‘Date concierge portal’ teams up with couples’ mobile app to grow reach
Husband-and-wife team behind Lovesprk looking for funding by year-end
YOUNG Malaysian startup Lovesprk said it has agreed to a partnership with Singapore’s mobile dating app startup LoveByte that would enable it to grow its reach beyond the 120,000 users it claims now.
Lovesprk, which was only formed in January, describes itself as Malaysia’s very first ‘date concierge portal,’ and its two founders can certainly understand how hard it is to keep the spark going after marriage: They’re a husband-and-wife team.
Tanuja Rajah and Jonathan Victor met while taking their A-Levels at Sunway College, and married in 2010. Their dating platform is geared at couples in a committed relationship, including marriage, of course.
“Over the past few years, my circle of friends has moved from the dating phase to marriage, and I noticed something – the amount of effort that people put into a relationship when they first start dating, to that they put in after marriage, diminishes … in some cases, by quite a lot,” Tanujah says.
“It’s not entirely their fault – long work hours, increasing financial commitments, household chores and children all take up time, and zap energy. And planning an amazing date takes time and effort.
“I’ve always been the person to call when my friends and family want to plan a great night out. They ask for the best new restaurant in town, if I know of a good play or theatre show, etc. It occurred to me that people want to go out and try new things. It’s just that they don’t always know where to go or what to do.
“Plus researching, planning and organising all this is too much work. That’s when the idea for Lovesprk was born,” she tells Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
After working on their idea for a few months, Tanuja and Jonathan took part in the MAD-SUN Business Challenge 2.0 organised by MAD Incubator and Singapore-based investor Start Up Nation in January, and were selected to receive an undisclosed sum as a seed investment from, and acceleration with, Start Up Nation.
Lovesprk is a ‘members’ only’ service that specialises in offering pre-planned exclusive experiences, combined with concierge assistance which includes extras such as bouquets of flowers, a specially-picked gift, or a chauffeur-driven limousine for the night, all with a single click.
There is that synergy with LoveByte, a mobile application that “provides a private space for two people to communicate, share and ‘timeline’ precious moments together,” available for the iOS and Android platforms at http://www.lovebyte.us.
Lovesprk and LoveByte said they will collaborate to offer Malaysian users a “wide array of interesting dates ranging from couples massages and relaxing getaways, to fine dining at posh restaurants.”
“With this collaboration, we hope that our users in Malaysia can easily go on dates without all the frustration that often comes along during planning,” LoveByte chief ‘happiness’ officer Amelia Chen said in a statement issued by Lovesprk.
LoveByte was founded in Singapore in 2012, and was acquired by Perth-founded and Singapore-headquartered Migme Ltd for an undisclosed amount of cash and equity in October. Migme is also listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).
Accelerator, and lab, experience too
Tanuja is certainly not your usual tech entrepreneur: She’s going to graduate with a PhD in immunology from Monash University in a couple of months.
“While that may seem like a huge departure from Lovesprk, I do not believe that the years spent toiling in the lab have been a waste. On the contrary, I believe that I have learnt much that will enable me to become a better entrepreneur,” she says.
“There were many days when experiments failed and I would go home with no results after spending nearly 15 hours in the lab. But I learnt to pick myself up, tweak my experiments, and try again until I succeeded.
“Hard work, self-discipline, self-motivation, the ability to work through challenges and think out-of-the box are just some of the skills I’ve developed while doing my postgraduate degree, which I know will prove useful as I embark on this journey,” she adds.
As for her partner, in more ways than one, Jonathan spent two years studying law “before deciding that he was not cut out for a 9-to-5 job and left university,” Tanuja says.
He also has had some experience with being an entrepreneur, having started his own company called Total Coverage Solutions which he has been running for the past eight years. He heads sales and marketing at Lovesprk.
Coming this far took a bit of luck and a dash of craziness. According to Tanuja, she only found about the MAD-SUN Business Challenge on the last day of registration.
“I quickly put together a brief and sent it off, fingers crossed. Initially, I was a little nervous as all we had were some ideas and a PowerPoint slide,” she says.
“Winning not only validated our idea, but Jonathan and I were introduced to a whole bunch of inspiring entrepreneurs.
“Most importantly, we met our current investors from Start Up Nation. They have been invaluable in helping us reach the stage we’re at now. We’ve come a long way in just 10 months, and none of it would have been possible if we hadn’t put ourselves out there,” she adds.
Currently, the Lovesprk team is just the two founders, helped by their investors at Start Up Nation “who have dedicated their time and resources to aid us in our development,” says Tanuja.
They plan to grow the team very shortly, and while would love to have a mobile app, will be focusing in the immediate future on the website and optimising its existing mobile experience.
At the moment, all dates on Lovesprk, apart from the getaways, are centred on Kuala Lumpur, but the team also plans to add dates in Penang within a month.
“We’re looking into raising a round of funding at the end of this year so that we can grow our team and expand to other countries,” Tanuja says. “We’ve got plans to conquer Singapore in 2015!”
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