A new video-focused dating app Desti just launched over the weekend to give users a chance to find potential matches based on a preferred date destination. Users who live in the app's debut market of Austin, Texas, can scroll through a vertical feed where profiles highlight what destinations (aka “destis”) they want to experience on a first date -- whether that's wake surfing at Lake Travis, trying a new sushi place or even going to a beer garden that allows dogs. The "destis" are discovered by swiping through in-house TikTok-style videos that show off the Austin area.
What also makes Desti different than other dating apps such as Tinder or Bumble is that it doesn’t have a “like” feature, so people are forced to start conversations. Users can send a message to the person, and the receiver can accept or reject the message. They can only see one at a time and must pass or reply to the message to move on to the next.
The app is initially available for iOS device users in the Austin area. It will be available on Android devices in the coming weeks. The startup plans on expanding to other areas down the road, it says.
The example below shows a video of the destination at the forefront, with the profile picture in the bottom left corner.
When setting up a profile, the user must pick three "destis," selecting from categories like Breweries, Rooftops, Live Music, Food Trucks, Dog Dates, etc. There are also hundreds of prompts to choose from alongside the video such as “Someone teach me … ,” “The CDC recommends … ” or “Tonight we should … ” To complete their profile, the user uploads four photos and creates a bio.
Since so many millennials and Gen Z users turn to TikTok or Instagram to discover restaurants and new things to do in their area, Desti uses the same idea for its destination-based dating app.
“We decided to bet on short-form video being the future,” Nick Dominguez, COO and lead designer/developer of Desti told TechCrunch.
The company isn't the only dating app to have TikTok-style videos as the focus. Snack, for instance, allows users to post videos to a feed and swipe on videos from potential matches. French app Feels had a similar idea.
When asked if each destination would have the address or descriptions, the company said this was something it was working on. Desti wants to build a more robust Discovery tab to allow users to browse different locations, venues, restaurants, events and local businesses.
Other features in the works include a subscription plan and paid features that will remove limitations such as daily message limits. Currently, users can send between 5-12 messages per day.
There is also a friend version of the app called Besti, which is currently in beta in Austin, Texas.
In July, the company raised its full $1 million round at a $5 million valuation cap.
At the time of launch, July 29, Desti had 500 users in the first hour. Overall, there were 2,000 downloads and over 5,000 messages just in that one day.
Founded by John Taylor, AJ Qutub and Nick Dominguez, the destination-based dating app aims to help end “small talk, boring, dead-end conversations, terrible one-liners and flakey matches that never go anywhere,” the company said. "Dating online and attempting to initiate conversations with people you don't know is inherently awkward. Being able to see that someone also likes one of your favorite coffee shops or frequents one of you and your friend's favorite patio bars helps make them feel like less of a stranger. It helps make the interaction feel more natural like it may be someone you would naturally run into. Every dating app's goal is for people to eventually meet somewhere. It's our thesis that introducing that into the swiping experience will lead to a higher conversion of that end goal."
Desti was also created with single women in mind, as many of their inboxes on other dating apps are flooded with cheesy pickup lines or just the very basic and uncreative opener “sup?”
“We realized that the main friction in current dating apps was with filtering and communication. It was a full-time job for women to manage their dating app, and it was tough to control what you get out of it. The three of us loved the idea of people being able to have more control over their experience,” Dominguez said.
One question we had was what makes John, AJ and Nick have the insight to address women's needs? Former Hinge designer Julia Chesbrough advised the three men on the dating app industry and designed the Desti app for them. But if the designer is a woman with a background at Hinge, why isn't she a co-founder?
Dominguez answered, “Dating apps are two-sided. Women experience tremendous clutter on their side, and men are lost in that clutter. We understood there was an issue from our side and our goal was to reverse-engineer what was causing the root problem. Our designer, Julia, is amazing — she runs her own agency, Rebel Studios, where she has multiple clients and makes much more annually than she would working for a single business — thus why she is not currently a co-founder.”
While Desti was designed for women who are used to experiencing "clutter" on dating apps, we would argue that the main friction in current dating apps is harassment and lack of background checks. In 2019, an investigative report by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations pointed to the issue of sexual predators on Match-owned dating apps like Tinder. In March, Match Group rolled out background checks for Tinder and recently expanded the background checks to its namesake app and Stir.
"Safety is important for everyone and especially women. Not all women want to meet someone for the first time at their house. When creating Desti, that was top of mind," Dominguez said. "We wanted to give people the ability to pick a public place they liked as their Desti. Outside of that, there will be background checks and photo authentication with AI."
The startup says it aims to offer background checks and photo authentication features in the future, but these are not included in the existing app. Dominguez could not provide any further details on its plans in these areas beyond suggesting they would consider using third-party integrations of some kind.