The Dating Group’s VC arm seeks to marry tech and intimacy

The VC arm of Dating.com wants to invest in video and even AI, said its head Bill Alena.

One of the things that suffered during the pandemic was the ability to meet new people in person. Unfortunately, this affected not just in-person work connections, but also dating.

That is why companies in the dating space, or what the industry calls “social discovery,” have ramped up efforts to attract founders to work with them.

The venture arm of the Dating Group, which runs such popular dating services as Dating.com, is looking into working with start-ups that prompt people to form connections even outside of the app or platform.

Bill Alena, chief investment officer of the Dating Group and head of its VC arm, said innovation had entered the world of dating, prompting the beginning of what he considers as digital intimacy.

“We’re looking for companies that are thinking beyond the swipe. The learnings we got from covid were built around the idea of how do you find innovating and creative ways for people to meet others and get to know and spend time with them,” Alena said.

Bill Alena, Dating Group

For this, the Dating Group wants to turn to technology. Alena said they are exploring everything from investing in more video platforms, creating audio-only dating apps or even using artificial intelligence to better match people. Alena said his fund also plans to look at hybrid technologies that can move people from meeting virtually to an in-person one.

The Dating Group VC invests in start-ups within the dating space, where people can meet to create networks or develop friendships, globally. It works with companies in the seed to Series B stage with ticket sizes up to $5 million.

The CVC was established last year with an initial fund of $50 million.

Alena said the dating industry has begun to see the value of working with start-ups, especially in the video space. He pointed to the investments made by their largest competitors Match.com which runs both the titular site and Tinder, and the app Bumble. In June, Match acquired video and social discovery company Hyperconnect for $1.7 billion.

“Technology over the past few years is what’s allowed us to get better [at connecting people]. A lot of that has to do with video and the ability to create these relationships without necessarily meeting,” Alena said.

Alena, who previously was the chief revenue officer for mobile advertiser Kiip and the dating company Meet Group, said in addition to making investments in its portfolio companies, the group works with its incubation arm to see how those companies work with technologies developed in-house

The Dating Group has More than 73 million users across its entire platform of 15 core brands such as Dating.com, ChinaLove and Tubit.