Thursday Carves Out a Space in the Dating App Market With Braze
Thursday, based in London, has positioned itself as the dating app for people in London and New York City who are tired of dating apps. Per the name, the app is only live on Thursday, the day of the week when many singles start to think about the weekend. The matches and conversations that take place on the app disappear at midnight each Thursday.
To understand how Thursday is growing its business to include in-person events in London and New York, I spoke with cofounder Matt McNeill Love (yes, that’s his real last name). We talked about the value of knowing your customer, and of “making noise” when it comes to marketing.
McNeill Love also shared his thoughts on the role that Braze can play in helping SMBs navigate the early days of their business in terms of experimenting with different strategies for engaging with customers.*
Tell us how you came up with the idea for Thursday and launched the business.
Thursday grew out of an idea that had failed—Honeypot, the dating app I started with my Thursday co-founder, George Rawlings. We’d both talked about how hard it was to meet people when you’re dating, and how people seem to have forgotten how to approach other singles in person. We launched the Honeypot app with the idea of using geofencing so that if app users were at a particular bar, they could see who else in that bar wanted a date that night. But we quickly realized we’d need a massive pool of users, not to mention a ton of money.
Even though we had about 25,000 downloads for the app, we had to pivot. When we did more digging, we saw a spike in Honeypot’s activity on Thursday nights. We thought, why not build an app that only works on one day of the week, when the excitement is building?
And in another way to make Thursday different from the other dating apps that everyone was so tired of, we focused on in-person events—people can use the app to find out what’s going on and where, and who wants to meet up. We are really pushing the offline events, because that’s our vision: We want to be the place that tells singles about the people to meet and the best places to go, and drive volume to event spaces and bars.
Tell us about some of the growth Thursday has experienced so far.
We managed to build up a waitlist of about 120,000 people in order to do a floodgate launch, after what we learned with Honeypot. When we launched in May 2021, people immediately resonated with the concept. About two weeks later, we did a seed round of funding and raised £2.5 million (~$3.5M).
A few months later, in November, is when we started doing the offline events. Our very first one was in London; it was a 500-capacity venue and I think there we had 800 people who went through the door. We sort of stood outside like ‘my God, what have we done?’ So to cut a long story short, we're now doing about 15 events every Thursday in London and 3 or 4 in NYC—we’re doubling down really hard on the offline side and making it as scalable as it can be. As of a few weeks ago, we surpassed 400,000 downloads.
How did you decide on using Braze to grow the business?
Once we attracted our first investors, there was this bombardment of advice on everything—it was almost too much! But what came through to us from other founders was that talking to customers is really, really important. Braze was a big investment for a startup, but we knew it’d be crucial to our success to engage with customers properly.
Fast-forwarding to today, what’s your perception of Braze now that you’ve been using it for several months?
The value of Braze is brilliant, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of what Braze can do for us.
We look at Braze as part of our product development, especially when it comes to testing. We knew that we needed good feedback from customers, which would tell us that we were going in the right direction. So we’re using Braze to do a lot of A/B testing in the app. Today, that testing is feeding into decisions we make in terms of the app’s effectiveness and in getting people to upgrade to our VIP level.
Tell us about some of your campaigns on Braze.
We use Content Cards to tell people about events that are happening. We’re now getting into deep linking, so if we push a Content Card about an event and people want to know more, we can take them directly to information about the place and time of the event.
How will Braze help you expand the business in the future?
Our big plan is to prove that we can scale what we do in London and New York so that we have maybe 40 or 50 events happening every week. While we’re not far off from being profitable, we need to know how we can monetize the business in the future. We’ll use Braze to push out more information about events because all we’ll need is the Braze technology to bring singles together in one place.
What advice would you give to another startup planning the next stage of growth?
The major lesson I’ve learned is being resilient. Things can change very quickly and be out of your control, and you need the resilience to keep going. And interlinked is the idea that you shouldn’t be afraid to try new things—it’s OK to fail, and it’s OK to put things on pause. We have the ability to test ideas with Braze and that helps us make decisions and pivot to new approaches, which gives us more confidence in our resilience.
The other thing we’ve come to realize is that as a startup, you can’t play it safe. You have to make noise. How do you either make people smile or buy what you have to offer?
In the early days of Honeypot, we got George to walk around the Liverpool Underground station in London with a whiteboard that said, “I’m getting married and my brother needs a date ASAP,” with George’s Instagram handle. When people visited George’s Instagram, they saw an invitation to download Honeypot.
We’ve taken a similar approach with our partnerships at Thursday with various brands. Of note in particular is when we partnered with Home Exchange and re-created the romantic comedy The Holiday. We had two single women in their mid-twenties swap their respective homes in New York City and London for a week before Christmas and go on dates in their new cities. It was a huge success and received a vast amount of press and media coverage.
The idea is that you don’t need to compete with larger companies that do what you do. You don’t need to play by their rules, and you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.
Hundreds of innovative small and growing companies like IDAGIO, Branch, and Grover are using Braze to disrupt their categories and achieve success within their industries. See for yourself why Braze is the secret weapon startups turn to gain a competitive advantage, engage thoughtfully with their users, and ultimately drive business outcomes like user growth, conversions, revenue, retention, and more.
*This conversion has been edited for length and clarity.
Sunny Manivannan is the VP and GM of Global SMB at Braze, and thoroughly enjoys being a Boston sports fan in New York City. Previously, Sunny served in various marketing and general management roles at Coupa Software (NASDAQ:COUP), and was formerly a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and an aerospace engineer at General Electric.