POM: Vihan Patel and Vlad Ignatyev

Meet POM, the London-based dating app that seeks to match users based on their emotional response to music.

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Name of founder(s): Vihan Patel (CEO), and Vlad Ignatyev (COO)
Age(s) of the founder(s): Vihan 22, Vlad 21
Location: London
Date launched: August 2021
Number of employees: 5

What does your business do?

POM is a London-based dating app that seeks to match users based on their emotional response to music. POM differs from other dating apps in how it uses intelligent technology – so that matches are made on psychological compatibility rather than purely aesthetic attraction. The app matches users based on their imported Spotify and Apple Music libraries and six seemingly random questions that will build the user’s emotional profile.

The data that is analysed and collected includes the kinds of music a person listens to, when they listen to it, their emotional reaction to music and what this says about their character. After the first 15,000 users answer the questions, machine learning will make the matching process automated.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I first came up with the idea for POM at university, where I organised club nights. It became apparent that people behaved very differently depending on what type of night it was. For example, depending on whether it was a rock music or R&B-themed night, this influenced what people wore, what drinks they bought, and how they interacted with one another, which proves how instrumental music is to a person’s identity.

That got me thinking that music clearly plays a deeper role in who we are than most people think. It’s a voice for emotion, and using music as a vehicle to understand emotion allows for a greater understanding of other people, and of course, potential partners.

Matching people based on musical and psychological compatibility rather than on physical attraction is the way forward in the online dating world. I’m so excited to bring POM to the market and have been blown away by the interest so far at such an early stage.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Although dating apps have changed the way we approach dating and finding love, I think they’ve become far too superficial and even almost gamified. People are so focused on the validation that comes from a match that we seem to have forgotten what it means to make a real, meaningful connection with someone.

I think my attention was first drawn to the cons of dating apps during a university lecture. I was watching a guy in the row in front of me pull out his phone mid-lecture, and start swiping through Tinder until he got a match. Rather than sending a message to the person he apparently had a connection with, he just put his phone back in his pocket and continued with his day. I think that sums up dating apps today perfectly!

I did a lot of market research for POM, asking lots of people what interests they thought were most important in a partner and interestingly a lot of people said music but more importantly most said an emotional connection. Understanding your partner's emotions is fundamental in any successful relationship. We decided to take this insight and use music as a vehicle to forge an emotional connection that can then (hopefully) be built on.

What were you doing before launching your business?

I’ve always kept myself busy. When I was at school I ran a clothing brand which, funnily enough, was rivalled by the clothing brand run by my now co-founder Vlad! When I moved to university I became an events coordinator, organising and hosting student events across the country. It was during this time that POM came to fruition.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

I don’t necessarily know if I dreamt of starting a business but watching my dad run his own business my whole life definitely influenced me a lot! Wanting something that is mine, created and run by me, was a natural step in my business career really. I'm also not great at working for other people if our goals don’t align, so that definitely played a part in me starting my own business.

How did you finance your business?

So, I bootstrapped from August 2019 when POM was first founded and then continued to do so with Vlad from May 2020 until August 2021, when we did a small friend and family whip-round to get the app started. We’re always so appreciative of where we started because it reminds us to never take things for granted – as much as we’re grateful for the larger investments, we honestly would be nowhere without smaller investments from those close to home.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

We are a completely free app to use, however, we will offer a premium tier for those looking to get some extra functionality.

We also will be introducing our own curated ‘POM parties’ (the first one ahead of launch took place early August) that users will be able to attend to meet people who aren’t on the app, but also as an icebreaker for meeting their matches!

We have a few more tricks up our sleeve, which we can’t share just yet. However, our ethos for revenue is strictly for user experience and we’d never go into unrelated advertising or data selling.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

People, people, people. The biggest hurdle so far has been building the ‘dream team’. We had an experience early on when we hired a friend who thought he was a lot more qualified than he actually was, unfortunately, he turned out to be a lot less useful than we hoped he would be. It's safe to say that we learned from that mistake and we now have a really good hiring process where we only work with people who can see our vision, share our values, and help work towards our common goals.

Another challenge for me personally has been trying not to get caught up in the news and successes of other companies. Obviously, we can learn a lot from others and their processes but I find it very easy to end up comparing POM to those who are seemingly doing better than us. I’m slowly learning, however, that our direction and vision are what makes POM, POM. The team knows that everything that is meant to happen will happen with hard work and determination, regardless of the success of others.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

Controversially, I think it has been very effective (especially because it is a tech company). I was really appreciative of the time I had at home to focus on POM and really fine tune the business model. Safe to say we’re all pros at Zoom/FaceTime now! That’s not to say we didn’t encounter any hurdles at all, I think our team just learned very quickly that there was no way around the pandemic so just deal with it – and I’m sure the same could be said for a lot of other businesses.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

Just start! Fail fast, and then you’ll know and be able to learn from your mistakes. Don’t wait till the time is right because it never will be.

There are no shortcuts to success, trust me, I’ve tried. You’re better to just take the leap, make educated decisions along the way and if it doesn’t work out, learn from it and come back stronger from the experience.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

Our main goal for the year is to genuinely change the way people approach online dating. Our goal with POM has been and will always be to put a spark back into finding love online and, eventually, to move it offline. We want people to remember how it feels to forge real connections with one another, and how it feels to be excited about someone messaging you back or asking you out on a date!

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

I see POM being a global force, music transcends religion, race, and language barriers. I want the Power of Music to be a global force of change for the better. Hopefully, we’ll have more investors, meaning that we can expand the business in the way we want to.

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Ross has been writing for Startups since May 2021, specialising in sustainable business and telephone systems. He also runs the successful entrepreneur's section of the website.

He's previously written for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME and is passionate about music, sustainability, and travelling. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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