How I Started a
Video Dating App
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Zach Schleien and I started Filter Off, a video dating app. I’ve been passionate about the online dating space, previously starting and selling an online dating blog Top Romp, which reviewed apps and hacks for the modern dater.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I grew up in Westchester, NY and studied History and Marketing at Syracuse University. After I graduated in 2012 I set out to start my first tech company. After it did not work out, I started another startup called LIFT Protein Muffins and was offered a scholarship into the Information Management Program at Syracuse. I completed my Masters and my obsession with technology and entrepreneurship further grew.
I was always into dating apps and the idea that tech can bring people together romantically. When dating I would go on dates and quickly realize we didn’t vibe. I also was sick of swiping and the amount of time it took to finally go on a date. After my frustration, I would ask women to FaceTime prior to the date. I realized it was the most authentic and efficient way to date. After going on countless dates and realizing that the online dating process was deeply flawed I teamed up with my co-founder to build a video first dating app called Filter Off. This prevents catfishing, you can quickly see if you vibe, and it’s quick. No more swiping, just meeting people in a romantic setting.
After about a year of learning about the process of video-first dating we hit the nail on the head. We got out of Beta in Feb 2019 and started to gain traction. In April we were covered by the BBC and The New York Times.
After months of growing the product, we finally were hunted on ProductHunt and very proud to say we hit the #1 spot.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Aside from growing a startup being bootstrapped we quickly realized that people are flakey and picky, and solving the problem of live video, reducing no-shows, while delivering on high-quality dates is an incredibly tough problem that takes months of user-experience research to get right.
We don’t want to give away our secret sauce, but we’ve developed workflows that result in a high rate of attendance while still using a preference-based matching algorithm.
As we nailed down the product, the word began to spread. We’re now a global dating app with users around the world!
Who is your target market?
Our market are people who are sick and tired of online dating. They are looking for a genuine connection without spending hours swiping and going on bad dates.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We’ve got an incredible amount of press ranging from BBC, The New York Times, ABC, Quartz, Cheddar, Refinery29, Bustle, YourTango, and much more! We’ve grown 100% organically as people love the product and share it with their friends.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
We have a great relationship with our users. Prior to and following product releases we contact users asking them for their feedback. User generated feedback has helped us tremendously, as it’s helped us carve our roadmap. We always welcome emails and we’re available on social media platforms.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We work hard, we have fun and celebrate the big wins as well as the small. We all take responsibility even when things don’t work. We’re a team that is all about results. None of the fluff.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Our team uses Trello to prioritize our backlog when it comes to dev, marketing as well as design. Once we complete a sprint, we huddle and review the backlog as we routinely adjust it based on user feedback and analysis.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Just build and release. You will never hit perfection and what you think is the perfect feature may look totally different after you speak to your users. I see many entrepreneurs stuck in their heads about whether it will work versus taking action on their idea and sharing it with their world.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ability to shape an entire industry. In this case online dating. I’m building the app I always wanted to use. Plus, I’m having an incredibly fun time with my team.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It can be overwhelming thinking about all the things you have to do and missing out on social activities because you decide to stay in to build your dream company.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Taking the Landmark Forum, a personal development course, was the most influential resource to date to help me get rid of excuses and give me a fresh perspective on achieving my goals.
Aside from that, I surround myself with other entrepreneurs who have integrity and we all learn from one another. I also love to read. Recently I read Shoe Dog and Cable Cowboy. I love reading stories about entrepreneurs and seeing the struggle as well. It keeps it authentic and refreshing to know we’re all human.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Filter Off is the go-to video dating app on the market. If you think about an authentic online dating experience you think of Filter Off.