What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Blink was inspired by a revelatory experience at a blackout restaurant eight years ago, where I got to meet complete strangers in total darkness. We had an amazing conversation. After the dinner ended, I saw them for the first time and realized they were nothing like what I expected. The experience of making connections with strangers based on conversation alone, free of looks-driven assumptions, sparked the thought: would people date a wider variety of people and find more satisfying relationships if they were able to make an emotional connection with someone before swiping left? In March 2020, I finally began turning the vision into reality. Our mission is to build a dating space where a person’s personality, values, sense of humor, passions, and quirks are what set them apart — not their looks, race, ethnicity, or fashion choices.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Getting Blink off the ground as a non-technical, woman founder with a limited budget is challenging. From wireframing to creating marketing assets, writing product specs to drafting an operating agreement, finding a developer to developing a budget – being a tech founder and building something from the ground up while holding a day job requires A LOT of hustling and learning through doing.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
As McKinsey & Company has said – nowadays, people aren’t just buying products and services. They’re looking to buy into an idea, an experience. Increasingly, retention of customers and growth by word of mouth is tied to positive customer experiences and a favorable brand image. Given that, it’s of the utmost importance to give customers the best possible experience and service, particularly for a company like Blink, which is entering an already-crowded market.
From our perspective, being empathetic is the most important component of giving customers the best possible experience and service. Understanding customers’ issues and requests is the first step in finding the best way to address and respond to them. Being in the dating app industry, if members are reaching out to us, we’re potentially touching on a fairly intimate portion of their lives. Whether they’re reaching out about a positive dating experience, a question about how their personal data is managed, a concern about another member, or something else, we want them to know that we understand and care deeply about the issue.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We’re gearing up for our beta launch in Los Angeles this month before doing a full launch before the end of the year and launching in New York early next year. We’re also excited to start recruiting and recording Season 2 of Date in a Blink.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As a first time founder, I’ve learned so much. Some of the lessons were welcome and expected ones, such as how to wireframe, how to develop a marketing strategy, how to manage a crowdfunding campaign, and how to be super crafty with a small budget. But some of the lessons have been hard ones and, to be honest, ones I wish I never had to learn. I have had to deal with unexpected development issues, navigate obscure banking rules as the recipient of crowdfunding, manage corporate structure complications, and separate from a co-founder.
While there were moments I thought I would fail (e.g. being $2000 short of our Kickstarter goal with one day left to the campaign and having to move Blink forward alone while balancing my day job), I’ve managed to push through. And somehow, though I thought I would be managing Blink alone, I have rallied an incredible network of friends to work alongside me and have been so energized in the process.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Canva, Asana, Slack, Github, Google Suite, Undock
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’ve held onto learnings from Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett as I’ve navigated multiple career changes and my path to entrepreneurship. Through prompts, exercises, and anecdotes, it helped me hone in on how to identify professional interests, reframe how I thought about finding work I enjoyed, and embrace ambiguity in the interest of designing a life I wanted.
Beyond that, I love listening to podcasts about entrepreneurship. One podcast in particular has been especially inspirational – How I Built This, a “podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists and their stories about the movements they built.” Over the years, I’ve had so many ideas I’ve wanted to work on and so many businesses I’ve wanted to start… but in many cases, fear of investing my time, energy, and money into a venture that might fail stopped me from taking the leap. Listening to How I Built This and hearing the stories of successful entrepreneurs reminds me that, even for the most successful people, success came after failure… and that oftentimes, the failure begets success down the line. Whether it’s an episode about a female founder whose story somehow mirrors my own or the story of a founder who struggled for years before succeeding, each episode reminds me that success means trying, learning, iterating, and trying again.
Finally, I would recommend trying to identify and tap into relevant professional and industry networks. I’ve been so amazed by and thankful for people’s willingness to share their time and wisdom. Some of the most informative conversations I’ve had were with people I met through slack workspaces (in my case, Friends of Lenny’s) and online forums (elpha is a great forum for female founders).
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! As a startup founder, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and do anything and everything, including market research, product design, techops management, marketing asset creation, and more. It’s ok to not know the answer to every question and it’s ok to ask for help. Leverage your friends, family, and professional network for connections and introductions – they’re the most valuable assets you have. And the best part about being clueless about 90% of the things you have to do as a startup founder? You learn so much!
Where can we go to learn more?