Tanvi Gupta Transcript

Clint Betts

Tanvi, thank you so much for coming on the show. I think what you're building is quite incredible and I want to go deep on it, but first, why don't you introduce yourself to our audience and your background, and what's led you to SwoonMe, which we're going to get into.

Tanvi Gupta

Sure. Hi, Clint. Thanks so much for having me. I am the founder and CEO of SwoonMe, a metaverse social network with focus on dating. So my background prior to founding SwoonMe, I was at Meta working in Messenger and Instagram Direct, shipping consumer products. And that's where I really understood how to build social media products. And before that I was in New York City working for big banks like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. That's where I started my career. And a lot of my personal issues when I came to dating is why I founded SwoonMe.

Clint Betts

So what were the personal issues?

Tanvi Gupta

So when I was a single girl in New York City, in my early twenties, I had-

Clint Betts

And by the way, a single girl in New York City is about half of all sitcoms. So we're off to a good start.

Tanvi Gupta

Yes, that's true. It's so funny. Whenever I watch movies on these popular sitcoms, I'm like, "Why are they always based in New York City?" It's just such a fun city. It's a single city.

Clint Betts

Yeah. It's the best city in the world. It really is.

Tanvi Gupta

It lends itself to crazy experiences, to say the very least. So, yeah, I was having those crazy experiences. I was in my early twenties. I had about eight to nine dating apps on my phone and I know an average user has about 3-4 dating apps on their phone. So I was really trying to maximize my chances of finding a long term, meaningful, deeper relationship, not a hookup, I guess.

Clint Betts

Sure, yeah.

Tanvi Gupta

And so the main mechanism of interaction and connecting with people were just static photos, which is still the case today. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, the big players in the dating market and social media, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, it's all about how you look. It's all about your videos, filtered photos, filtered videos, whatever it might be. It all just revolves around very superficial things. And I just felt that pressure, pressure in terms of that I always have to post the best photos of myself.

And then if I was getting interest, if my inbox is getting bombarded, then it's just people looking at my photo. There's nothing really about me as a person that they like. So when we would meet after exchanging a couple of text messages that are nothing meaningful, just text messages, "Hey, how are you doing? This is my phone number. Let's meet up." There was no context behind those conversations. There was no familiarity. We didn't know each other. So I just felt like it was just leading to a lot of meaningless dates. And I always felt that there was a gap in the market that needed to be addressed. And this problem needs to be solved. This is not the way to meet romantic interests. So that's—

Clint Betts

You felt like it was setting you up for failure before you even got to the date.

Tanvi Gupta

That's correct.

Clint Betts

Because what is getting you to the date is the swiping, it's the interactions, it's maybe DMs, which sounds like... Is it really DMs how this works?

Tanvi Gupta

Yeah, it is. It is DMs, yeah.

Clint Betts

Okay. That sounds creepy.

Tanvi Gupta

Yeah, it is—

Clint Betts

When I hear the word DM, I'm like, "Ah, it's creepy." Just that.

Tanvi Gupta

Yeah. Well, that's not even the bad part. I think the worst part was when you get pornographic photos from guys on Tinder. I was on Tinder for one day, really. And I got so afraid that people in my area, five miles away from me are sending me these photos. I wonder who they know. Do they know who I am? So I quickly deleted the app. I was like, "Oh my God, I need to get out of this. What am I getting myself into?"

And I think, I don't know if you saw this article the New York Times recently published, which is a decade of fruitless searching, the toll of dating app burnout. It's basically about Tinder and the mental health impact that young people have been feeling for a while because of swiping left and right and feeling this pressure. So it's not that I'm the only one. Mainstream media is talking about it and we know the impact, social media, Instagram, TikTok, TikTok has on the mental health of young people.

Clint Betts

Yeah, I can't even imagine. I just feel like we don't do a lot of real world connections anymore because the internet's becoming the real world, but meaningful connections. And what SwoonMe does, you start to build meaningful connections before you even get to any of this pick, swap, DM type of stuff. Tell people what SwoonMe is, and the way you interact on this app and why it's so different.

Tanvi Gupta

Sure. So SwoonMe is building the first solid application for avatars and metaverse outside of gaming. And dating using avatars and voice. That's what SwoonMe is. It means that we're connecting users based on shared ideologies and personality. So what avatars do is they allow users to express their appearance without sacrificing their privacy and getting judged on a basis of few pictures. So you can think of it as a metaverse playground for meaningful connections. And our longer term goal is to go beyond dating and build a platform where users can connect with avatars being their primary medium of identity plus voice.

So the whole experience on SwoonMe is optimized, with voice in mind, even though avatars being a huge component of the experience, users have to come in and introduce themselves with their own voice. They have to send audio messages to each other. If they're playing games, they have to record things about themselves while they're getting to know each other.

So it's like when you add voice to that whole experience, it just makes the experience so much different than what we have right now. Voice can tell so much about a person, their personality, their mental, emotional, social level, what they're about. That's why podcasting has taken off, radio, music. It just feels like we know these people when we hear somebody talk. So if you ever get to download SwoonMe, or if people do, you'll just be like, "Oh my God, this feels so familiar. I know this person already." It's just such an intimate experience, which is so different from what we have right now.

Clint Betts

Yeah. You're really bringing podcasting to dating.

Tanvi Gupta

Yeah. Yes.

Clint Betts

Which I think is incredible. So it starts out with these audio messages.

Tanvi Gupta

Correct.

Clint Betts

So you’re like, "All right, I want to talk to this person. I'm going to send him an audio message." And then you probably are really thinking that if it were me sending an audio message, I would script it out and probably practice a few times, honestly. So you send this message and then they send it back and you start sending these voice messages and you're starting to build a connection just based off of personality, interests, and ability to carry on in conversation with this person. And then you're going to add these features, I assume, where they can do live audio calls with each other.

Tanvi Gupta

Yes. So right now we're building experiences where we want you to be present with other people on your phone in real time. You know that feeling of being present, you and I are hanging out in a bar after work, but on your phone because we know we all have very busy lives and our target demographic, Gen Z, they are social, they are digital natives. So they want everything on their phone. And there is this problem of isolation that we need to solve, which is not going to be solved by asynchronous communications, sending each other passive text messages, because that doesn't feel like a very lively experience, that doesn't feel very personal or intimate.

So what you can do very soon on SwoonMe is jump on an avatar video call with another person without revealing yourself. So you can talk to anybody. You can play games with them and just build context to a relationship before you even decide to reveal your avatar into an actual photo. And pretty soon we will have interest based rooms on SwoonMe. What that means is let's say if I like wine or I like hiking, there will be rooms that I can go and join and talk to other people. And depending on who I connect with I can jump into a one-on-one interaction with them. And again, without this pressure of like, "Oh, how does this person look?" That kind of thing.

Clint Betts

And I imagine it's less spammy because you probably get a lot of spam on the Tinders, Bumbles. I don't know anything. I don't want to disparage these companies. I've never been on them but I've heard and I imagine that they're pretty spammy. And also when you're texting someone, it's almost like they're not even a real person. So even if it's not spammy, you're not attaching your voice or identity or personality behind it. You're pretending to be someone else at that point. And so are you noticing that this is helping with those two issues with the spam and also just, we really don't treat people like actual human beings online most of the time.

Tanvi Gupta

Yeah. Yeah we don't. So yeah, sending a passive text or saying something mean in a text is a lot easier than saying it in your own voice. One, it reveals your identity. Everyone's voice is so unique to that person. That's why they hire these specific actors for animated movies in all these Pixar movies and things like that because everyone has a unique voice. So to spam somebody, you have to put in a lot of effort. So we know from research that—

Clint Betts

Guys are the worst. Oh, sorry. I was finishing your sentence, but...

Tanvi Gupta

I'm not going to say that. I am not biased here. I'm not going to agree that bad guys are the worst. But we know that there are people who will go into these apps and then send text messages to every single woman on the platform. But now if you think about it, if the only way you can make the first connection is by sending an audio message, are you going to record a different audio message for, or even just one audio message for 50 different women? I think nobody has that time to record spammy messages for 50 different people. You're going to be selective because we're asking so much out of, not so much, but we're asking a little bit more out of you than a typical dating app or a social media platform, and it's like you have to put a little bit of yourself out there if you're serious about finding somebody. So yeah. Inherently, the product in itself it's built in a way that you just cannot spam at scale.

Clint Betts

What have the results been so far? What feedback are you getting from people who are on the platform, because the platform already has a decent number of folks on it.

Tanvi Gupta

Yes. So we're seeing an average engagement time per user, per day in the US of about 40 minutes. And we're seeing people who are spending a lot of time customizing and dressing up their avatars. So what that means is I upload a selfie. That's what you do once when we upload or take a selfie and then our AI generates your avatar and then you can go customize it. If I feel like having green hair, I can do that. I want to put on glasses. I don't have makeup in my avatar. I can put on makeup. So people are spending a lot of time on that. And also people are going back old school. One of our most popular feature is sending voicemails. If I see your intro on SwoonMe, I really like what you have to say. So I'm going to send you a voicemail and it's an immediate knee jerk reaction for me wanting to start a conversation with you.

So those are the two very popular experiences that we're seeing on SwoonMe. People do get to photo revealed stage. And we're seeing that actually the metrics are higher than what I expected is that people continue talking to each other, even after revealing their photos. So it's not like after you reveal a photo, you're like, "Okay, I'm done with you. I don't like what you look like. So let's stop this conversation." Overwhelmingly there's 80% of people who continue talking to each other after revealing photos.

Clint Betts

Oh wow. That's cool.

Tanvi Gupta

Yeah.

Clint Betts

Have you raised money?

Tanvi Gupta

We have. So we raised our first seed round last year after we launched our prototype in July. And then that was $200,000, which is what got us to launch in multiple countries. And then we got to a scale of about a hundred thousand app downloads. And now we're raising our second seed round of 1.5 million of which 20% has been committed.

Clint Betts

Ah, that's cool. And I actually talked to probably when you were at Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, I guess it's now Meta, but at the time it was still Facebook. And we talked a lot about some of the subjects you and I have touched on here in this conversation, which is internet safety, content moderation, what the future of the Metaverse might look like. Obviously he's pretty all in on that, changing his name to it and going as deep. And he gets in some controversy every once in a while, whenever he pops his head up, particularly in a recent Rogan interview. How do you think, one, if you asked Zuck to invest because he should and, two, how do you think companies and social media, how should all of us and even us as users who maybe are unfamiliar with what's happening in the Meta, how should we be thinking about the future? Because I think it's scary to a lot of people.

Tanvi Gupta

Yeah. So I think one, yes, I would love for Zuck to come in and—

Clint Betts

Yeah, go ahead and do this, Zuck. What the heck?

Tanvi Gupta

I did send him a DM on Instagram because I love whatever he posts.

Clint Betts

You slid him to his DMs. Great.

Tanvi Gupta

I did, but I didn't get a response back yet. So if I do, I'll let you know. I witnessed him first hand speaking at Q and As and his leadership at Facebook. And it was very inspiring, which is what really led me to build my own company. And as far as your second question, how should we think about it? I think with Metaverse, we're moving in the direction of giving people more freedom of expression, but yet a private and safe experience and avatars allow you to do that. It's like you get more freedom. You have that privacy and you don't feel like you are splashing yourself all over social media and everybody. So what really bugs me is when I'm on these platforms and celebrities will post your photos or there's a new cover or whatever coming up. There's so much backlash sometimes over photos—

Clint Betts

Right.

Tanvi Gupta

... over things. And I'm just thinking about who the receiver is at the receiver end. It feels really bad to get judged so much. Celebrities, obviously they want to be in the media and be talked about, be it positive or negative press. But me personally, a normal person does not want that. I want to be online. I want to interact with other people. I want to follow people who I'm interested in. And I want people to have a dialogue with me, but I don't want to be judged. And I think being in the Metaverse and being in augmented reality, it will give us that freedom of expression without sacrificing, I don't know, our mental health.

Clint Betts

And for SwoonMe, do you plan to always have dating as the focus? Or is this just the beginning vertical and you plan to go to other verticals?

Tanvi Gupta

Yes. So dating is the beginning, but we do plan to expand it to everybody. What it means is finding communities online and we have already started to pave the way for that. We recently launched a trending tab. What that means is that we're servicing top trending content on SwoonMe to users in their areas. So let's say if your voice recording your sound bite is really popular on SwoonMe, you're getting a lot of likes, which are not shown to other users, but we know that your soundbite is popular. So we will show that to other people in your area who may not have seen you in discovery, but they can just choose to have a dialogue with you and see what you're saying, similar to what TikTok is doing. But with avatars plus voice.

Clint Betts

Yeah, that's cool. And similar to what Clubhouse was trying to do, right? But with avatars and voice, which I think is really fascinating. How do you monetize SwoonMe?

Tanvi Gupta

So the way we're going to monetize SwoonMe is that we're going to sell virtual goods. We're not monetizing right now by the way. Our goal is to monetize early next year or end of this year, depending on how fast we're able to get to the scale that we're looking for. So we're going to monetize with virtual commerce and paid features. So some key examples are giving users paid tools like custom stickers. What that means is if I want to see, oh, how would I look like eating popcorn at a movie with this guy? I can create a couple stickers with both our avatars. So that's something I can purchase on SwoonMe digital store.

So other things like participating in events to find romantic connections or other meaningful connections, and also people customizing their avatars with branded content. So think Meta digital store integration and allowing users to give virtual goods like flowers, clothes, accessories, to each other. So those are some of the key ways we will be monetizing. I think this is going to play well for us. Then an ad-based model that a lot of these social media apps use. And I think it's also going to protect people's privacy if we stay away from ad based monetization strategies.

Clint Betts

Yeah. Do you plan to do some of that commerce with cryptocurrencies and things like that?

Tanvi Gupta

Down the line, we're thinking about it. Down the line, we will let users create their SwoonMe NFTs and also possibly launch SwoonMe cryptocurrency that they can use to buy stuff. We're still thinking through what that would look like. So that's going to come after this first wave of getting to scale, monetizing with avatars and then going towards NFTs at crypto.

Clint Betts

Yeah and it probably makes sense to wait and see how that whole space is going to shake out. That space is going through some things and waiting to see where the cards fall. It makes a lot of sense. Well, thank you again so much for coming on.

Last question for you, what do you hope SwoonMe accomplishes in the world? What type of difference do you hope it makes?

Tanvi Gupta

I really feel that the reason I founded and built SwoonMe is because I want people to have positive experiences in the world and not feel the pressure. I think I want to improve people's mental health. I want to make a positive impact there because I think we are in a mental health crisis right now, especially when it comes to teens. I'm seeing so much research come out where people are like, "Oh my God, I feel so much pressure on these social media platforms, comparing myself to people in my communities." And it just people are suicidal. There are some people who feel that way. And I just hope that being on SwoonMe and connecting with people on SwoonMe can relieve young people of that pressure and they can have that freedom of expression and while maintaining their privacy and safety. So I think if we can make that happen, I will be a very, very happy person.

Clint Betts

Well, my word, if you make that happen, you've made a huge difference. Tanvi, thank you so much for everything you do in the world, for coming on the show. I'm sure we'll have you on again, as this thing grows and good luck and congrats on everything you've built with SwoonMe.

Tanvi Gupta

Sounds good. Thank you so much, Clint. Thanks for having me. It was great talking to you.

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