Picture yourself in an open field. Not a cloud in the sky. A wide-eyed puppy runs up to you. Its tail wags like a windshield wiper on full blast. The pooch’s gorgeous owner approaches. They crack a smile. Your heart melts. It’s the love of your life.
Dog Date Afternoon wants to make this magical experience more accessible. The app connects dog owners who want to date. Unlike apps that match dogs for play dates, Dog Date Afternoon is for owners that are single. I interviewed the Founder and CEO, George Koo. I asked him about the niche he’s targeting.
“Dating is about interests. What am I interested in?” Koo asked. He went on to describe a woman he dated a few years ago. They both had dogs. “What if the dogs meet and they hate each other and they start to fight?” He described the dog as a litmus test, a way to measure compatibility.
“Me being a dog owner and me using dating apps, I started thinking this is what I know.” Once he decided to pursue the idea, Koo searched the app store. There weren’t any serious competitors.
“And then I went online, and I saw that there were a couple of websites for dog owners,” Koo explained. “I come from an online advertising background. And I saw that the dating websites were cookie cutter.”
Without a cofounder or venture capital, Koo began development on his app in June of 2016. He built the original version with a dev team in Santa Monica. “I wanted to keep it local. I didn’t want to deal with any crazy time zone issues if something went wrong.”
Dog Date Afternoon borrows conventions from mainstream dating apps with few exceptions. It’s what you would expect. Each profile features the owner’s dog. The dogs have profiles as well. One unique twist is that users can notify their matches when they’re about to go on an “adventure.”
Through his research, Koo discovered there were approximately 5,000 dating apps. Regardless of the exact number, we can all agree there are plenty. That’s why his story is so compelling. Even with such immense competition, he still felt inclined to create a new app for singles.
Introducing your pet into your dating life has its perks. Dogs are not only a reliable way to judge a person’s character; they provide a sense of security. Women told Koo they feel more at ease with their dogs nearby. The app also makes it easier to come up with original dates. Koo found men have trouble thinking of activities, himself included. “Dude I hate having to brainstorm about first date ideas, it gets tiresome.”
“I’ve been on millions of dates on Tinder, Bumble… On the first date, I’m always like where do I go? Where do I take this girl? Nine times out of ten it’s going to be the same bar, the same happy hour, eating the same jalapeño poppers…”
Koo’s also excited about future monetization strategies. It makes sense given his background. “When I’m on Tinder, I see advertising that isn’t relevant to me. I see Chevy truck ads that get served up to me. I have no intention of buying a Chevy truck.”
It’s true. Ads on Tinder aren’t always relevant. With this canine niche, the ad model is straightforward. “It’s already targeted. Instead of a Chevy truck, if I get a PetSmart ad or anything pet related, then it’s a valued impression that’s served up.”
While most dog owners still prefer to get their dogs when they’re young, many feel a social obligation to adopt dogs from shelters. Koo wants to support this cause when his business is ready for it. He envisions profiles of adoptable pets appearing in the card stack. There’s no real limit on the number of dogs a person can have, so this seems like a promising humanitarian initiative.
Most dating apps look for ways to expand their market. Hinge Matchmaker is an example of this. Dog Date Afternoon has many inspired ways to expand their core service since their base is so niche. For example, dog-friendly restaurants could make great partners.
As we started discussing ideas, Koo expressed focus by concluding, “I don’t want to muddy the waters. It’s a dating app. The goal is to get people to connect and find each other.”