When Coffee Meets Bagel launched in 2012, the mission was to create the best dating service for women. Since then, it made 2.5 billion introductions, kicked off 112 million chats, and created more than 50,000 happy couples in long-standing relations. Not bad, right?

Just recently, the three founders; Soo, Arum, and Dawoon Kang launched a completely new platform, one that put the control in a woman's hand. Originally, users would receive a match (Bagel) everyday at noon. If both parties expressed interest, they'd be set up in a private chat where they could get to know each other more. Their new experience, dubbed #LadiesChoice, works a little differently. At noon, male users receive up to 21 quality Bagels. They'll either like or pass on these matches and then Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) will curate the best potential matches for women among the men who expressed interest. Basically, women choose which men get to talk to them.

The change came as a result of a lot of surveys that ultimately concluded men and women date differently; men like selection, while women are selective. Lightbulb! Seems so obvious. I sat down with the Dawoon Kang, one of the three founding sisters of Coffee Meets Bagel, for a fun Q&A:

When did you realize you wanted to start a dating app?

In 2012, my sisters and I decided to start a company together. While we were ideating ideas, we kept coming back to dating because we noticed that it was a growing pain point for this generation.

How did you come up with the idea of Coffee Meets Bagel?

We immediately noticed that women were particularly not excited about online dating. There were no brands that women could trust and feel safe about using. We decided to create a dating app experience that focuses on delivering on what women want.

What does the name mean?

We first launched in NYC and our target audience was NYC young professionals. Young professionals love their daily coffee breaks and Bagels are NYCers' favorite match for coffee! You are the Coffee and your potential matches are Bagels.

Dawoon Kang. Photo Courtesy of Miss Bish

Did all three sisters start together (from the beginning), or did one or two start and the others join later?

We all started together but joined full time at different stages. My sister Arum started full time. I joined a few months later, and then finally my older sister joined full time last.

What kinds of milestones did you meet that made you realize you were onto something great?

We built an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and interviewed 50 of the initial users. Their feedback convinced us that we had something special.

What was the initial response to Coffee Meets Bagel? What is it like now?

Our members, particularly women, were delighted and excited check their Bagels. They shared that they really look forward to noon every day. Our biggest fan base still share the same sentiment.

Describe your appearance on Shark Tank, why you turned down the offer, if you're glad you did or if you regret it, and what the show did for Coffee Meets Bagel in terms of success?

It was one of the most fun and memorable experiences in my life! I remember walking into the tank thinking “Is this real life?"

Of course getting the $30 M buyout offer was a very flattering experience and a validation for the hard work we put into building this business. We turned it down because we are committed to our vision of building the number one dating app for millennials looking for real relationships. We want everyone in this generation to have a fulfilling relationship.

What kind of changes did you make to Coffee Meets Bagel since its conception and why? Have they worked?

The biggest change came just recently with the introduction of #LadiesChoice. We realized that men and women have such different approach to dating that there is no need to service them the exact same way.

Our model is described as: Guys make the first move, then it's #LadiesChoice! Every day at noon, men receive up to 21 quality matches aka “Bagels" curated by our smart algorithm. Women receive up to 6 potential matches among men who already liked them! That's right, it's like guys lining up to talk to you.

What is it like working as sisters?

It makes everything worth it. Startup is a tough business! I feel extremely lucky that I have them as my partners. It makes everything more fun and worthwhile.

Are you all in a relationship / married / single?

My two sisters are married. I was in a relationship with a Bagel but recently became single so am using the app again!

What are some goals for Coffee Meets Bagel in the future?

We will continue to work on our product so we could deliver a stunning, delightful experience to our members and deliver on our mission to find everyone in this generation a fulfilling relationship.


Zlata Faerman