into our technology and data science platform, community support, brand and growth marketing, we can accelerate Fruitz’s growth.”

Another Investor that’s All About Social Discovery

As you might expect, another name that’s betting big on social discovery is Social Discovery Ventures (SDVentures). SDVentures is an international holding company and investment fund primarily focused on technology. 

“Our investment philosophy is well aligned with SDVentures and our other partners,” added Bill Alena, Chief Investment Officer at Dating Group. “And we’re looking at projects and companies that represent the future of our industry.”  

So, What’s Next for Online Dating?

“Anything that brings more meaningful experiences to users is where the opportunities within dating and social discovery reside. We see major opportunities at the intersection of dating, gaming, and entertainment,” says Dhaliwal. “Think of it this way, when you go out on a date with someone, either friendly or romantic; it’s about much more than just conversation. You’re experiencing food, movies, games, drinks, concerts and so much more. And that’s why social discovery will be the evolution of online dating.”  

At the core of social discovery is data. However, there is a shortage of companies willing to mine data and extrapolate actionable insights that benefit users more than company interests. But we are now starting to see the whiplash from this. Shares of Meta (FB) alone have dropped more than 44% over the last six months because of growing frustration with how the company leverages its user’s data.    

“Moving ahead, the focus of the industry should be on fostering human connections through methods that users want and seek without the exploitation of their data,” said Dhaliwal. “And with that, the industry will be headed toward a safer, more effective way for people to engage with each other to fulfill basic human needs. Put people first and the rest will follow.” 

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