Most dating apps focus on a selfie, often edited and retouched (old, outdated or fake), love-seekers are making arguably the most important decision of their lives based on little more than a headshot. And look how that’s turned out….They swipe endlessly looking for the hottest matches without taking the time to get to know a person on a deeper level. This may not be as detrimental if the end goal is a casual encounter, but for people looking for something more, they should be connecting on deeper traits, preferences and values prior to a headshot (as a society we’ve become so dependent on a single image to tell a complete story and that’s just not how relationships are).
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Cohen-Aslatei.
Adam is the Founder and CEO of S’More, the new relationships app that’s about getting to know a person before deciding if you like them and before you see them. Adam is the former Managing Director of Chappy, Bumble’s gay dating app. He spent 5 years at The Meet Group (MeetMe, Skout, Tagged, Hi5, Lovoo, and Growlr), and has consulted for companies including Spark Network (Zoosk, JDate, Christian Mingle). Adam is a high growth digital marketing expert, having led marketing teams for both leading publishers and for ad tech companies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’ve always been drawn to the idea of connecting people, and actually created my very first dating program, Harvard Speed Dating, back in grad school. For the past ten years I’ve worked for and with many of the biggest names in the dating and social discovery industries, most recently as the managing director of Chappy, Bumble’s gay dating app. During a chance encounter with a stranger, I was inspired to create a dating app that would disrupt the conventional thinking around how people meet and address some of the main pain points for singles. That’s how S’More was born. Every big dating app that I know focuses on images first. If you’re really looking for something more than a casual encounter, is screening a person simply based on a headshot the right approach? Not to me.Maybe this is why millennials are the largest generation in American history to be so single. 50% report being fully single, and the oldest of them turn 40 in 2020.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Most dating apps focus on a selfie, often edited and retouched (old, outdated or fake), love-seekers are making arguably the most important decision of their lives based on little more than a headshot. And look how that’s turned out…. They swipe endlessly looking for the hottest matches without taking the time to get to know a person on a deeper level. This may not be as detrimental if the end goal is a casual encounter, but for people looking for something more, they should be connecting on deeper traits, preferences and values prior to a headshot (as a society we’ve become so dependent on a single image to tell a complete story and that’s just not how relationships are). S’More focuses on the whole person and elevates the standard of online dating. S’More, which stands for “Something More,” is designed to prioritize getting to know a person before deciding if you like them and before you even see them. The more you engage and chat with a person, the more their profile photos unblur and the more their private content unlocks. S’More makes it easy and fun to learn about a person before making a judgment based on little more than a selfie. All of our features support that mission. As an example, we are the first and only relationship app to require all daters to verify their profile photos to protect against cat-fishing and under-age usage. S’More is an inclusive app and we do not allow filtering based on any discriminating factor such as race. Our logo includes an equality sign because it doesn’t matter who you are, or who you’re attracted to, if your end goal is a relationship, then we’re the app for you! On S’More you can hear a person’s voice and listen to their favorite music all before their photos unblur. We even have blurred video dating, and we rate conversational behaviors to ensure a healthy, safe, and non-abusive community.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Brian Chesky is going to kill me but in 2019 I was looking to rent a house out in Long Island for a big birthday celebration, and I know that on AirBnB all communication is supposed to stay on the platform, but could not drop thousands of dollars on a rental without first seeing it for myself. So, I embarked on a road trip to Long Island to go check out some of the prospective homes. S’More had already been wireframed, but I did not intend on building the app because I was just about to accept a major job offer. It was pouring rain and I had already visited 4 homes, 2 of which I loved, and now it started to hail. I texted the last house owner and said I was not going to be able to make it, but for some reason I decided to drive by anyway, and it was the most magical home I had ever seen. I rang the bell hoping that they would answer, and I’ll never forget the most picturesque family opened the door. A beautiful couple with reality show good looks, and two of the cutest kids I had ever seen. It turned out that the owner of the house was a start-up lawyer and his wife worked for celebrity real estate agent Fredrik Eklund (Million Dollar Listings). Within 30 minutes of meeting the couple, I was not only sold on the house, but the couple and I got talking about S’More and had convinced me to turn down my job offer and focus on S’More. To add even more incentive, they agreed to be my first investors. Today that couple has become close friends, and the husband is S’More’s attorney! Life is crazy. If I hadn’t gone to that house, if I hadn’t met the couple, if they hadn’t convinced me to start S’More, none of this would have happened.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve been so lucky to work with the best of the best over the years, and have learned so much from them. People like Dimitri Volkov from dating.com and Geoff Cook from the Meet Group, and Whitney Wolfe from Bumble…disruptors who had vision and built companies from the ground up. Dimitry is a titan in the dating industry having created the Dating.com group, while also investing in promising new companies across the world. He is an early investor in S’More and any conversation with him leaves us with great ideas and solutions. My greatest mentors are also my industry peers, I often chat with Daniel Gendelman founder of Raya, Dan Kurani founder of Friended, and Amanda Bradford founder of The League. All of these founders have built amazing companies in the space paving the way for S’More. I remember when we first launched S’More into beta in early 2020, and it felt like things were not clicking, Apple reviewers were taking forever to grant us approval, performance platforms were not scaling, and early bugs prevented users from connecting with the app fully. I called Daniel Gendelman for advice, to see what I was doing that was not working. He walked me off a ledge, sharing early Raya stories with me about how their product was held together with “duck tape” and that it just takes time to get product market fit. That this was all part of the process. Keep in mind, I’ve run large dating apps, but I had never built one from scratch, let alone one on such a small budget! That call saved me and I am so grateful for that conversation and to have so many amazing friends in the industry.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I would say that good or bad, disruption is rarely easy. In our industry, the most popular companies operate with a certain model that has proven to be extremely successful. We knew there was a need for something very different, but changing minds and learned behavior can be a big task. Ultimately if you do a quick focus groups and ask people about their experiences with dating apps, the conclusion is obvious: lots of frustration, lots of effort, and little to show for all that time spent swiping. Our industry has not seen a major disruptive force for over 8 years, and the emergence of COVID just amplifies the fact that so many are alone, at home and looking for a meaningful relationship.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Yes! Whatever happens, “never, never stop”. I used to work as the head of marketing for an AdTech company. The CEO started the business from his basement and grew the company to over 100M dollars, it eventually sold. He would always talk about how everyday there appeared to be insurmountable challenges that took a toll emotionally, psychologically and physically. Every day we wake up and fight this battle and every day we need to put on our armor and prepare for challenges. We don’t even know who we’re fighting against sometimes, but we’re just trying to make it all work. Work for our consumers, work for our team members, and work for our investors. There are so many reasons to stop, retreat, and pivot, but to achieve success you need to fight on. Surround yourself with the brightest people and celebrate the small wins. Naysayers are everywhere and everyone will have an opinion, but trust your gut above all else and make sure your inner circle is tight, bright, and full of might!
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Definitely not! We’re just at the beginning of our journey. S’More is a mission driven organization and we want to improve the way people date for the entire industry. So our hope is that some of the largest players adopt some of our industry-first features and approaches to make dating just a little less superficial and a little more effective. We would like to see mainstream apps remove race filtering (currently a premium feature for The Match Group). We would like to see 100% of profiles verified on dating apps to prevent catfishing, we would like to see the adoption of technology to weed out bad actors and bad behaviors and more. S’More is not just for dates. We are a relationship app, so we want to be used for all of your relationship needs whether that’s to find new friends, determine who your neighbors are or to find the love of your life. We think about relationships as enduring and non-transactional, and we are continually adding more community features into the app so there are more indirect ways to meet someone special whether via a newsfeed, chatroom, or mini trivia game. S’More stands for anti-superficial relationships, and the app is just the first step in our goal to expand that mission to other business categories.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? I’m not sure who said it, but one of my favorite quotes is that
“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.” Building something new is never easy, but if you believe in what you’re doing and want to make a difference for people, you can.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We created S’More with the belief that people deserve better. Everyone deserves to be valued for who they are and what they bring to the table, not just for what they look like, and that kindness and respect should be afforded to everyone. These qualities are so rare, and focus on them could fix so many of the problems in the world today.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can follow us on instagram @smoredate and @adamaslatei for fun dating and cultural content.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!