Dating chatbot NearGroup raises $1.6 mn seed funding

NearGroup Inc., a chatbot that connects like-minded people based on their location and personality, has reportedly raised $1.6 million (Rs 10 crore) in seed funding led by Finland-based early-stage venture capital firm OpenOcean.

Silicon Valley-based VC firm NeoTribe Ventures and San Francisco-based accelerator Boost VC also put in money, a report in The Economic Times said.

The San Mateo, California-based startup will use the capital to bolster its India operations and strengthen its marketing team.

The NearGroup chatbot works through messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Viber, Kik, and Line. “There is social stigma which comes upon using a dating app and women do not wish to have an open dating profile which both their friends and relatives can see, so when a guy makes his profile on NearGroup messenger, his interests and thoughts can be viewed by women for them to send a chat request to, but the woman's profile details can't be viewed by guys, it is sort of a swayamvar for women,” Prashant Pitti, founder and chief executive of NearGroup, was quoted as telling ET.

The startup has carried out pilot tests of this feature on 15,000 users and claims that it has on-boarded more users, the report stated.

NearGroup was founded in 2016 by Pitti, an IIT Madras alumnus and founder of travel portal EaseMyTrip. It was one of the 12 companies selected by Boost VC, and it had subsequently shifted base there. In February this year, the startup was selected by social networking giant Facebook Inc. for its FbStart programme.

Stefan Kojouharov, founder of ChatbotsLife, and Beerud Sheth, CEO of Gupshup chatbot platform, are advisers to the company.

Several dating apps have attracted venture capital in the past few months.

Last month, matchmaking app for the differently-abled Inclov raised an undisclosed amount in pre-Series A funding from a clutch of investors.

In March, dating app Matchbox was selected by social media giant Facebook for its early-stage mentorship programme FbStart.

In February, DoubleYou Technologies Pvt Ltd, the Gurgaon-based company behind dating app Woo, acquired Los Angeles-based Dus, for an undisclosed sum.

In the same month, Bangalore-based matchmaking app Aisle raised an undisclosed amount in fresh funding from CIO Angel Network, Konglo Ventures, White Unicorn Ventures and LetsVenture.

In December last year, Shaadi.com, operated by People Interactive India Pvt. Ltd, acquired Frivil, a mobile-based dating app owned by Delhi-based Thrill Pte Ltd.

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