The Vybe App was launched in 2019 to find a lasting and working solution to a unique set of social challenges. The project should have been considered a rather daunting task for the trio of software developers who chose to make the dating world smaller and more interesting for the Nigerian youth, and even more of a challenge because of the social climate in the continent and an unflattering history of regimented cultures, unfounded myths, and half-truths as well as a seemingly impermeable custom of rigid social structures. In a previously non-existent industry, and armed with nothing but a resolve to tailor their product to an already interested and growing clientele, these three namely: Osagie Omonzokpia (CTO), Adetolani Eko (CEO), Moronke Anifowose (COO) created the Vybe App, a Nigerian online dating solution with a worthwhile MVP that was well- suited to an African audience.
Initially self-funded like most passion projects, the Vybe App in its early stages won the Busicon and Diamond Bank App Challenge after which it made it to the finals in Y Combinator’s Winter 2020 interviews in California, a pivotal stage that only served to increase its popularity and integrity. In 2020, the pandemic surge initiated a rise in the use of the Vybe App, increasing awareness of the app and responsiveness by a growing audience of fun-seekers. Extensive pre-launch research and a very interactive social network combined to create a very successful product and after a review by both Reuters (and BBC pidgin in 2020), the developers are quite confident that Vybe will not be going out of trend anytime soon.
Online dating is an old concept that dates back to personal ads in the 1700s and subsequently, video cassette dating services. Mobile phones and the internet only served to make an existing idea only more popular, and therefore, highly exploitable. It certainly doesn’t stand to reason that many people, Africans especially, consider online dating “unnatural” and prefer to meet people “the old-fashioned way’”. Taking the obvious bias in cognition, the Vybe App expanded to offline dating services since its beta launch and promises constant and consistent technological updates, expansion across the continent, more language options, and most importantly, very affordable subscription plans.
This Valentine’s, with pandemic restrictions and policies still in place, Vybe still maintains the status quo of love and excitement. With over 10,000 downloads, 14,000 matches, and counting, the Vybe App has strategically placed itself as Nigeria’s Cupid, easing emotional stress over the pandemic and even fortifying already-established connections with their real-life events.
In this interview with Adetolani Eko, the CEO of Vybe, we discuss the Vybe App in its entirety; the plans for the future, and the relevance of the app now more than ever in this season of love.
What is the app?
Vybe is a dating service that is designed to help Africans connect in fun and secure ways; online and offline.
How does it work?
Vybe allows people to connect online through our mobile apps and offline by attending our events and meet-ups. On the app, users can filter potential matches by age, location, gender, etc. When they find someone they’re interested in they can send a chat request (lovestruck) or swipe right on the profile.
On the offline side of things, we host events like speed dating sessions and game nights where single people can connect and meet new people.
This is an example of one of our speed dating sessions:
What was the motivation behind it?
Vybe was really born out of problems we experienced as single Africans and also stories from friends and family.
For example, Africans have access to less than 40% of the top dating platforms in the world. This means these apps don’t even appear in your app store or you can’t create an account. As if that isn’t bad enough, you have to struggle with “catfishes” and fraudulent profiles or even meeting someone who wants something completely different from you.
There was also the issue of a lack of African tailored options. On most existing platforms you had to identify as “African American” or “Of African descent” and that was not detailed enough for the realities of finding a suitable partner for most Africans.
It all just seemed a bit ridiculous to us that in a society where courtship/marriage had so much importance and at a time when more Africans are on the internet than ever before, there was no effective way to find a partner online. So we did it.
What is your aim?
The goal for Vybe has always been the same. It is to make it possible for Africans to make real connections in a fun but secure way.
Who are the people behind it and what are their backgrounds?
Vybe was founded by Moronke Anifowose (COO) & Osagie Omonzokpia (CTO) & Eko Adetolani(CEO) slightly over a year ago. Moronke has experience in software development & project management, Osagie in software development & design, Eko in product management & software development. One thing we had in common was the desire to see better solutions designed and built to solve African problems. I think we understood early that western solutions may not always be the best solution for Africans.
Where is Vybe headed?
The most important thing for us at the moment is increasing awareness about Vybe in Nigeria, then gaining a stronger presence in other parts of West Africa. Currently, our apps are available in English & French which are the most popular languages in Africa and we have plans to support other languages like Swahili, Afrikaans, Hausa and so on.
We want to get to a point where the name ‘Vybe’ becomes synonymous with making true connections across the continent.
What are your stats looking like compared to other counterparts in your field/industry?
It has been just over a year since we launched our beta app and I’d say we’ve done a decent job so far especially with limited resources. We currently have over 11,000 users from over 65 countries and have made over 45,000 matches so far. We’re definitely not as big as Tinder or Badoo yet but I’d say we’re one of the industry leaders at the moment in terms of indigenous dating & matchmaking platforms.
What are the challenges you’ve faced in setting Vybe up considering Nigeria’s stereotypical climate?
While building Vybe we went through the common challenges that a start-up or new business would face: designing/building the product, finding the first users, funding, and so on. We also encountered some naysayers, others who couldn’t tell the difference between a ‘hook up’ service & a dating app, and people who still think online dating is something to hide.
But it’s definitely not as hard as most people might assume. Africans are not the same people they were 10 years ago. A lot more people are starting to see the advantages of leveraging technology to find that special someone.
A good example would be our beta launch. We built an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to test the waters and see how people would feel about an African dating app. In less than 48 hours we had over 1000 users. The app and our servers basically crashed because that was double the amount of users we were expecting for the entire first month of the beta launch. We eventually lost most of those users and had to build from scratch. That provided a lot of validation for what we were building.
How have you surpassed them?
A really important thing for us is how we tell the Vybe story. We’re intentional about it. We try to make our communication simple and focus on the value we bring which is providing true connections.
We’ve also tried to build a community of “Vybers” from who we learn and get continuous feedback.
Have you had a personal experience of using Vybe? Even as the CEO?
Though I’m currently not the target market for Vybe, we’ve actually had a lot of people reach out to us to tell us how they found a partner on Vybe and it’s always heartwarming to read. An example is a story of a couple that met on Vybe during the lockdown which we documented here.
Will you ever adjust it to enable interracial relationships?
Sure! Vybe has never been about race. We currently have users from over 65 countries and that includes people of all races and colors.
We don’t let race stop people from finding that special person, we just focus on making dating easier & more secure for Africans.
What does Vybe say about Nigerian youths and their attitudes to romance?
What we’ve noticed is that Nigerian youths have become more outspoken and clear about what they want in a partner/relationship.
They have also become more open to the idea of making valuable connections online. This could be professional, romantic, or just casual friendships and this has reflected in the number of friendships and marriages that started online in recent times.
Every other thing you need to know about Vybe is here.