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Q+A: A peek into dating apps

By Lionell Go Macahilig - 7 Feb 2017

Q+A: A peek into dating apps

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Forbes 30 Under 30 lister and Peekawoo CEO Valenice Balace talks about dating apps, women empowerment, and finding love this Valentine season.

Can you describe the current situation of the dating app category?

In the past few years that I’ve been working with dating apps, I noticed that the category grew. More importantly, there are so many Asian dating apps now and they’re fitting themselves according to the culture of their target market. In Hong Kong, they built a group dating app where you can meet more people, since there are many foreigners there. In Singapore, matchmaking is the craze. Here in the Philippines, we like meeting up. So apart from the app itself, we do host events so our users can meet up. The dating app category is not just expanding, but it is also adapting to culture.

How do you describe the dating culture in the Philippines and how does Peekawoo adapt to it?

One of the things that we noticed is that, there are many Filipinas who are hesitant to date because they are afraid of labeling. If you are the kind who dates lots of people, others will look at you as a flirt, even if in reality you are not. Crime rate is also relatively high in our country. When I started dating, my parents were nervous about whom would I go out with. Hence, I and my cousins always go with a chaperone. Our parents need to know the person, so that if something happens, they know whom should they ask.

Since we are aware of these concerns of Filipino women, we try to make Peekawoo as trusted as possible. In my case, as the founder, I go out and meet a lot of people to let them know that they can trust us and we care for them. Peekawoo is a friendly version of online dating. It can be described as a community. It is still a dating site, but beyond that, you can email us any time. Can you imagine sending an email to the founders of other dating apps about women problems? Here, we’re acting like sisters to our users. If they have a date and they need a company, we can assist them. We’re more like that. We go beyond the site and the mobile app.

Right now, we’re just trying to get more events. People want more events. We felt that there is a need for Filipinos to learn how to date. We noticed that many men do not know how to initiate a conversation, while women are too shy to talk. So we want to put them in an event where they will get used to having a conversation. We have to do more events this year to increase people’s awareness about dating apps. We’re not in competition with other dating apps. The reason why dating has become more acceptable is because dating apps are coming in. However, we primarily target women.

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Why focus on women? Is women empowerment one of Peekawoo’s key advocacies?

A lot of people are asking me about women empowerment. But it is more of people having more options, apart from deciding on something because you are receiving pressures from your friends or the society. There is this one girl whom we interviewed about dating apps. She told us that she hates it when people are calling her flirt. She explained that she dates because it builds up her standards in choosing the right person. You learn the positive and negative traits of a person, so you’ll try to search for another person who has a better set of characteristics. We don’t condone if you want to hookup using Peekawoo, but it should be a mutual decision.

What’s the difference of Peekawoo compared with other dating apps?

To be honest, Peekawoo is not too different from other dating apps in terms of user interface. The only difference is that it is run and owned by female founders. A guy founder is usually not concerned with hookup stories. But in Peekawoo, we are more concerned about those stories, because if our site receives a lot of those, it means that it is becoming less friendly for females. We are also concerned about the parents of our users and the people who are living with them, since we have a family-centric culture. I came from a Catholic family with relatives who are serving in the church, so when I started Peekawoo, I ensured that it is an app which my parents can be proud of. In fact, Peekawoo is a winner of the Catholic Social Media Awards. It is another proud moment for my parents. Even if Peekawoo is a dating app, it is appreciated by the Catholic community.

With the Valentine season upon us, what is your advice to those who are looking for love through dating apps?

I’ve been meeting a lot of people, especially when I started Peekawoo. Sometimes, I feel as a Filipino that we are too focused on our group. When I started meeting people, I realized that there are many kinds of people and each has his or her own story. For the Valentine’s Day, if you’re still not finding the right one, it would be good for you to try looking outside your circle. There should be no pressure. Try to listen first to other people’s story and through that, you will appreciate yourself more.