Vu Tran was frustrated with traditional dating apps. As an Asian male, he felt that the current offerings “get hijacked by the majority.”
So, Tran and a few friends spent a weekend building an app that was focused on minorities and those who like minorities. That was two months ago — since then, Color Dating has attracted more than 30,000 users and quite a bit of positive feedback.
Tran, a Seattle native who re-located to the Bay Area after stints with StudentRND and Tune, said that he primarily made Color Dating after females consistently told him that “I don’t date Asian guys,” or, “I’m just not attracted to Asian guys.”
Tran felt that this was unfair and that the trend carried over into dating apps like Tinder. He cited experiments that showed Asian males getting significantly fewer “matches” than Caucasian males and studies that demonstrated how difficult online dating can be for black women.
“All the dating data I’ve seen fits OkCupid’s pattern: black people and Asian men get short shrift,” noted an OkCupid study from 2014.
Vu, who went through Y Combinator with two separate startups before launching Color Dating, said that the online dating experience — particularly for quick-swipe apps like Tinder — can be frustrating for minorities.
“If a community is predominately a certain race and expresses a specific preference, if you don’t fit with the majority, you’ll end up having a horrible experience,” he said.
At the same time, he knew friends who were attracted to men and women outside of their own race, but they felt like it was too taboo to pursue anything because of pressure from parents or other reasons.
Color Dating aims to facilitate more positive messages around interracial dating. It emphasizes racial preferences and asks users their sex and ethnicity, along with what sex and ethnicity they are interested in, when they create an account. From there, the experience is Tinder-like, with swiping and matches. Users can pay for premium features like unlimited likes — Tran said Color Dating is already profitable.
Some critics say the app is counter-intuitive.
“How does this solve anything?” wrote one ProductHunt user. “The founder complains about being judged by race, and then proceeds to build an app based entirely about judging people by race?”
Here was Tran’s response:
Maybe I wasn’t clear, but what I meant to explain is that overtime, I felt like the racial judgment against me wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s hard, if not impossible to control who you’re attracted to and didn’t mean they didn’t like me as a person.
Instead, we’re trying to focus on facilitating a better experience and environment.
Tran said he hopes Color Dating provides a community, unlike what he’s experienced with other dating apps. He wants users to talk to likeminded folks that feel similar to them “without feeling completely alone in their world.”
“Tinder is really about the hookup culture,” he said. “We want to move toward more of the community aspect of it.”
Tran noted that there are many similar apps like Where White People Meet or Black People Meet that target specific verticals.
“We’re looking to bring that huge market together and Tinderize them,” he said.
Color Dating has reeled in a small amount of cash from angel investors and is looking to raise its seed round.