Dating norms vary from culture to culture and the difference is pronounced among the Asian American community. EastMeetEast was born to cater to English-speaking Asians to date in the US. Stacked with features that serve and understand the dating norms in Asian culture, the app is suited to find matches based on specific criteria that are routinely important to Asians. The company has recently launched another app, West East Dating, that serves as a conduit between Asians and non-Asians.
AlleyWatch sat down with cofounder Mariko Tokioka to learn more about the company, its future plans, and the company’s latest round of funding, which brings it total funding raised to $8.7M since its founding in 2013.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
EastMeetEast has announced the closing of its Series A funding of $4M. The investors in this round include: 500 Startups, Asahi Medialab Ventures, DG Lab Fund (jointly established by Digital Garage and Daiwa Securities Group), Mobile Internet Capital, Septeni Holdings Co.,Ltd., and others.
Tell us about EastMeetEast.
EastMeetEast is the premier Asian dating service with the goal of connecting Asian and Asian American singles. The company was launched in 2014 and has matched over 30,000 happy partners through its specialized matching algorithms and features that cater to the needs of the English-speaking Asian community. With Series A funding, the company has recently started West East Dating (WED), an inclusive dating site for Asians and Westerners alike in Southeast Asia. West East Dating’s mission is to help Asians find their life partner. WED will serve as a platform where like-minded individuals can connect and come together in celebration of Asian culture, language, and heritage. The dating platform will utilize the same state-of-the-art matching algorithms and other features unique to its parent company, EastMeetEast, Inc.
Both of our services have unique communities: EastMeetEast is dedicated to serving the Asian population in English-speaking countries, while West East Dating’s goal is to connect Asians with non-Asians. Both services distinguish themselves from other dating sites by offering features created specifically in the context of the Asian dating culture. Our proprietary features and algorithms incorporate our findings from years of research to address the needs of the community. These features include Asian language, interests, and hobbies filters, a filter for newly immigrated Asians, and “Asian Auntie’s” personalized one-to-one match emails, which simulates an “Asian Auntie” matchmaker by using EastMeetEast’s proprietary matching algorithm that takes into consideration the users’ cultural backgrounds, interests, and other traits.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
EastMeetEast provides dating services to one of the fastest growing demographics in the world. In the US, the Asian population remains the fastest growing major ethnic group, with 72 percent growth between 2000 and 2015, growing from 11.9 million to 20.4 million. With our entry into Asia, we will serve a much larger population; the Asia Pacific region is home to over 4.5 billion people, or nearly 60 percent of the world’s population, and online dating there has boomed in recent years.
Are there differences in dating that you have seen for the Asian market versus the general population?
EastMeetEast conducted extensive focus interviews when founding the company. The studies found that the general female population tends to value physical features such as masculinity, height, and eye color much more than Asian females. In contrast, Asian females found cultural and background features such as college graduated, occupation, and language spoken, are more important. The EastMeetEast matching algorithms and profile data cater to such needs of Asian community.
What was the funding process like?
Our fundraising period was shorter by 30 – 50% compared to the last round. This was probably because we had more solid growth that could be shown to investors as the round went further. Also, in this round, I got to appreciate the value of the investor-investee ecosystem. It was very helpful that our existing investors made valuable introductions.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The myth that the dating industry is difficult to receive funds is indeed true. I’ve seen an article that there was less than $7M investment in US-based early-stage dating companies. For EastMeetEast, since our founding, VCs often refused meetings, even though referral. Their reason was just “I don’t do dating”. I strongly disagree with the market misconception. Tinder has revolutionized the way you meet people nearby in the past several years. Bumble is said to be $1B according to some articles. There are many more ways to innovate how to find your match. Further, the opportunity for outside the US is enormous. There is still a strong stigma towards online dating in Asia just like 10-15 years ago in the US. Once their social acceptance becomes similar to the US, Asian dating will be the largest market in the world.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The biggest reason is our growth. We expanded from 4 cities to 8 cities in 2017. Our user base grew by 800% from January 2016 till the end of 2017. In the same period, our revenue grew by 1,200%. Our total content video view exceeded 22 million to date.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We plan to make West East Dating the prominent cross-cultural dating site in the market. In fact, we’re already ahead of the schedule – its revenue grew by 800% in just 1 month. We hope to grow the service further and help more Filipinos find their life partners! We are also planning to release more entertainment feature for EastMeetEast where our existing users can enjoy their time on the app and, hopefully, stay on the app longer.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We plan to expand to more Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
I like to walk around the Gramercy area to find restaurants. My obvious choice is Sugarfish. I also enjoy the décor and food at Mari Vanna, too.