Media & entertainment tech

Q&A: Kim Kaplan of ‘TikTok Meets Tinder’ Dating App Snack

TikTok has never been bigger, and singles have arguably never been lonelier.

The social video app, which was popular pre-pandemic, blew up as COVID-19 forced people to isolate and entertain themselves at home.

And it was TikTok that inspired Kim Kaplan to start Snack, a new video-first dating app.

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Kim Kaplan, founder of dating app Snack.

Kaplan, who previously worked at the dating site PlentyOfFish for around a decade, had the idea for Snack in March 2020. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and watching TikTok blow up and seeing the content on the platform only amplified her belief that video dating would be the next big thing for the dating world.

She set out to fundraise for Snack in September, and the company announced a $3.5 million pre-seed round in February and officially launched on iOS.

As someone who became both obsessed with TikTok and (unrelated) became single in the last year, I was intrigued by the idea of combining TikTok and Tinder for a video-dating experience. So, I downloaded Snack and chatted with CEO Kaplan about the app, the future of video and dating, and guys that message first with “Hey.” 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me a little bit about Snack and how it works? 

Kaplan: It very much interfaces like TikTok and we just scroll through instead of swiping. But what we did take from Tinder is … that kind of matching mechanism. So once you both liked each other, that’s when you can actually start to message one another. 

But what we changed from Tinder is, on Tinder, what happens is you match and then you’re kind of thrown over to a different UX and a different screen where you start to message one another. Whereas with Snack, if you and I have liked each other, your videos show up in my feed more frequently, and instead of the light little heart button you now have a DM box. So you can message directly from the videos … 

What really started that idea and how I came up with it is when I was talking to Gen Z about how they’re currently dating. And they said, “OK, well, we use Tinder, we use Bumble because we have to, but as soon as we match, we immediately move off to Snap or to Instagram.”

And the reason they’re doing that is to kind of covertly flirt with one another, and so they can continue to upload content and respond to people’s content, versus having an immediate pressure saying, “OK, now we’ve matched. Do you want to grab a coffee?”…. You get to know someone a little bit slower and a little bit more naturally.

That is true. I guess when you match with someone, it’s like, “What’s your Instagram?” and you move over there. 

Kaplan:  Snack is kind of: You can still flirt and have that light conversation as a result of engaging with someone’s content that they continue to post. … If you think about dating today, it’s very much a static profile. You upload your five images, you write your paragraph about yourself and then you kind of send it over there and you never touch it again. Whereas Snack is more meant to be a TikTok or an Instagram, where you’re continually uploading new content. Kind of showing someone what’s going on in your life and allowing them that opportunity to have that conversation with you.

What gaps in the market did you see for dating apps, and what made you want to create something that was really video-first?

Kaplan: Historically when you look at dating apps, they’ve traditionally launched off of new distribution channels. … I fundamentally believe this next wave is coming off of TikTok and influencers, and that TikTok is kind of that new distribution channel. And that’s where I saw the opportunity.

I was using TikTok one day, kind of scrolling through people’s videos, and I came across this woman’s video with a Chase Rice song. I remember clear as day and she was doing the “What’s your name? What’s your sign? What’s your age? Where are you from?”

And this light bulb went off in my head and I was like, “Oh my God, she’s trying to date.” I clicked on the song to see like, OK, well, how many other people have created these types of videos? And there were over 130,000 videos credited to that one song.

And when I was scrolling through examples of those videos, I realized that most of the people who were creating these were also trying to date. Then she had the hashtag #single in her  description of the video and I clicked on it and there were over 13 billion views of the hashtag #single at that point in time. That’s when I realized there’s this underbelly of dating trying to happen on TikTok.

In the dating space, this year we had a really historic IPO with Bumble and with Whitney Wolfe Herd being the youngest female founder to take a company public. Do you think the future of dating apps is these more niche dating apps? 

Kaplan: There’s been a bunch of niche strategies that have occurred over the last number of years. And I actually think there’s going to be another big player that comes into the market and that’s ultimately what I think we’re building with Snack. Just because video’s not the mainstream today doesn’t mean that it won’t be two or three years from now. I do think video will become the natural way that dating apps move. It’s way more authentic and genuine to be able to see someone through video.

Where do you see social video going? 

Kaplan: I think video is the future. I think video, ultimately, will evolve too, into AR and VR. But video is that first step of getting people comfortable. You need the technology before you can get a kind of massive adoption of it. And that’s where TikTok has created that mass adoption of video.

You mentioned that what people seem to like about TikTok is the authenticity of it. Do you think that’s where dating apps are going, too? 

Kaplan: I hope so. When you look at what Gen Z is compared to previous generations, I kind of equate Instagram to being like the “Kim Kardashian selfie era.” Whereas TikTok is more raw, authentic, genuine “come as you are.” And you’re seeing that in the content that’s being posted: it is a lot more raw, it’s a lot more authentic. And that lends itself really well to dating.

So I downloaded the app on my phone, and a couple of things that stood out to me that I thought were really cool was one, the gender options. There were way more than I see on other dating apps. But I would love for you to show me or tell me about your favorite features.

Kaplan: The thing that will make us stand out is the ability to message directly from content, for people that you’ve already matched with on the app, because that gives you that jumping off point to start the conversation.

Absolutely. Gosh, the worst opener on dating apps is when they’re like, “Hey.”

Kaplan: You’ll see a lot of the initial messages are actually being sent from the feed. And it references the video that they’re messaging you from. … There’s something special about you took the time to actually watch my video, you’re engaging with my content, and the content is providing you an opportunity to say something unique to me rather than “Sup” or “Hey.” 

That to me is the brilliance of what that feature is and what we’re building; we make it easier for you to start that conversation and to flirt and to make it more fun. And it shouldn’t be as hard — dating’s hard in general. So, how do you make these different features and things more fun?

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
Photo courtesy of Kim Kaplan

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