An early TikTok executive just launched the Spark dating app.

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Former president of (now known as TikTok) Alex Hofmann has already done what seems impossible: he helped build an app that could compete with social giants like Meta, YouTube or Snapchat. After ByteDance acquired to about 1 billion dollars in 2018, Hofmann left the company to become an investor, but soon decided he wanted to make apps again. Thus, Hofmann founded 9accountparent company for applications such as Everland, Hot line, juju and friendship app Winkwhich has millions of users.

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“In China, I’ve noticed a trend that many tech companies are building multiple products, not just one product,” Hofmann told TechCrunch. He noted that a company like Meta is growing by acquiring apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, while Twitter continues to develop the same flagship app. “Of course, having one product is very interesting, but we see a trend towards more and more different interest groups. Giving them just one product might work, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to reach a lot of people with different products.”

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Wink is 9count’s most successful app so far, popular with younger users who want to make new friends online (Hofmann says the app has a team of 15 moderators who work 24/7). But Wink brings people together no matter where they are, as long as the users speak the same language. This design is intentional – the company didn’t want to face the security issue of people they meet in real life, as the app is available to users 13 and older.

“But it was interesting that some of the 18-year-old users asked us, ‘Oh, it would be great if I could search for people in my city,'” Hofmann said. “So that was one of the reasons why we said that maybe it makes sense to create a dating app.”

A man holding a phone showing a dating app reticulated interface.

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Image credits: Spark

Unlike many popular dating apps, Spark doesn’t ask you to swipe left or right. Instead, you can see the people around you at once in a grid, just like in Grindr. But, unlike Grindr, you can only get messages from people, fortunately, if you’ve both fired (or liked) each other.

“For us, it was a real attempt to figure out what would best reproduce the real world,” Hofmann said. “For example, at a party, you won’t spend time mentally thinking yes and no while looking at every person around you.”

Similar to an app like Bumble, when you send a like or a message to Spark, the request only lasts 24 hours.

“We really want users to be responsive so that no one has to play the waiting game like they do with other apps,” Hofmann said.

Spark has already been “soft launched” in hundreds of countries, reaching #1 on the iOS app store in Ireland and the Netherlands in one day. While the app is free to use, there’s also a subscription option that gives users the standard perks of a paid dating app, such as the ability to see everyone who likes you, extra sparks, and more. Hofmann noted that the exact pricing and benefits are still subject to change, but right now the subscription costs $19.99 per month, with slight discounts if you subscribe for three or twelve months at a time.

When it comes to security, Spark uses Hive, an AI moderation tool to make sure users don’t upload malicious or NSFW content to their profiles. Like Wink, Spark has a 24/7 trust and security team. Spark also hired a security expert to identify bugs and vulnerabilities in the platform before attackers exploit them.

Of course, no matter what security measures are in place on a dating app, users should always exercise caution when meeting strangers in person. Match Group, the parent company of apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, invested at noon to enable security features such as emergency assistance, location tracking, and photo verification. This business decision followed ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations investigative reportwhich showed how Match Group allowed known sex offenders to use their free apps.

Founded in 2018, 9count has raised $21.5 million in funding led by Redpoint and GGV Capital. His latest Spark app is now available on iOS.

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