9 mins read

Are dating apps getting too niche?


When it comes to dating, one of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear is to find someone with similar interests to yours. That could look like a similar lifestyle, career choice, music taste, hobby, etc. In today’s online dating market, however, finding a potential partner is becoming more complex — and exhausting. A 2022 study found nearly 80 percent of people experience fatigue or burnout while dating online. Not to mention the wide array of intentions users are on the app for — some for fun and others on a mission to find the one. Sex columnist and relationship expert at Fun Factory, Zachary Zane, shares, “Some apps, even ones that advertise as ‘dating apps’ really are more of hookup apps. People there aren’t looking for a more serious romantic partner — they’re just looking for casual flings.” 

Those looking for their fairytale love story have had it with the huge pool of people on apps like Tinder. They’ve begun leaning into their interests and wandering over into the world of niche dating apps. We’re not talking about the crucial considerations of race, religion, and sexual orientation — which there are plenty of specific apps for. Rather, we’re exploring the phenomenon of apps catering to very specific shared interests. Think vegans, farmers, Disney adults, dog lovers, cat lovers, personality types, and music genres. You name it, and there’s likely a niche dating app out there catering to it. In fact, there are so many different variations it has us questioning if these niche apps are even successful. 

The pros of niching down in dating

Is one similarity really enough to find a long-lasting partner? 

According to Kendra*, a 36-year-old devout vegan, the answer is a resounding yes. Kendra gave up swiping on Hinge after months of no luck trying to find a partner who takes care of their body in a similar way she does. Kendra deleted Hinge and downloaded the vegan and vegetarian dating app Veggly instead. For Kendra, the appeal of downloading a niche app based on her lifestyle felt like a breath of fresh air. Everyone was there with the same mindset, and there was no more guessing through the screen about whether someone was a vegan or not. 

It may sound obvious, but people like people who are interested in the same things as them. A recent study by dating advice site Healthy Framework shared that 61 percent of daters use dating apps to meet people with common interests. Another study from the Pew Research Center found that 64 percent of married Americans believe having shared interests with their partners is very important for a successful marriage.

In Kendra’s case, she can’t imagine not having a partner with the same diet as her, as her lifestyle is of “utmost importance.” What she was trying to find on Hinge for months, she found in Veggly after a few days. “I had only been using the app for a week or two when we found each other. He was the first and last person I ever met from the app. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better human to experience life with,” she told Mashable. For her, deleting Hinge and downloading Veggly was one of the best choices she ever made. Kendra and her partner, Dave, have been together for three years.

Although there’s more people on larger dating apps, the qualities you want in a partner may be harder to find. Every type of person is under the same algorithm. Niche dating apps hope to filter out the clutter and center on that one thing you have in common. 

Alex Felipelli, founder of Similar Souls, a company building niche dating apps like Veggly, says it all comes down to quality vs. quantity. “The pool may be smaller depending on your city and the size of your niche, but there’s a much better chance you’ll match with someone compatible with you,” he explains. 

Mashable After Dark

Felipelli builds dating apps in niches where people already have strong feelings and values. Currently, he runs Veggly, the vegan and vegetarian dating app, and Lefty, the dating app for progressives. Veggly, which launched in 2019, has a 1.2 million-person user base globally. Their website contains an entire page of successful testimonials from around the world. 

With the overcrowded market, dating app founders need to know what makes them stick out to generate a community of loyal users. For some apps, that same overcrowdedness is what’s making their own communities blossom. “Dating apps need a critical mass for them to succeed, both in terms of matching partners and being financially viable. Now that the dating app market is much larger, there is an opportunity for niche dating apps to thrive,” explains Jessica Alderson, co-founder and relationship expert at So Syncd, the personality-type dating app.

Dating according to your values

Tabby, the cat person’s dating app, launched in 2020, catering to people who have a deep love for their felines. The app even made its way to SharkTank, scoring a deal with Kevin O’Leary. However, things quickly went downhill in 2022 when it was removed from the App Store and stopped posting on social media (its founder didn’t respond to Mashable’s request for comment). Its brother app, Dig for dog lovers, had a similar trajectory, shutting down after just two years of trying to bring “dog-minded people” together. 

Felipelli’s theory on why these specific niches didn’t pan out is because it doesn’t take much for someone to be a cat or dog lover. “For many, it’s not really a value and more of a given. Niche dating apps have to hit the core of what someone believes. If not, what makes them special to pique someone’s interest?” he asks. Oftentimes, curiosity and the stagnation of other mainstream apps are what draw people into these niche communities. 

Hannah, 29, was watching a YouTube video about her personality type one night when she came across a sponsored ad for So Syncd, inspiring her to sign up. Hannah liked the idea that So Synced shifted the focus from appearance to compatibility, something you rarely find in our modern dating world. “Anyone who signed up for an app based on personality types was interested in finding a meaningful relationship rather than a one-night fling, which can be the case for a lot of [these] other apps,” she explains. Similarly, Brendan, 25, has a curiosity for personality types but felt overwhelmed by more popular apps due to his shy personality. So Syncd felt like a great place to find someone with similar interests to him. Brendan and Hannah matched three years ago, leading them to get married just eight months after meeting. 

It may have taken Hannah, Kendra, and their partners a lot longer on a mainstream app to find what they were looking for. The decision to jump out of the saturated pool and into a smaller community led them to find exactly what they sought. Zane recommends taking the jump for those stagnant in their dating adventures, as there’s not much to lose. “If you’re not having luck finding a partner in your approach, then maybe change your approach and try something new.” 

Are dating apps getting too niche? 

It’s obvious these niche apps are fostering community, which is a huge positive for users trying to escape the numbers game of Tinder-like apps. Humans are passionate, and niche dating apps allow people to kindle relationships based on their unique passions. Zane tells Mashable there’s no such thing as “too niche” when it comes to dating. His argument: If it’s connecting people, then it’s working. “People can bond and connect over literally anything, and a niche app is just a starting point to connect.” A testament that there really is someone out there for everyone.

The question then lies in what’s next. Have we exhausted every dating niche possible? Zane thinks it’s likely. “Dare I say, we’re running out of niches. I feel like there truly is an app for everyone these days.” Felipelli, however, isn’t so sure. He’s currently researching what industry Similar Souls should break into next in hopes of serving yet another smaller community and bringing like-minded people together. Who knows? Maybe it’s time for the lactose-intolerant folks to shine! 

* Dating app users are referred to by their first-name only for privacy reasons.





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