Dating app Hinge Bets on its Ability to Compete with Tinder

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At the end of 2012, dating site Hinge had recently launched and was overshadowed by the popularity of dating app Tinder. Unsure of how to proceed with less than $32,000 in the bank and only a few thousand users according to Business Insider, Hinge decided to bet big on the mobile platform.

"We made some business assumptions that turned out to be wrong," Hinge CEO and founder Justin McLeod told the news website. "We were like, 'This thing is running out of money, and we need to do something drastic."

In what seems to be a spur-of-the-moment business decision, McLeod and a couple of developers holed up for a few weeks and launched a mobile version of Hinge on February 7th of 2013. But the launch wasn't as smooth as expected - Apple at first rejected the app, which caused many sleepless night for McLeod and his company. They had planned a huge launch party in Washington DC where the app first launched, and until the morning of the launch party, there was no app available.

The launch party turned out to be a success, and more people signed up right after it than had signed up for the beta in all of 2012. It seemed Hinge struck a chord with users where Tinder left them feeling insecure - especially women. Hinge does not just match users based on location like Tinder does (which means a lot of random profiles get into the mix) - you only get matched through your circle of Facebook friends of friends, so everyone you meet on Hinge has some kind of link to your circle. This security has been particularly attractive to female dating app consumers.

McLeod is not about to sit still. He is grabbing a good portion of the dating app market share, and expects to compete heavily with Tinder for its core user base. But he's taking things one step at a time.

Instead of launching his app nationally, he has launched city by city, building up a solid user base based on demand before he moves into a new market. Also, potential Hinge users must be invited by current Hinge users - adding a level of exclusivity and security to the app.

Hinge is now one of New York's hottest startups. Although Tinder is much larger (it makes more matches per day than Hinge has in its entire history), McLeod's company is starting to steal some Tinder users. It has expanded to 20 cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. It uses a waitlist to assess demand in other cities, then launches when a few thousand people have signed up.

"There is no shortage of companies that have tried to build what we've built," McLeod says to Business Insider. "But we're using the organic, city-by-city method, which I think is the biggest thing ... We're a utility to help users meet great people in the flesh as effectively as possible ...We want to be a house party that has a really good host."