By Madison Alworth
"Hey! Vina" is the newest swiping app, but it has nothing to do with dating.
“We were the first ones ever to launch an exclusive friend-finding app. And we still are the first and only available [one] focused specifically on the needs of women," Vina CEO and founder Olivia June said Monday in an interview on Cheddar.
Vina launched out of beta in August and has racked up over one million downloads in 158 countries to date.
The concept was launched by June in 2015 from personal experience. After losing her older sister to suicide at a young age and then herself feeling lonely and sad after moving to the West Coast alone, June knew there had to be a digital way to grow her "tribe."
“I think we need to discern the difference between social media and social networking. Everything about the Vina experience is designed to get you offline, to meet up with people in real life and have really high-quality face-to-face interactions. And that’s really important," June said.
Many apps are designed to keep users looking at their screens for long periods to encounter as many ads as possible. But Vina is different, she explained. "At the end of the day, we are a networking model and we stay really focused on making sure we design things to help you spend time offline with other people like you.”
Users can connect with potential friends by either matching one-on-one, or getting involved in group activities.
And there are many users to be had. Tinder boasts over 50 million swipers, and Bumble lags behind ー but has impressive stats of its own ー at 40 million users.
According to June, embracing the goal of friendship rather than dating means the swiping experience can be different than on its mating-focused competitors.
Vina's first premium feature allows users to upgrade to see who has already swiped right on them ー a feature not available on Match Group-owned ($MTCH) Tinder or Bumble.
Months after Hey! Vina began testing, Bumble rolled out its Bumble BFF option, a swiping app for finding friends. But as June explained, the popular female-focused app primarily functions as a dating platform. Vina is all about making friends.
"There's a lot of reasons why on these popular dating apps, you see the dual opt-in experience. It lowers the emotional vulnerability, it makes it so we don't have to reject anyone to their face," June explained. "But sometimes that can create a little bit of a lag in finding your right people."
And unlike traditional dating apps, you don't have to abandon Vina after one successful connection.
“None of us just need one friend. So I think it’s important to have a really wide network," said June.
"Particularly as women where we see so much in society that the strength comes from having that support network," she said. "We can make those big career moves when we feel like we have that army of people around us.”
For full interview click here.