Alex Hofmann as soon as served as Musical.ly’s president, overseeing the North and South American markets for the TikTok precursor, then leaving shortly after the app exited to Chinese language tech large ByteDance in 2017. For his subsequent act, the startup exec returned to the patron social area with the launch of 9count — the maker of the popular friend-finder Wink, mobile dating app Summer (previously Spark), and others.
Although it’s sometimes tough for brand new client social apps to realize widespread adoption, 9count’s apps have already seen some early traction — and traders have taken discover.
Consequently, the corporate is immediately asserting extra funding from GGV Capital Redpoint, Signia, Greycroft, Development, Crosscut Grishin Robotics, I2BF, and Waverley Capital, amongst others. The $6 million spherical is an extension of 9count’s earlier $21.5 million Sequence A and consists of solely its present traders. Up to now, the corporate has raised $27.5 million.
Specifically, 9count’s backers had been impressed with the metrics popping out of Summer time, which launched as Spark again in Could however later rebranded. The courting app targets a youthful demographic, ages 18 and up. However in contrast to conventional swipe-based courting apps, Summer time’s differentiator is its grid that shows many customers directly — an expertise meant to extra carefully mimic the best way it feels to stroll right into a crowded area in actual life, like a bar or a celebration, for instance.
“[Summer is retaining users] higher than the highest apps, particularly in our strongest markets,” Hofmann informed TechCrunch. “That simply tells us that we’re on the precise path with this product.
The 9count co-founder says Summer time hit the No. 1 place within the App Retailer in two markets instantly following its launch and now has over 300,000 month-to-month energetic customers, just a few months later. If development metrics alone, Hofmann claims it’s the fastest-growing courting app to hit the market since Bumble arrived in 2014. When he confirmed these figures to present traders, they needed to double down on the app’s development.
The corporate plans to make use of a big portion of the brand new funding to gasoline advertising and marketing efforts for Summer time after it launches on Android subsequent month. This can embody some in-person occasions within the startup’s hometown of L.A. 9count may even use the funds to develop its 35-person workforce, although Hofmann says they haven’t but decided the precise headcount they plan so as to add.
However greater than betting on Summer time’s success alone, traders appear within the mannequin 9count espouses.
Based in January 2019 by each Hofmann and an skilled product supervisor, Joe Viola, 9count isn’t centered solely on growing a single app and perfecting it. As an alternative, it’s co-developing a number of client merchandise directly, iterating utilizing information and buyer suggestions, then cross-promoting the apps inside its portfolio. Along with Wink and Summer time, the startup has additionally developed social arcade app Juju, motivational app Everland, creator-fan connection app Popstream, and extra.
This multi-product strategy is one thing Hofmann is aware of, due to his time spent at Musical.ly.
There, the workforce ran 4 completely different merchandise: Musical.ly, its live-streaming counterpart known as Live.ly, and two others that weren’t as well-known to the general public. This mannequin, Hofmann notes, is standard in Asia, the place tech corporations typically function a number of merchandise — together with TikTok’s father or mother firm ByteDance, in addition to Tencent, Alibaba, and others.
To profit from this technique, 9count checks and iterates on its merchandise utilizing a mixture of A/B testing, information evaluation, and consumer suggestions. It moreover hosts worker hackathons and runs a “labs” division the place it might probably check out new concepts to see if something sticks.
“The learnings we’ve by rolling out new merchandise are simply super,” Hofmann notes. “We are able to both make them right into a standalone product or feed them into present merchandise.”
In reality, this mannequin is what led the corporate to develop Summer time within the first place, the co-founder explains.
He says some Wink customers had been asking for a approach to make use of the social app for courting functions. However Wink additionally caters to minors aged 13 to 17 (who aren’t allowed to work together with grownup customers, we should always be aware). This focus skews the app towards a youthful crowd, which wouldn’t be acceptable for on-line courting, even when it’s what a number of the older customers needed. That prompted the workforce to interrupt out the function request into its personal, new product — the app that has since turn out to be Summer time.
Immediately, 9count claims its new courting app has already attracted over 500,000 downloads, over one million registered customers, and greater than 300,000 month-to-month actives. This makes it the sixth hottest courting app within the U.S. and the fourth in Canada, Hofmann mentioned. (App intelligence agency Sensor Tower confirmed this with TechCrunch, saying Hofmann’s assertion is right primarily based on App Retailer and Google Play downloads for July 2022.)
As well as, the video chat app Wink reportedly has over 2 million month-to-month energetic customers, remaining 9count’s largest app up to now.
In whole, 9count’s app portfolio now reaches over 10 million customers, the corporate says. Sensor Tower information indicated a fair increased determine of 16 million-plus downloads throughout all their merchandise launched up to now. Wink was the most important chunk of this with over 15 million lifetime downloads.
“Alex and Joe are constructing a next-generation social utility firm at 9count, consolidating disparate merchandise below one banner, with one workforce to search out what works for the subsequent technology,” mentioned Hans Tung, managing associate at GGV Capital, a 9count board member and early investor in Musical.ly. “The workforce at 9count is poised to expertise fast development amongst their consumer base and we’re excited to associate with them to convey their imaginative and prescient to actuality,” he added.
The brand new funding can be one other sign that there’s an elevated willingness from VCs to once more again the customarily tough client social app market.
Traditionally, it’s been close to unattainable to unseat Fb and Meta’s different merchandise from the highest of the App Retailer. However TikTok has confirmed Fb’s maintain available on the market may very well be winding down. The Meta-owned social community is no longer popular with Gen Z users, who’re also growing frustrated with Instagram’s litter and its continuous try to power video on them by means of Reels.
Hungry for brand new experiences, immediately’s youthful customers are sampling a variety of social apps, like the chart-topper BeReal, the house display screen widget supplier Locket, and the video chat app Yubo — a Wink rival. Not surprisingly, these apps have additionally pulled in VC backing. BeReal was valued at $600 million following its Series B this previous spring, for example. Locket announced this month it has closed on $12.5 million throughout two seed stage rounds. And Yubo banked $47.5 million in its 2020 Sequence C. Even Pinterest’s brand-new experimental app Shuffles has rocketed to the highest of the App Retailer’s “Life-style” charts, regardless of being in invite-only standing.
In keeping with Hofmann, fueling this development is youthful customers’ demand for apps providing them “area of interest” experiences.
“[9count’s team] appeared on the market and realized that within the final ten years, there have been actually simply — in our opinion — two main client social merchandise. One is Musical.ly/TikTok, the opposite one is Discord. We realized that to construct merchandise that join folks, it may not be a one-product strategy, however a multi-product strategy,” the co-founder explains. “We see this development in the direction of…area of interest needs and area of interest preferences. We realized that only a few merchandise can serve a bigger viewers and produce them pleasure and happiness,” Hofmann says.
Correction, 8/23/22, 12:503 PM ET: The overall elevate up to now was $27.5M and the Sequence A was $21.5M with a further $6M extension. We have now corrected the story with this info.