Sunday, May 24, 2015

Peekawoo: The female-fueled, Filipina-made dating app

There's more to online dating than hooking up, and the all-female Peekawoo team knows that.

Before diving in the local startup scene, Peekawoo founder and CEO Valenice Balace had a 9-5 job. When she wasn't sitting on her desk, working on websites and mobile apps, she was traversing the dating world. And just like any other female, she had her fair share of dating disappointments and frustrations.

"My friends and I complained about how dating wasn't the way it was before—how we go to the movies to a dinner date and the guy brings the girl home to her house. Now, it goes from meeting someone online, going to a bar or a condo, hooking up, and then simply moving on to the next person," Balace shared.

Not one to turn a blind eye on her problem, a problem shared by other conservative females who do not fit in the prevalent hookup culture, Balace thought of taking the matter into her own hands. In September 2013, with a core team of three and one investor, Balace launched Philippine dating startup Peekawoo.

A dating app that's not for hooking up

Peekawoo, one of the many companies under the startup incubator Kickstart Ventures, prides itself in being a wholesome, fun, and safe dating app where women, in particular, won't have to worry about inappropriate messages and sexual innuendos.

"We know our customers because we are them. There's a sense of emotional responsibility to it, thus we focus on women's need in an online dating platform," Balace said.

The iOS version was first introduced when the app was officially launched in September 2014 and by April 2015, the Android version can now be downloaded in Google Play Store. Peekawoo partnered with beauty giant Clinique in launching the Play Store by offering a free gift certificate of Clinique products. Users can claim it by showing the app upon visiting their booths in major malls.

The app filters suggestions based on the user's basic information and preferences instead of location. To match and chat with someone, users need to answer three out of five questions correctly.

Peekawoo also organizes events like speed dates, mixers, and movie screenings to further connect with its users. Aside from bringing together matches, Peekawoo is set to create a growing community of users who share similar interests.

Today, Peekawoo has grown impressively. Over 6,000 users have tried Peekawoo via the mobile app.  Four investors are backing up the project, and the team has expanded from three to eight twenty-something females (plus their male CTO Kevin Bennett).

On May 5-6, 2015, Balace represented Peekawoo at the Collision 2015. It is a sister event of the popular Web Summit series, dubbed as the best technology conference on the planet and held at the World Market Pavillion in Downtown, Las Vegas.

Following her stint in Las Vegas will be the trip to Google's mothership in San Francisco at the  Google I/O 2015 on May 28- 29. It is a two-day conclave of developers working and immersing themselves on exploring beyond the next generation of technology and mobile.

With these promotional ventures, Peekawoo is set to grow in popularity worldwide.

Girl power and what women want

Balace may be the face of the company, being featured in local and international media and pitching to investors in and out of the country, but she owes the success of Peekawoo to its users and the collective effort of everyone in the team.

"We're an all-girl team with the skills, perspective, and values to push forward with this. Peekawoo also really reflects on each girl that is part of the team. Those aren't easily replicated," said Balace.

Mara Ang, Peekawoo co-founder and COO, works closely with Balace, handling day-to-day operations and tech matters. She has become Balace's close partner in keeping Peekawoo running, along with other young women who handle marketing, events, design, development, and content. Strategic partnerships with brands such as Clinique and products with a similar mission of empowering women keeps Peekawoo at the forefront of engaging with its users.

Although female fueled, Peekawoo doesn’t discount the contribution of its male users. It is, after all, through the help of its male users that Peekawoo continues to prove there’s more to online dating than hooking up.

The future of Peekawoo

Balace herself has grown so much along with Peekawoo. From being a 9-5 employee, she has learned to run a business and navigate the roller coaster-like startup scene.

"I'd be lying if I said it was easy breezy. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically challenged," concluded Balace.

With its web app's increasing users, revenue plans in place (in-app purchases, stickers, and subscriptions), and an effective unique selling proposition, Peekawoo is set to dominate the world of online dating.

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