TextDater: Jon Pellington

The tech start-up founder tells us why his dating app challenges competitors and how they plan to generate revenue on a free-to-use platform

Name: Jon Pellington
Company name: TextDater
Date launched: 01/09/14 
Location: Greater London
Website: textdater.mobi

Tell us what your business does:

TextDater is a new dating app that focuses on communication, interests and similarities, not on looks. We call it ‘self-expression over selfies’. Users create profiles by manually entering their unique interests and hobbies. They can then find other users through their unique interests on profiles, rather than by photos.

They tap ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ depending on whether they like each profile or not, and two ‘yes’ taps will let users begin a conversation with one another. Only then will profile photos be revealed.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

It came out of frustration with the current online dating model. The search results on almost every app were stuffed full of ‘selfies’ and I’d been on more dates than I’d care to remember, and honestly most of them were based on looks.

The market seemed to be lacking a way of letting people get to know potential dates by likes and interests first, so we registered TextDater and got to work.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Market research! Everyone I spoke to about it told me it was about time something changed in the mobile dating world. There’s a growing weariness around Tinder-type apps after all the initial excitement.

I think people are realising that, just like one-off encounters, the excitement soon fades and people really want something more meaningful.

What were you doing before starting up?

My background is IT and computer programming, so I knew the team had the skills needed to make the app a reality.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes, I’ve always dreamed of having my own business. I’ve had a number of nine to five roles, but the promise of flexibility and independence you get from working for yourself was something I’ve always wanted.

How did you raise the money?

We got mentoring from Virgin StartUp Loans. Our business plan was validated by them, going through two rounds of scrutiny beforehand.

We were then able to acquire a business loan to help make the dream a reality.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Our business model is based on non-intrusive in-app advertising, so we can keep the app free to download.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

One of our biggest challenges has been getting our heads around marketing and PR.

We come from technical and creative backgrounds so marketing seemed so alien to us at the start. We took some advice from people who do it for a living and so far, so good.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Getting the app through beta testing and getting the design just right.

This whole process took longer than anyone anticipated, but we had great support along the way from other startups who’d been there before.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Suck it up and keep going… but get some support!

There are times when it feels easier to quit, but thanks to family, friends and other entrepreneurs we kept on going.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

In five years’ time, I hope TextDater will have settled into its niche and we’ll helping more and more people move into online dating. The road is long, but we’re happy to be on it.

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