Venture Capital/Analysis/

Are VCs looking for love in all the wrong places?

Not a keeper: dating is one of few tech sectors in Europe that has seen funding decrease since 2015

By Eanna Kelly and Amelie Bahr

Source: unsplash

When it comes to dating, European VCs are not playing for keeps. Looking at money raised in the dating tech scene since 2015, the signals are decidedly mixed: investors were smitten in 2018, sick of swiping (or just pandemic-preoccupied) in 2020 and rebounded in 2021. Like dating itself, the sector is a feast followed by a famine. 

Lovestruck VCs rushed in with winking emojis in 2015, leading to a couple of big deals (well, big for the sector) for the likes of Germany’s Spotted and France’s Happn. They may have watched too much Magic Mike XXL — or, more likely, been hoping that Europe could create a Tinder or Hinge of its own, after the dating giants’ fundraises the previous year.

But the sudden spark flickered out. Dating startups seem doomed to get friend-zoned around Series A, presumably after a long, garbled text from their investor saying they’re just not ready for you to meet their family. In other words, substantial raises for dating tech in Europe are becoming rarer. Since 2010, 42% of all dating funding in Europe has gone to startups in the post-seed stage, but this share has decreased over time: from an average of 57% during 2010-2015 to only 27% from 2016 on.

New apps are up against it. In the dating world, startups need to acquire high user numbers and sound revenue streams while competing with popular incumbents — the Hinges, the Grindrs, the Bumbles. Dating apps took a hit early on in the pandemic, leading some investors to take a vow of celibacy. 

So where next for startups doubtful they will ever find investor love again? Will the demand to pair up grow during the “roaring twenties”? Could it be a golden age for DM slides? We all have moments where we feel done with dating apps — but we keep going back. 

Sifted goes deeper on sex and love tech in this week’s Pro briefing. For more on the early-stage tech world, check out our briefings library.

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