Taly is a “recovering lawyer”. By day she works as a product manager for a legal tech startup. By night she hustles on #Blink, a dating app that will change the way people use technology to find and create meaningful connections.
Taly brainstormed the concept for Blink back in 2012, after eating at a blackout restaurant (you know those restaurants where dining takes place in the dark). Taly shares her story...
Taly, tell us about how you came up with the idea for Blink.
When we were in the blackout restaurant, it was incredible to realize how much more open and vulnerable we were willing to be while we were voices in the dark. There’s so much power to connecting with someone when you aren’t subconsciously making conclusions about who they are based on what they look like… or worrying about what they might be thinking about you based on what you look like. We built Blink to allow members to move beyond a looks-first approach to meeting potential partners, setting them up on virtual blind speed dates so they can make real connections not necessarily based on looks. We believe that the “one” might not be the person you’re immediately or most attracted to… and that focusing on a persons appearance might mean… well, not seeing. Underlying Blink’s mission is the belief in a greater purpose - the importance of eliminating biases and assumptions based on physical traits.
What were some of the hurdles you've faced during the setup phase of Blink.
Getting Blink off the ground as a non-technical founder while working full time and with a limited budget has been a challenge. From wireframing to creating marketing assets, writing product specs to drafting operating agreements, finding a developer to developing a budget - being a tech founder and building something from the ground up is incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding and educational. While building a successful company is hard, wrapping your arms around how to start one is the first hurdle.
When did you realise this business had legs
While I’d had the idea for Blink for years, I wasn’t sure if people would buy into the concept. Seeing how excited people were about the Netflix show Love is Blind was a pivotal moment. Funnily, when we first started working on Blink, we planned to host live speed dating events where you couldn’t see the other party during your dates and physical attraction would be accounted for via rating by email after the event.
My co-founder and I first connected about the idea in February and made plans to get together to figure out logistics. Come March, COVID-19 hit and everyone was working from home, so we pivoted to virtual blind speed dating event… and the rest evolved from there. As the reality of day-to-day life during a pandemic evolved, we realized that the dating landscape was changing dramatically - people were far more likely to have phone calls and video dates before in-person dates. Given the greater interest in the idea of getting to know someone before immediately “swiping left” on them and people’s increasing tendency to have virtual first dates, we think we're building Blink at the perfect moment.
What mistakes did you make in the early days
One of your tips you speak about Dianne on branding mistakes to avoid is “choosing a business name that’s hard to
pronounce or spell.” I would add “choosing a business name that you haven’t Googled” to the list!
When my co-founder and I first started the company, we didn’t have a name for it. We had a few ideas, but nothing that clicked. One evening, it struck me - BLINK! It hits on “blind dates” because it’s a closed eye and “speed dates” because the dates go by in the “blink of an eye.”
Plus, it rhymes with wink, sync, link, think - all of these perfect words we could use as part of branding the app. While we figured “Blink” alone wouldn’t be available and knew that other businesses used the name as well (Blink Fitness, Blink home security, etc.), we didn’t mind sharing the name with companies in other industries because it was just so perfect for our concept.
With our new name set, we formed a company, purchased a domain, created social media accounts, and designed our logo, among other things. It wasn’t until MONTHS later that we actually Googled “Blink dating app” and discovered that there were at least two other, now-defunct dating apps called Blink.
Not only that, but someone else had trademarked a Blink Date logo in CA in 2014. Needless to say, we felt pretty stupid for not having checked for other Blink dating apps before running full steam ahead. Lesson learned for next time: a simple Google search can go a long way!
What are the key components that keep you moving forward with your business.
I’m very task driven. When thinking about big picture goals, I try to compartmentalize them into smaller pieces (e.g. “what pieces go into reaching this goal"), which I then break down into actionable tasks (e.g. “I need to do abc & xyz to accomplish this”).
Once I do that, I tackle each item, piece by piece, breaking them down further as needed, until they’re done (which, realistically, is never - there’s always more to be done)! With each task completed, I’m that much closer to success!
The other key component to my success is my refusal to see even the most challenging issues as stop signs - to me, they’re all just obstacles to overcome. As difficult as it is to start a business, it’s important to remember that no challenge is insurmountable.
How does the Blink app work?
Blink helps members go beyond endless swipe culture and make real connections through a two part matching process.
The Blink Date: Based on members’ availability, Blink pairs members with potential matches for 10 minute virtual blind dates. After the date, both members Evalu-date and let us know if there’s a connection.
Glance: We know love isn’t totally blind, so our Glances feature lets users see potential matches’ photo - but unlike other dating apps, there’s no name or profile attached.
Blink only matches members based on mutual positive feedback from both interactions.
What are some tips that you would share with someone starting out.
When building a company, you have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and do anything and everything. To properly understand where you fit into the industry landscape, you need to research the market and your competitors to know what’s out there, and more importantly, what isn’t out there.
To build the product, you have to be ready to prepare and review designs, create use cases and acceptance criteria, and build the actual product (or, if you’re a non-technical founder, work with a developer to build the product).
To ensure your product is a hit with users, you have to be ready to do quality and assurance testing and identify bugs before your product launches. From an operational perspective, you need to build a website, buy a domain, create your Google Suite, and create an Apple Developer account. Not to mention marketing your product both before and after launch, creating social media posts, writing blog posts, drafting press releases, researching potential publications to contact, reaching out to industry leaders, influencers, podcasters, and more.
And then there’s the legal parts of starting a company - establishing a corporate structure, deciding on an equity split, drafting contracts to document ownership and voting rights. There’s a lot to do and, if you don’t do it, it just won’t happen. So be ready to stay up late creating wireframes, making Instagram templates, sending messages to Fiverr sellers about app icons, reaching out to your developer with questions, and more.
In the process of doing such a wide variety of tasks, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s ok to not know everything and it’s ok to admit when you need help. I can’t even count the number of friends and friends of friends I've reached out to with random questions about tax implications, operating agreements, logo designs, marketing advice, and more. But that’s one of the best parts about starting your own company - you get to learn so much! So remain curious and always be open to learning!
Finally, I would say - don’t be afraid to fail. There’s a huge stigma against failure, so much so that many aspiring entrepreneurs don’t ever take the leap. If you don’t take that leap, you’ll never know what could have come from your idea, who you could have met through the process, and what you would have learned had you given it a shot.
Don’t get me wrong, failure isn’t a goal... but as much as it would suck, it’s important to remember that failure is not the worst possible outcome - the worst possible outcome is being paralyzed by fear and never trying at all.
We live by that every day at Blink. It’s scary to invest so much time, energy, emotion, and money into a business and know that it might fail… but its so worth it to try.
Blink is slated to launch in LA this year and other metropolitan areas shortly after.