October 20, 2014
Many in the world of tech accelerators and incubators know that 500 Startups founder Dave McClure has doubled down on his support for female-led startups. It’s one of the main reasons that the founders of dating app Whim chose to apply for the program. “Dave’s outspoken support of female-led startups and 500’s notoriously disruptive style really aligned with our vision of shaking up the dating space,” say cofounders Katey Nilan and Eve Peters.
So when they found out they were approved for 500 Startups, they knew that a full upheaval was in order: leave Silicon Beach, and head to Silicon Valley. “We knew that 500 was the right place for us to grow both as a company and as individual entrepreneurs,” they say. They had one week to make the move: they packed up their cars, slept on couches, and dove in head-first, which speaks volumes about how much they believe in what they are bringing to market.
The unique value proposition at Whim is that it curates first dates with just a few clicks; eliminating the back-and-forth of messaging. Their promise is to send you out on a date “TONIGHT.” When you open the app, you indicate when you are free and who you like. The app provides you with the details of your date so that you can be face-to-face in a matter of hours.
According to the Whim founders, “there are a lot of players in the dating space because it’s a huge problem that needs to be solved. New dating apps crop up every day, but most of them are merely an iteration on the last. Whim is uniquely and truly solving the problem of bridging online to offline.” But getting the first batch of people in each new city to try the app has been a challenge that the team was ready to face with the help of their fellow founders and mentors at 500 Startups. They are eager to launch in December to a waiting list of over 1000 people in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Applying their desire to get a product shipped quickly but implement the right mix of features has been a challenge, and even with the diverse and helpful array of mentors at their disposal, they have also found that they must balance the input of others with their own judgment and instincts. During the last few months at 500, they have run experiments through the Los Angeles beta test, and they are finding that using the insights from those customers are driving their decisions more than any other input.
Overall, about the 500 Startups experience for Whim, they say, “we couldn’t ask for a better environment to build and grow Whim. We have learned new ways to measure our data, to translate those insights into a better product, and to deliver better and better experiences for our users.”
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