And how Dawoon Kang beat the odds to get funding for her tech startup
As the founder of Coffee Meets Bagel, there aren’t many holes in Dawoon Kang’s plans.
The 34-year-old entrepreneur created the popular dating app for women with her two sisters back in 2012, using just $40,000 of their money. Five years later, the app has facilitated 100,000 relationships, and even garnered a $30 million buyout offer from billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” which the sisters turned down.
But it hasn’t always been smooth-sailing for Kang. As a woman in the California tech vortex, Kang faced tough competition. Just about 2% of the $60 billion in venture capital funding that was appropriated in 2016 went to women, according to an NPR report citing data from Pitchfork.
What’s more, as an Asian woman, she faced even more hurdles, as Moneyish reported earlier this year.
However, Kang managed to raise money for Coffee Meets Bagel by raising $7.8 million in venture capital from from three firms to fund their expansion, and introducing a freemium model that charges users for certain upgraded features.
Kang says her unique idea helped her get that funding. She tells Moneyish she set out to create “the best dating app for women” — and achieved that, in part, via a unique algorithm that other apps don’t have that matches candidates based off their personality and other traits.
She says working with and watching her family work also helped. “I started with two partners [her sisters] whom I respect and trust 100%, and that trust is really important because, when I see startups failing or not being in existence anymore, a lot of that is because the founders can’t get along.”
Plus, she grew up watching how her South Korean father, a lifetime entrepreneur, worked. During the Asian financial crisis in the late 90s, he had to lay off a “pretty significant size of his workforce”. “What I got out of it is that sometimes you have to make difficult choices for the greater good of the company. It’s unfortunate and it’s unavoidable. A lot of them came back later after the business recovered,” but Kang still remembers that lesson clearly.
Kang now hopes that her success can help change the face of Silicon Valley. “We need more representation, and I’m not even talking about just women… Placing yourself in a diverse community where everyone is represented, that’s like the only way you can bring true equality.”
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