There has never been a better time to be a gamer and that’s not just because you can compete in tournaments for the chance to win real money (the prize pool for the largest Dota 2 tournament in 2019 surpassed $30M). Gamers now have the chance to find the perfect match while doing what they love through the social and dating app Kippo. Built specifically for gamers, Kippo differs from other dating apps in numerous ways including its highly, interactive profiles with personality quizzes, horoscopes, or “this or that” cards that are actually completed by 96% of the user base. More than half of Kippo users do not filter based on location; instead, they focus on building a real connection. Kippo’s target demographic is Gen Z and with the onset of COVID-19 with people quarantining at home, Kippo’s usage has surged 275%.
LA TechWatch caught up with CEO and Cofounder David Park to learn more about how Kippo is changing the dating landscape for gamers, the company’s expansion plans, and recent funding round.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Kippo closed a $2M Seed financing round led by Primer Sazze Partners with participation from industry leaders including former Tinder executives and partners at Eaton Workshop, NextGen Venture, and IHEARTCOMIX.
As the first dating and social app for gamers, Kippo is reinventing the way people connect by removing the pressure and insecurity of online dating and, instead, designing an experience around a shared activity — gaming.
What inspired the start of Kippo?
I was one of the early team members at Raya (a celebrity dating app) and during that time, I realized how important it is to connect people. We always talk about how the rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness are increasing, and I believe one of the solutions is helping people make meaningful connections.
I’ve been a gamer my entire life, and it’s a niche demographic that is no longer niche – gaming has become more and more mainstream. Along with my cofounders Cheeyoon Lee and Sean Suyeda, we saw this as an opportunity to create a gamified experience for people to meet new people.
How is Kippo different?
The premise of Kippo is that the best way to interact online is to play video games together. The app is unique in terms of the user interface, which uses a card deck system. Unlike other apps where profiles are mostly photos and users don’t really like to fill out their profiles, 96% of users on Kippo have filled out their entire profiles—they can choose from a wide variety of cards including personality quizzes, horoscopes or “this or that” cards, which allow users to really express themselves and their personalities.
The second differentiator is that on most dating/social apps, people exchange phone numbers. We found that about 90% of contact exchanges on Kippo are users’ in-game names, not phone numbers.
Third, on other apps, people typically look for matches that are very close – location-wise. For our users, more than half do not filter by distance. They want to spend more time getting to know someone and if you can play the same video game together, that can be just as meaningful—if not more so—than having a coffee date.
Critics have been vocal about addictive features on social media (ex: infinite scroll). How has Kippo navigated similar criticisms?
Kippo’s mission is to bring happiness to the world and we think that given the current climate, people need meaningful human connection now more than ever. Our goal is to directly address the increasing rates of loneliness and anxiety by connecting people anywhere, which is where we think online platforms excel.
What market are you targeting and how big is it?
Our demographic is predominantly Gen Z—over 70% of our users are between the ages of 18 and 24.
What’s your business model?
Right now, we offer a premium subscription for $9.99 that offers added perks. Long term, we are basing our business model more off video games than traditional dating apps. We won’t charge for features, but we’ll charge for cosmetics like skins and one-off purchases.
What was the funding process like?
COVID-19 did have an impact—while a lot of VCs are back to actively investing, right at the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty and a lot of our hot leads fell through and we had to start fresh. However, we were able to convince our current investors that because we’re purely online, we were well-equipped to succeed during this time. That’s proven to be true—Kippo’s usage has gone up 275% since people began quarantining at home.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Right now, we are focused on improving our chat tools and profile builder offerings.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Stay lean and stay scrappy. The tech industry had a wave of huge checks at lofty valuations, but those days are over. We need to return to the fundamentals of business and cash flow. Our founding team is highly technical and able to do everything in-house. Anything we don’t know how to do, we can learn. We don’t treat cash as a necessity but a tool to add fuel to the fire.
Stay lean and stay scrappy. The tech industry had a wave of huge checks at lofty valuations, but those days are over. We need to return to the fundamentals of business and cash flow.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our goal is to build an inclusive, highly-engaged community and turn Kippo into an open-world concept. Instead of using tech as a medium to transition you into the physical world, Kippo will bring these digital interactions into the physical world.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
I’m a huge foodie so it’s hard to pick one. But the one spot I find myself recommending the most often is Wake and Late in DTLA. They make the best breakfast burritos.
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