- Intention is to connect like-minded consenting adults
- Looking to tighten up tech and expand to more markets
THE history of dating/matchmaking via media goes back 300 years and has evolved with the technology, remember, the printing press was a form of technology as well. Not surprisingly, today’s dating game is enabled by apps and platforms that allow people to meet all kinds of people or the specific type of person that rocks their boat.
Into this rich and varied space comes, Malaysia-based dating app TheSugarBook which is for people who want to ‘sugar date’ – those seeking relationships where financial stability is a deciding factor.
The platform, launched quietly since 2016 is already garnering reactions, both positive and negative.
To TheSugarBook founder, Darren Chan (pic), the motivation was simple enough: “I’ve always wanted to create value and contribute to the world. With the rise and convenience of online dating, I decided to deep dive into this world,” he says.
Though the online dating business is lucrative, with the Asian dating market to be worth US$1.5 billion (RM5.83 billion) in 2017, Chan realised that an ordinary app would not be a match for the ‘big boys’, such as Tinder and Match.com, which are owned by media and internet giant IAC.
“So, when I came across data that suggests that 40% of the people picked ‘financials’ as their number one criteria before getting into a relationship, I knew it would be a good idea to build a safe online platform and community for sugar daddies and sugar babies,” he explains.
Surprisingly, there seem to have been no prior sites created in Asia targeting this niche sugar dating market leading Chan to claim that his is the first such Asian founded site and app.
TheSugarBook is free for anyone 18 years old and above to register a profile as a sugar daddy or mommy, or sugar baby. It operates on a subscription basis where premium members have access to more features, such as geolocation, the ability to see who has viewed or like their profile, enhanced privacy (able to hide location, when last logged in, profile status - whether online currently or not), placed on the Featured Members page, exclusive invitations for upcoming events and private parties. Meanwhile, the geolocation feature can be used to search for and connect with other active users anywhere in the world.
Each profile will be checked by moderators – there are 12 moderators at TheSugarBook – before being verified so the user can browse, connect and chat with other people on the platform.
The app has a student programme where it encourages college and university students to sign up using their student emails. This makes the verification process easier – the thinking is that a college or university student would be 18 and above – and the student is automatically upgraded to become a premium user.
Chan explains that the verification process is stringent and a user may have to wait up to 48 hours before their profile is verified. Profile pictures must be photos of adults with their full face clearly visible; photos with children and pets are not allowed. Vulgar and aggressive language is not allowed on profiles, and users are not permitted to state that they are only looking for casual sex or to solicit sex in any way.
Users also have access to a report button and a support email address that they can use to report another user who is aggressive, abusive or whose profile is misleading.
Any user who is reported to be breaking the rules of use will be investigated by TheSugarBook’s moderators and if found to be guilty will have their profile suspended or banned.
“The goal of our platform is to connect people from all over Southeast Asia (SEA) and the world by giving them access to build honest and transparent relationships, and with technology contributing to flattening the world, we do hope that our users would seek to widen their social network on a global level,” says Chan.
TheSugarBook currently has about 55,000 active users. Malaysia has the largest number at 35% followed by Singapore at 30%, the Philippines at between 20%-25%, followed by the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Thailand and the US in no particular order.
The startup aims to increase the number of active users to 100,000 by mid-2018, using digital marketing as well as offline events, such as private parties and social networking events throughout Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines to attract more users.
Its current trajectory may see it surpass the 100,000 mark before then says Chan, adding that Malaysia will remain the country with the highest amount of active users through to next year.
TheSugarBook’s main competition comes from a similar app called Seeking Arrangement. “What separates us from them is that they are more focused on the western region while TheSugarBook is more Asia-centric.”
The app was built in-house by a “young and brilliant” team of four developers and one UIUX designer, says Chan. “We first started building the web app as we needed a base to fall back on. Once things were stable, it took us six months to develop the mobile app for both iOS and Android.”
The startup is looking to expand its tech team so that it can put more work into its technology in preparation for expansion into Thailand, Indonesia and China.
Chan declined to reveal revenue numbers but did say that TheSugarBook is currently a self-sustaining business and has not had any funding.
“Although we are a self-sustaining business, our goal for TheSugarBook is to expand to different countries with not only bigger but much more developed markets. As such, funding would be an added advantage and it would be ideal if our investors are capable to enhance and value add to our growth as well.”
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