Only one in ten partnered adults surveyed found partners or love online, the Pew Research Center found amongst nearly 5,000 people in the US. Another report said 53 percent admitted to lying about their age, body or jobs on their profiles. A hefty 30 percent of respondents struggled with the lack of seriousness of people on the apps and many worried about security.
KiKi Social founder and CEO Manel Hernández Tomás and his team discovered through their own observations that users consider most apps “useless,” since nobody is achieving the goal: to meet in person. On top of that, women said they felt harassed by the volume of requests they received. Men said the dating app subscriptions were only good at taking their money.
How could you, then, find yourself with a new friend, tasting heirloom tomatoes in a community garden this afternoon, for example? Well, with KiKi Social, you could. Manel got inspired to create KiKi Social to bring not only people, but also communities together. The idea came to him in 2017, when dating app releases in his native country of Spain were not only booming, but also turning out as many frustrations as features.
“After a lot of research, brainstorming, business model iterations, cultural exchanges, and study cases,” Manel said, “finally we had an “ah ha!” moment.” When KiKi unleashed an MVP in Spain in the Spring of 2018, countries as far away as Mexico picked up the news, priming other Spanish-speaking countries for a future launch. KiKi’s stand-out business model also caught the attention of an enviable lineup of top-tier accelerator programs.
First, Startup Grind invited KiKi—one of only two from the EU—to their 2018 global summit in California. Not wasting a minute, KiKi then went into a six-month accelerator program at Stanford University. Keeping up the pace, KiKi got into Y-Combinator Startup School in the same year. And, if that wasn’t enough of a nod from the halls of idea validation justice, the following year, KiKi got intensive Hero Training at Draper University, graduating in May 2019. More rocket fuel came when team KiKi got into batch 25 of 500 Startups San Francisco. Also in 2019, their first VC investment came from Draper University Ventures.
During the intensive product development period, KiKi beefed up security using Artificial Intelligence for profile verification, and added a feature to instantly connect a concerned user and their location to their nearest local emergency services. With these milestones covered, they launched in Mexico.
Now, KiKi is on course to disrupt the social app industry. They took “Best Up-and-Coming Site” and 3rd place in “Best Niche Dating Site” at the 2020 IDate Awards. But Manel doesn’t consider KiKi a dating app at all. Instead, he believes the standard dating app business model is obsolete for users, and focused only on subscriber stickiness. “With our business model, we will be offering users what they really need, with who they want, and monetizing their free time,” Manel added.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
KiKi Social gets a viral boost via its KiKi Coins platform. KiKi Coins, is a virtual currency spent on invitations to experience the real world. It’s like InMail™ credits on the LinkedIn platform. KiKi incentivizes users to meet in person by rewarding them with the KiKi Coins, but how do travel and social distancing restrictions affect an app that drives offline meetups? Below is a typical onboarding and initial user experience:
- Users take a selfie to verify their profile, and fulfill the requested information.
- Once onboarded, they will see all the people that are around them (in less than 60km) and can start to send invitations (each one costs 10KiKi Coins) for experiences (like drinks, meals, or entertainments).
- If the other user accepts, that user will earn up to 70% of those KiKi Coins. But before that, they meet in person and verify through a QR code.
- KiKi Social offers from online to meet in person with real people, up to the place where the encounter happens, with special offers just for KiKi users.
KiKi is trying to tap or connect with millions of Millennials, Gen Z, Digital Nomads, Solo backpackers, who are traveling and working around the world!
“During lockdowns, meetings are an issue,” Manel admitted. Now that cities are opening up and long distance travel is still a big question for many, KiKi Social is showing its chops. Manel said every time a Covid lockdown ends they see a massive spike in engagement.
“Due to the fact that we aren’t allowed to travel totally free, users want to meet someone nearby for doing activities,” Manel said. “The way that people will socialize has changed, and with an increasingly vaccinated population, people will have more desire and ability to meet in person.”
Manel’s motto is “constancy and never surrender.” He considers himself a serial entrepreneur; but, for now, life is KiKi Social. Having lived in London, Shanghai, Panama, Mexico City, Miami and San Francisco, Manel is fluent in five languages! With a broad smile, Manel predicts “a summer of love could be coming.”
By Aaron Everhart and Ming Xia Ho for DSH Stories, in collaboration with Draper University, where you can learn from speakers like Elon Musk and Bill Draper, and be a Startup Hero in 30 hours with the exclusive Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship online course!
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Manel is from Barcelona and based in San Francisco (S.F.). He has worked in the UK (London), China (Shanghai), Latam (Panama & Mexico) and the US (Miami and S.F.). He moved to S.F. in March 2019, when he was accepted to Draper University and later, 500 Startups. He has been a serial entrepreneur and investor for years, and currently has his hands completely on KiKi Social. Manel speaks five languages. He is an active Draper University Alumni and mentor, and is also involved in NewChip Accelerator.
About Kiki Social
KiKi Social helps like-minded real people to meet, and enjoy real experiences nearby. It is the first social network that limits the virtual time of users, and promotes more experiences in the real world. KiKi Social is a Draper Startup House Community partner.
About Draper Startup House
Draper Startup House is a global network of spaces connected to services, education, and investment. Investment is offered through Draper Startup House Ventures, a unit of the Draper Venture Network.
About Draper Startup House Ventures
DSH Ventures is a global syndicate created for the purpose of helping entrepreneurs receive better access to funding, while helping to cultivate a network of entrepreneurial growth. The DSH Ventures unit provides access to venture capital funding, and the ability to submit pitch decks to the Draper Venture Network, which has 24 global funds.
We have one combined vision and mission: ONE MILLION ENTREPRENEURS BY 2030.