Cover Dawoon Kang talks to Tatler about her dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel (Photo: Courtesy of Coffee Meets Bagel)

Dawoon Kang, Coffee Meet Bagel’s co-founder tells Tatler all about her personal dating criteria, and how she developed a relationship-focused app with her sisters

Dawoon Kang, co-founder and Chief Dating Officier of Coffee Meet Bagel first launched the dating app in 2012 with her sisters, Arum and Soo Kang. In 2015, the company was featured on Shark Tank and even turned down billionaire entrepreneur, Mark Cuban’s offer to buy them for US$30 million. Now, the company continues to grow after raising over US$19 million from investors in the past few years.

Here, Dawoon tells Tatler how the app differs from other dating apps on the market, how she went on over a hundred first dates through the app, and what her role as Chief Dating Officer actually means. 

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What do you think made Coffee Meets Bagel one of the most popular dating apps? How does it differ from other dating apps and sites?

Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) is designed for singles looking for real relationships. For example, we only give you a handful of high-quality matches so you can focus on fewer people. 

I imagine online dating was quite different nine years ago when you first started the company with your sisters. How has the online dating world changed now that it’s become more mainstream and accepted by the public? How has the company changed with it?

Yes! The market has become bigger and it’s still growing which is awesome. With the rise of Tinder, swipe-based apps have become the mainstream. With that backdrop, CMB has become more focused on staying true to our original mission of serving singles who are looking for real relationships and want to take a more thoughtful approach to dating. 

Despite being founders of a dating app, you and your sisters have been relatively quiet about your dating lives. Is there a reason for that? 

I’m not intentionally hiding but just don’t really see the need to share my private life publicly. However, I do talk about my dating history a lot on CMB’s Save the Date podcast series, where I interview dating experts to help daters find happy long term relationships. I’ve gone on over a hundred first dates (through CMB actually!) over 5-6 years and I think daters find it encouraging to know that they are not alone in this dating journey.

How is it like using your own app to find matches? Did you put it on your profile that you’re a co-founder? What are some of the responses of people when they find out?

I intentionally did not write that I’m a co-founder because I didn’t want to talk about my work. When people found out, some people got freaked out and some people found it fascinating. I generally preferred people who didn’t make a big deal out of my job.

It was great using CMB to find dates because I could kill two birds with one stone—work on my love life as well as study what it’s like to use CMB as a dater. 

What does your role as Chief Dating Officer mean? What are your daily tasks? 

As Chief Dating Officer I focus on the science of dating to improve CMB’s ability to help daters find long term relationships. My job is to educate and guide our Product, Marketing, and Customer Experience teams to take an evidence-based approach to our mission. For decades, social scientists have studied love to figure out which elements are critical to successful long term relationships.

For example, relationship scientist Dr. Gottman has found through a longitudinal study that 70% of a couple's problems are permanently unsolvable. This means that being with someone thinking that they will change is a bad idea! This also means that it’s important that CMB create a profile that reveals information that is important to the dater so they can discuss these things early on in their dating life. I believe this is one of the main reasons why we were able to attract serious relationship seekers to our platform. 

You and your sisters are all still working at Coffee Meets Bagel even after so many years. Were there moments when one or more of you considered doing something else? Why or why not?

Yes, there were moments when I found it challenging to feel excited about work, mostly when I felt burned out or there was something going on personally that made my life challenging overall. In those moments I was able to recharge myself, mostly through breaks and support from my sisters and peer groups. 

But most of the time I am really excited about what I do, yes, even after all these years. I work on a meaningful problem with people I admire and get to make an amazing impact on the lives of millions of people. I can’t ask for anything more… well, one thing. I want to work a bit less!

How much of your time is put into producing CMBs Save The Date podcasts? How do you come up with the topics and find the experts?

I study dating and relationships on an ongoing basis so it didn’t take a lot of time to put together Save the Date as I interviewed experts whose work I was very familiar with and respected. My team and I also keep in close touch with our daters and choose topics we know a lot of daters struggle with.

In the recent two years, the increase of therapist-driven mental health accounts has entered Instagram, shedding light on a lot of topics that you talk about on your podcasts from attachment styles to dating habits. How do you think love, sex and dating have been changing and how will it continue to change in the upcoming years?

A great observation! I think with Covid particularly, people’s focus on mental health has risen which is important. Covid unsurprisingly changed many things in our lives, including dating. One main theme I’m finding is that Covid has made daters more thoughtful about dating. According to a survey done among our daters in Hong Kong, 72% said they find themselves being more open and honest with matches, and more than half said the pandemic has made them reflect more about what they’re looking for in a partner. I think the trend will continue in the upcoming years.

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