Iceland is not a stranger to romantic innovation. The island nation — population 360k — boasts the world’s first-ever app to keep singles from dating their cousins.
Now, two Icelandic entrepreneurs are betting they can make Generation Z fall in love with a new twist on dating apps.
Reykjavik’s Smitten said Friday it had raised a $2.7m seed round to woo Gen Zers (people born between 1997 and 2015) with a dating app that mixes gaming, entertainment and good old-fashioned flirting. Most Smitten users are 25 or younger, and roughly 20% are 18 years old.
Europe has seen a proliferation of dating apps in recent years targeting specific communities or proposing new spins on traditional dating app features like chat or matching. Covid-19 has also fueled dating app use. Yet many apps have struggled to attract significant investment due to the difficulty of maintaining momentum and high marketing costs.
Dating as entertainment
“The pilot has shown us that there are a lot of people, especially Gen Z, who crave to be entertained,” says Smitten cofounder Asgeir Visir. “After more than a year of isolation and lockdowns, we all deserve happiness and to have some fun!”
About 25k people participated in the Iceland pilot.
The app implements elements of gameplay, such as its 'Guessary' game. The feature lets users guess how other users have answered some yes-or-no questions and vie for 'Top Guesser' status. Users can also share lists on their profiles — ranging from favourite baby names to the weirdest places they’ve had sex — to spark conversation.
Visir says that on Tinder, only about one in 10 matches convert to conversation, whereas Smitten has a 50% conversion rate.
Bringing romance to the Nordics
The company says it will use the investment to launch in the Nordics in late August or early September.
“We are lucky and cursed to be Icelandic entrepreneurs living in Iceland. Iceland is a good test market, but it’s so small that you could probably call everyone in your target audience and tell them about your product in a matter of days,” says Visir.
“We believe Europe, and particularly the Nordics, can serve as the perfect beachhead. The Nordics are a huge market, but small enough so we can quickly test theories and gain a healthy understanding of how the product needs to adapt to reach a good product-culture fit in different markets.”
Smitten’s round was led by early-stage firm byFounders, with participation from PROfounders, Inventures, Brunnur Ventures, Tiny.vc and several angel investors. As part of the round, wine app Vivino founder Heini Zachariassen (who’s also a member of byFounders Collective) and PROfounders’s Joe Bond will join the board.
Iceland is for lovers
Smitten’s founders think its Icelandic pedigree gives it an edge in the competitive world of dating apps. The company’s CTO, Magnus Olafsson, joined the team when they created The One, a dating app for people looking for a long-term relationship. One of the people who created the famous app to help avoid people sleeping with relatives was on the founding team of the Smitten founders’ first venture.
Visir jokes that Iceland’s three dating apps “probably” make it the country with the most dating apps created per capita, or roughly one app per 100k inhabitants.
Time will tell if they can make the world fall in love too.