Virgin StartUp of the Week: TextDater

We love startups that are doing innovative and disruptive things. One such startup is TextDater. Disillusioned by the dating apps already out there, focussed on swiping through hundreds of photos and making snap judgements, the co-founders decided to shake things up. TextDater lets you chat to people who share the same interests, but doesn't reveal photos until you've gotten to know each other better. Let's find out more from co-founder Jon Pellington.

Ground to floor 1 – Explain what your business does

We have launched a new dating app that turns the current online dating model on its head! TextDater (  focuses on communication, interests and similarities, not on looks. Users create bespoke profiles by manually entering their interests and hobbies and are then presented with the profiles of other users, which show only a list of interests and no pictures.

When they spot a profile that interests them, they tap ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ depending on if they want to enter into a conversation with the other person. It’s only once this virtual conversation has begun that the pre-uploaded profile pictures are available.

Floor 1 to 2 – Where are you based?

We are currently working from home in South West and North West London, UK.

Floor 2 to 3 – What’s the business model?

We will be using in-app advertising, which is relevant and subtle enough to not distract members from enjoying the app.  We want as many people as possible to get on to TextDater and start dating.

Floor 3 to 4 – Who are your competitors?

Our competitors include some of the big names in the dating app world, such as, Tinder, Guardian Soulmates, Tingle. More recently the Willow app, Loveflutter, Fuzzybanter, and JigTalk have experimented with hiding profile photos.

However, you could say that we’re lucky to have the latter four among our competitors; when we first started talking about the TextDater concept we were met with the response of “Great concept, but has this been tested?” Apps like Willow have basically done this work for us already!

Floor 4 to 5 – What is your USP?

TextDater is all about expressing yourself in order to be found by potential dates. Our app is set to revolutionise online dating in that there’s no search feature and your profile is based on showcasing your own interests and personality rather than searching for what you think you find attractive in a partner!

In addition,  there’s no match feature built into the app; it’s the job of the user to decide if they like the interests listed by another user and then act on it. In this way, the profiles are living and active. You never know - you might discover an interest you never knew you had while using TextDater.


Floor 5 to 6 – Where did the idea come from?

Sheer frustration! By June 2014 I had been on more dates through the online world than I care to remember, and in all honesty most of them were based on looks. The search results thrown up by practically every dating app were simply lists of pictures; the dating app market seemed to be lacking a mechanism that allowed users to get to know the likes and interests of their potential date from the start. This had to change. In September 2014 we registered the company and began to develop a way of meeting a potential date by profiling our personalities instead.

Floor 6 to 7 – How much funding did you receive from Virgin StartUp?


Floor 7 to 8 – How are you going to use it to grow your business?

The bulk of the funding has been used for development, which we have kept UK-based because of the outstanding talent here. Our next development step is to extend the app onto Android and Windows devices, and another large chunk of the money is being used to spread word of our dating app revolution through marketing and PR.

Floor 8 to 9 – Who is your Virgin StartUp Mentor?

Sara-Ann Datta was my business advisor, and she has been fantastic. From analysing the original business plan to making specific suggestions, she’s been a great source of guidance and I can’t thank her enough.  Recently I have been mentored by tech entrepreneur Erick Bulatowicz; his knowledge about the mobile app space is vast.

Floor 9 to 10 – What’s your workspace like?


We work from anywhere, anytime, enjoying good coffee in independent cafes around London!

Floor 10 to 11 – Where will your business be in 12 months time?

Our long-term goal is to compete with the big players, and gain increased brand awareness - the mobile app is just the start.

And we hope that more people are out there dating in a year’s time, thanks to TextDater. It’s not the be-all and end-all in life, but finding someone special who shares your interests and is on your wavelength makes life that much better.

TextDater is currently available on the AppStore.

Register for Foodpreneur Festival 2015