Fika, an Asian female-focused AI social and dating app has raised $1.6 million in seed funding. VNV Global led the round.
Stockholm and Ho Chi Minh City, 12 October, 2021: Fika – Asia’s female-focused AI social and dating app – has raised a US$1.6 million Seed funding round led by VNV Global with participation from a host of leading angels and entrepreneurs.
Founded by Denise Sandquist and Oscar Xing Luo in June 2020, Fika’s mission is to build a social platform that empowers Asian users to create and maintain meaningful connections. Instead of building an app skewed towards men – male users makeup, on average, 75% of the user base of traditional dating apps globally – Fika has created an environment more suited to women. One that puts safety, authenticity and connections first, because encouraging more women to feel secure with online dating and socialising improves the experience for all users.
Designed to meet the needs of every social stage, from understanding more about oneself and who one would be suitable with, to finding friends, love and helping build stronger relationships as couples, Fika also breaks the mould of traditional dating apps because of its longevity. It’s not just there for users while they’re searching for connections, it helps see those connections through – from finding friends, to finding love and then strengthening relationships through its Couple’s Version, soon to be launched. All underpinned by state-of-the-art AI technology that means Fika understands what its individual users like, want and need in order to create connections that last.
“Fika is dedicated to helping find meaningful connections, and the only way such truly meaningful connections are made and maintained is by creating an environment that encourages more women; one that makes women feel safe and secure,” said CEO and co-founder Denise Sandquist. “It’s not about putting the onus on women to make the first move, or even excluding the needs of men. Far from it. It’s about creating an environment that increases the chances of people finding who and what they want; a platform that tailors and appreciates the cultural nuances of online interactions, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Since launch, Fika has been downloaded more than 750,000 times. It has remained in the top four Lifestyle Apps on App Store and number one dating app on Google Play in Vietnam, with a user base that consists of up to 40% women.
How Fika creates a safe and authentic environment
Fika puts great emphasis on the quality of its users and has three core values: growth, authenticity, and empowerment. All users must pass a manual verification check in order to use the app – it’s not an optional extra. This means Fika can assure users that everyone on the platform is real and who they are claiming to be. To put this into perspective, 40% of Fika’s users fail the initial verification check, highlighting the need for such measures in order to protect its users.
Using their own proprietary AI, Fika is then able to generate matches that are best suited to users. Matches improve and become more tailored over time as the app learns more about a person’s interests, likes and the kinds of profiles they swipe for, and against.
Once a user finds love, the pair can switch to Fika’s Couple’s Version, soon to be released. This version, will act as a private online space where the couple can continue to book dates, interact and get information about their relationship – such as birthdays, anniversaries and more. Fika’s AI continually learns about the individuals and will make suggestions and recommendations for date nights and experiences. The technology will also enable personalized therapist-like information for the couple to digest so that they can understand each other more.
The unique Asian opportunity
The app is currently focused on Vietnam – a market with 100 million people and a median age of 32 – as there is a growing need for online social and dating services that better understand Eastern culture. As opposed to Western apps and ideologies being retrofitted for the Asian market.
The use of social media and dating apps generally is still in its infancy in Vietnam, so there is both an increased stigma around using dating apps, and less awareness about the impact social media has on people. This means socially focused apps need to position themselves as more encouraging and friendly. Nevertheless, there is still more societal pressure to start families younger in Asian cultures, which creates pressure on people to find meaningful connections sooner. Female empowerment in Asia is rooted in different cultural nuances compared to those common in the West. Women are less inclined to approach men or message first, as one example. Elsewhere, education is much more important when looking for love in Asia, as are personality tests and even a focus on astrology.
Yet at the same time there is a growing digital penetration among young people in the region, similar to the growth seen over the last decade in China. Fika leans into these differences to create an app that truly understands the needs of its users, and which recognises the strong market position and potential for the app to scale.
Alongside VNV Global, other investors in Fika’s Seed round include Global Founders Capital, Keith Richman’s angel fund 31 Atlantic, Balderton Capital’s Magda Lukaszewicz, Index Ventures’ Sofia Dolfe and EQT Partners’ Madeleine Magnerius as angel investors. This is in addition to angels including Sebastian Knutsson (founder of Swedish unicorn, King), Fredrik Hjelm and Douglas Stark (CEO and COO at Voi), Jussi Salovaara (co-founder of Antler), Bryan Pelz (founder of Vietnam’s first unicorn, VNG), Brian Ma (from Iterative Capital and founder of unicorn, Divvy Homes), Therese Mannheimer (CEO at Grace Health), and more.
“Fika is not just another dating app. Denise and Oscar’s unique backgrounds and passion for empowering people causes it to become so much more. The pair, and the team they’ve built around them, truly understand the importance placed on meaningful connections and how technology can play such a vital role in today’s society when it comes to social interactions. Their knowledge of the market, their life experiences, their cultural understanding, not to mention their business and technical talent will see Fika make a real impact on many people’s lives and we are thrilled to now be a part of that journey.” said Björn von Sivers, Investment Manager at VNV Global.
The funding will be used to further expand the Fika team, further develop the app’s AI capabilities and increase the brand’s exposure in Vietnam. Longer term, Fika plans to expand into new Asian regions before expanding globally.
About Fika: Fika is Asia’s female-focused, AI social and dating app. Founded by Denise Sandquist and Oscar Xing Luo in June 2020, Fika’s mission is to build a social platform that empowers Asian users to create and maintain meaningful connections in an environment more suited to women. One that puts safety, authenticity and connections first. Since launch, Fika has been downloaded more than 750,000 times. It has remained in the top four Lifestyle Apps on App Store and number one dating app on Google Play in Vietnam, with a user base that consists of up to 40% women.