Mariko Tokioka knew exactly what she wanted to do after her previous company Quipper was acquired by Japanese giant Recruit.
It wasn’t to take a rest. Or to enjoy the financial returns of the exit. No, as a Japanese expat in London as COO of Quipper, she wanted to create a dating services that matches Asian singles who are based overseas.
“In London, I wanted to meet someone who shared my culture and language, and could talk to my parents. It was very hard on existing dating sites because they tend to group all Asians together. I thought: “There’s JDate for Jewish matches, and a number for black people, why isn’t there one for Asians?””
Thus she went ahead and founded East Meets East.
The New York-based service that is currently active in six cities in the U.S.. Rather than Tinder, Tokioka describes it as a matchmaking service. That’s to say that users find each other through shared likes, activities and interests and, if they like what they see, they can message the other person. It is geared towards ‘romance’ rather than ‘hooking up.’
The service is available on the web and an iOS app, with an Android app likely to come some point in early 2017. The company is working on artificial intelligence to help make matches more relevant.
East Meets East is free for women, but men who want to join are charged $30 per month.
“It’s basically ladies night concept,” Tokioka explained. “Statistically Asian women are wanted more [by men of other ethnicities], but Asian men are not so much desired.”
Straight to the point, perhaps, but she said that most of the company’s target male audience are ok with paying, while most can afford it, too. She wouldn’t be drawn on the number of users that the service has, but said the total has grown three-fold over the past year.
One key user acquisition channel for new users has been YouTube celebrities, Tokioka said. Some of those that East Meets East have worked with include the Fung Brothers, David So, Linda Dong and Wong-Fu Production’s ISATV.
“Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., which grew 56 percent from 2000 to 2013, and surpassed the 15 million mark in the United States. Globally, 60 percent of the world population lives in Asia accounting for more than 4.4 billion people,” Tokioka added in a statement.
With that global data in mind, Tokioka said that East Meets East plans to expand into Asia where it will stick to its guns and help match singles from the same background and culture. Initially, the plan is to expand to all parts of the U.S. over the next nine months and, following that, Tokioka wants to move into Canada, Australia, the UK and Hong Kong.
East Meets East revealed today that it has raised $1 million of initial funding from 500 Startups, East Ventures, Japanese games firm DeNA, iSGS Investment Works, and Shintaro Yamada, founder of Japan-based unicorn Mercari. Tokioka said that the company, which currently has 10 staff, will look to raise more money next year ahead of its international expansion.