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- Coffee Meets Bagel is a dating app, launched in 2012, that offers a more curated experience.
- In 2015, the Coffee Meets Bagel cofounders appeared on “Shark Tank,” where they declined Mark Cuban’s offer of $30 million for the entire company.
- One of the cofounders, Dawoon Kang, said she was convinced that it was the right decision, even though other people called them greedy.
When Dawoon, Arum, and Soo Kang walked onto the “Shark Tank” stage in 2015, they were hoping to get an offer from Mark Cuban, who they considered the most tech-savvy of the five investors on the show.
The Kang sisters were pitching Coffee Meets Bagel, a dating app that, at the time, connected users with friends of friends and gave matches just seven days to connect. They were asking the sharks for $500,000 in exchange for 5% of the company.
The ensuing exchange made for one of the more dramatic episodes ever aired. Cuban was the first of the investors to declare himself “out” – but just as the Kangs were about to walk off the stage, he offered them $30 million for the entire company. It was the largest offer in “Shark Tank” history.
The Kangs rejected the offer.
“We see this business growing as big as Match.com,” Arum Kang told the sharks, adding that Match was becoming a billion-dollar company. (In 2017, Match Group, the company that owns Match.com in addition to Tinder and other dating services, had $1.3 billion in revenue.)
Today, Coffee Meets Bagel is one of the most popular dating apps, based on Apptopia’s analysis of unique active users in the US.
“To get Mark Cuban to benchmark us at $30 million really was a huge testament and validation of all the work that was done to build this company,” Dawoon Kang told me when we spoke by phone this month.
But “now more than ever,” she said, “I’m so, so, so convinced that was the right decision.”
In May, Coffee Meets Bagel raised $12 million, meaning it has raised a total of nearly $20 million since launching in 2012. It has earmarked the funds for initiatives including international expansion and offline social events for single people.
Kang says she’s learned to trust her gut when it comes to making decisions
Coffee Meets Bagel works a bit differently than it did in 2015.
Every day at noon, men receive up to 21 “bagels,” or potential matches, to like or pass. The app then curates the best potential matches for women among the men who liked them. LGBTQ users receive multiple matches per day, according to the Coffee Meets Bagel website.
In 2015, Kang told me that as soon as the cofounders declined Cuban’s offer, they started receiving dozens of emails calling them “crazy,” “greedy,” and “stupid.” She said that experience was but one example of a time when she and her cofounders defied popular opinion to do what they thought was right for their company.
Another example: When Tinder started taking off, many of Kang’s investors told her to simply copy Tinder, she said.
“Ultimately, we decided not to,” Kang said, “because that’s not why I started Coffee Meets Bagel.”
Tinder is good at “swiping and entertainment,” she said, but “I’m just personally not interested in that.”
Kang added: “I’m so glad to stay true to our original reason why we started, which is safety and quality and now intentional dating and relationships.”
Kang said that in the early days of her Coffee Meets Bagel career, she “was of the mindset of, ‘Oh, if people who are really experienced and know a lot more tell me that this is the right thing, then I guess they’re right.'” Eventually, her mindset shifted: “No one has the right answer. My job is to investigate as much as I can, put together and learn as much as I can, but ultimately, I have to make my own decision.”
She’s also learned that she’ll never be as confident as she’d like to be in any decision that she makes as an entrepreneur.
“You’re doing something people have never done,” she said. “I don’t think you ever reach 100% conviction that this is the right thing to do. There’s always a sliver of doubt.”