Alex Hofmann, the former president of musical.ly (now TikTok), has already accomplished the seemingly impossible: he assisted in the development of an app that could compete with social media behemoths like Meta, YouTube, and Snapchat. Hofmann left musical.ly to become an investor when ByteDance bought the firm for about $1 billion in 2018, but he immediately returned to making applications. As a result, Hofmann launched 9count, the parent company of popular apps including Everland, Helpline, Juju, and Wink, which has millions of users. “I’ve noticed a tendency in China where a lot of IT businesses construct numerous products rather than just one,” Hofmann told.
He pointed out that a business like Meta expands by purchasing applications like Instagram and WhatsApp, whereas Twitter maintains the same primary product. “Of course, having just one product is great, but we’re seeing a trend where there are more and more diverse interest groups.” Serving them with only one thing can work, but you’ll have a better chance of connecting with more individuals if you serve them with a variety of items.” So far, Wink has proven to be 9count’s most popular app, especially among younger users looking to meet new friends online Hofmann claims that the app has a content moderation crew of 15 people working 24/7.
However, Wink connects individuals regardless of their location as long as they speak the same language. The firm didn’t want to deal with the security problem of individuals meeting up in real life because the app is only for persons aged 13 and over. “However, some of the users over the age of 18 said us, ‘Oh, it would be fantastic if I could seek for individuals in my city,'” Hofmann added. “So it was one of the reasons why we thought it could be a good idea to design a dating app.”
Spark, unlike many other popular dating apps, does not require you to swipe left or right. Instead, you may view everyone in your immediate vicinity on a grid, similar to Grindr. You can only receive messages from someone if you’ve both “sparked” (or loved) each other, unlike Grindr. “For us, it was essentially trying to figure out what would best imitate the real world,” Hofmann explained. “For example, you won’t spend your time at a party mentally thinking ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as you look at each individual around you.”
Spark works similarly to bumble in that once you submit a like or a message, the request only lasts 24 hours. “We really want users to reply immediately,” Hofmann added, “so they don’t have to play the waiting game like they do in other applications right now.” Spark has already “soft launched” in hundreds of countries, quickly ascending to the top of the iOS app store in Ireland and the Netherlands.
While the app is free to use, there is also a premium membership option that provides users with conventional paid dating app features such as the chance to view everyone who liked you, more “sparks,” and more. The precise cost and features are still open to change, according to Hofmann, but a membership is now $19.99 per month, with modest reductions if you pay for three or twelve months in advance. Spark employs Hive, an AI moderation platform, to ensure that users don’t submit damaging or NSFW content to their profiles. Spark, like Wink, has a trust and safety staff that works around the clock.
Spark also employed a security specialist to identify faults and vulnerabilities in the platform before they are exploited by malicious actors. Of course, users should always take caution when meeting strangers in person, regardless of the safety safeguards in place on a dating app. Match Group, which owns Tinder, OkCupid, and Hinge, invested in Noonlight to provide security features such as emergency help, location monitoring, and picture verification.
Following an investigation by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations, which exposed how Match Group enabled known sex offenders to use its free applications, the company made that business choice. Redpoint and GGV Capital led a $21.5 million round of fundraising for 9count, which was founded in 2018. Spark, the company’s newest software, is now available on iOS.