We had an interesting chat with Ms. “Lori Cheek”, CEO of the USA based start-up “Cheekd”
Below is the interview we conducted with her:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about
Cheekd is reimagining mobile dating, and is set to introduce its redesigned app this fall. The new dating app, designed by Fueled.com, allows users to solve missed connections with a new technology that was not available when the idea was conceived in 2010. The new app uses a cross-platform Low Energy Bluetooth Technology that fosters hyper local engagement. The app will help singles connect with intriguing strangers in the real world. In other words, connections begin in person, and the new app helps singles take the next step.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Cheekd, Founded in April of 2009, currently has customers in 47 states in America and 28 countries internationally. We’ve recently raised a seed round of investment and are in the midst of a very magical pivot.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
The new Cheekd app, launching next month, will be a free app to start. Down the road, with enough users on board, we’ll offer premium services for which users can pay a monthly subscription.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
My new CTO had done some freelance work on the Cheekd site several years ago. He came to me last summer, told me he hadn’t stopped working on or thinking about the business and wanted to get involved. He bought out my founding partners and he now heads the tech & business portion of the business. I handle the day-to-day responsibilities, product, marketing and PR for Cheekd.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
Despite the soaring popularity of online dating, there’s one inherent flaw: You never really know who (or what!) you’re going to get. There are 102 million single adults in America. Nearly 40 million of those are looking for love on the internet. After spending hours at work behind a computer, the millions of online shoppers head home to get behind yet another computer to spend the evening looking for love in solitude. While 81% people misrepresent their height, weight or age in their profiles, and hired ghostwriters that can completely take care of your profile and messaging your suitors, you really never know quite who or what’s going to show up in front of you when you finally agree to meet. Cheekd allows members to pick who they want to date (at first sight)… in the real world.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
On a shoestring budget, we’ve got customers all over the world. We’ve won a long list of worldwide pitch competitions and have been asked to speak all around the US about disrupting the world of online dating. Our next major goal is to complete Cheek’d 3.0 this fall– we think we’re going to have a real game changer in the dating game.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
There are a range of potential substitutes in the market that tackle various aspects of the matching process, but none which marry all of the elements that Cheekd provides or captures the spirit of the Cheekd brand and sense of humor.Our competitive advantages:
*Charismatic Leader: Unlike competitors, Cheekd has a unique founder attached to the service who can drive strong media interest, sales and branding as the face of the business.
*Privacy: Private, profile-to-profile relationship between admirer and card recipient, blending online and offline social functionality.
*Online-Offline Advantage: Business increasingly seek partnerships with entities that can offer deliver combined online and offline access to attractive demographics.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Upon starting out, I really had no idea what it took to build a business, but I’ve taken a crash course by building one. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve failed over the past several years. I’ve learned to welcome mistakes and even joke that I’ve learned so much from them that I’m going to keep making more of them on purpose so I keep getting smarter. If I’d known what I know now… I just wish someone had told me the importance of having a technical co-founder on board when I began building my business. I had a team, but the two gentlemen I brought on had the same exact background. I didn’t need two of the same skill sets. The technical aspect of my business has been one of the bigger challenges I’ve faced and it’s the one thing I definitely would have approached differently from day one. Shuffling around equity, I’ve acquired a talented CTO and we’re ready to ramp Cheekd up to the next level.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
The online dating industry is an extremely saturated market with nearly 5,000 different sites to choose from. Although it’s a 2.2 Billion Dollar industry, it’s extremely difficult to shine through all the hopeful competitors.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Building this business has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve taken a major risk (both financially & mentally) and surrendered my career in architecture & design, but my heart and mind are in this project every waking moment. I’ve never been more dedicated to anything. I’ve got a laser-focused vision to succeed and will do almost anything to keep this business flourishing. I’m actually not surprised by my determination because as long as I can remember, I’ve been extremely stubborn. When most people would have quit, I only hustled harder. I think my personal approach, passion and dedication mixed with my relentless conviction that failure is not an option has been the recipe that will ultimately lead to my success.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Our new platform will lend itself to industries outside of the world of online dating. Once we’ve got our new app nailed, we’ll try to push our icebreaking technology into the realm of business and networking.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
I’ve always kind of had “the itch” to do my own thing, but it was an accident that it happened so drastically. It was that simple moment in time (witnessing my friend picking up a woman with his business card) that sky rocketed me out of my career and lead me into the NYC World of Tech and am now solving missed connections one card at a time.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
I’ve learned some very valuable lessons by building a business. I feel like I’ve given myself an MBA, but the main less I’ve learned is not to underestimate the amount of work, perseverance and dedication it will take to succeed.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
While technology is constantly changing, I think that our biggest problem to anticipate would be to stay on top of everything new and to best utilize these new technologies to keep innovating our invention.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Our new app is utilizing a low energy blue tooth technology that will work in a train, on a plane and anywhere you might spot an intriguing stranger that you wish you knew more about. While on your morning run, that hottie you may have spotted a thousand times, could suddenly pop up on your app and you’ll know they’re single and also looking for a potential mate. Someone sitting across from you on the subway could pop up on your app! If both parties are interested in each other, you can begin communicating on the app.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
We’ve been covered in the press internationally consistently since our launch over four years ago. We’ve been featured in The New York Times, TechCrunch, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Observer and many international equivalents all over the world. We even just aired on ABC’s Shark Tank in February of this year.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Although Match.com declares that one in five relationships begin online, Cheekd is for the other four. Our customers range in age from 18-65 all over the world. All they need is to be single, ready to mingle and access to a smartphone to download the app.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
This was a quote from a recent article about our ability to get press… “First off, if a dating site were judged by its ability get press, Lori Cheek may just have the next Match.com. Over the past few years the Cheekd dating site has been featured in dozens of the most prominent news and technology websites including the The New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes, Tech Crunch and countless others.” We’ve been very fortunate to have the press on our side. We’ve built a unique way for singles to break the ice. We’re giving our members a new real life tool to use as an alternative to missed connections taking place every day.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
We’ve found thousands of emails just like this in our inbox over the past several years: “It was love at first sight when I stumbled on Cheekd. I’ve always noticed that the online dating industry is so overly saturated but no one is innovating in that arena. And then I found Cheek’d– an online dating startup created by Lori Cheek…”
20. How are you going to scale?
Going mobile is going to make it much easier for us to scale. Our technology will let users find each other cross platform on all smartphones and the experience will be flawless. I’ve seen the blueprints for the app and we’re about ready to go into testing phase. I’m newly single and I can’t wait to use the thing. I trust that the millions of singles in the world will find this a fresh, new, flirty and innovative way to never miss a connection. I’ve had four years of marketing experience building Cheekd to this level. We’ve now go the team, the know-how and the hottest developers working on the future of Cheekd.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
After four years of testing our business, we’ve listened to our users. Last fall, we took our dating business mobile and since have continued listening to our customers. They’re looking for an alternative to online dating but yet a real life connection. We’ve stumbled upon a brand new technology and we’re in the midst of incorporating into the existing Cheekd concept. In a matter of months, we’ll have gone eco-friendly on a cross-platform mobile app.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We currently have paying customers in 28 countries internationally. Once we have the new iteration of Cheekd, we will reach out to our existing customers and get them involved in the international expansion. We’ve built a lot of international press relationships and with our new product, we’ll be ready to do what we do best… pitch, pitch, pitch.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
There are 102 million single adults above the age of 18 in America alone. A 17 year old online dating industry is experiencing serious fatigue and has failed to create a viable alternative to the existing online model. People want to make connections in the real world. We are doing our best to give our customers the most organic, unique real life experience based on initial chemistry.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Cheekd is currently hiring for the following positions:
-Full Stack Engineer
-UX/ UI Designer
-PR & Marketing Professionals
Interested applicants can reach out to us via email at email@example.com
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Although we’ve currently raised a seed round of investment, we will be looking to raise another round to keep innovating the technology that will be fueling our new mobile app. If anyone wants to get in on the next generation of online dating, they can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
My advice for other women in the entrepreneurial world is if you truly believe in your idea, give up excuses & doubt, surround yourself by a trusted and talented team, bulldoze forward and DON’T. LOOK. BACK.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Our current app can be downloaded here:
Keep an eye out for us… as you will soon be getting Cheekd!