China’s Tinder Explores AI, Monetization, And Overseas Expansion

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Chinese Tinder clone Tantan is embracing the future with open arms.

Like several of its colleagues in the United States -- including Match, Happn, and Hinge -- Tantan is experimenting with artificial intelligence as a tool for modern matchmaking. Chief Executive Yu Wang announced earlier this month at RISE Hong Kong that AI is a primary focus for the company in the second half of 2018, and that he hopes it will be a key driver of growth going forward.

The technology will be used to improve the accuracy of user acquisition and advertising, as well as to boost growth in user numbers and revenues more generally.

“[By using] artificial intelligence and algorithms, there is huge room for improvement to a point where as our users swipe more, they see pictures more suitable to their tastes. They can then quickly match and start an engaging conversation,” Wang said.

Tantan is already one of the most popular smartphone-only dating apps in China. The app claims more than 90 million registered users and 6 million daily active users. Earlier this year, Chinese social networking app Momo acquired Tantan for approximately 5.3 million newly issued Class A ordinary shares of the company and US$600.9 million in cash.

Wang said at the time: “Momo and Tantan have their own strengths in their respective markets and among targeted customers. The acquisition is a critical strategic upgrade to cover a greater range of user demographics and needs, and build up a larger social networking market through complementary businesses and strategic synergy. We are very confident in our future development.”

Prior to the acquisition, Tantan raised $120 million from a mix of strategic and financial investors including DST Global, Kleiner Perkins, Genesis Capital, Zhongwei, SAIF China, and video social network YY. The company focused on monetization via membership services, adopting a model similar to Tinder Plus that provides an additional set of features to premium users.

Tantan has also expressed interest in expanding beyond China’s borders. Wang indicated that expansions through Asia, primarily in India and Southeast Asia, may be in the works, though no specific targets have been set.

Tantan may face competition from smaller rivals with strong regional presence as well as from Tinder, which maintains good usage across Asia, but its position at home is likely to remain robust.

“Foreign apps, whether banned or allowed in China, usually do not perform well in the Chinese market as they fail to adapt to the local situation. But we know the market well,” Wang said.