According to Urban Dictionary, “Bae” is “a rather trendy, however controversial form of endearment. ‘Bae’ is a nickname for a friend, lover, etc. It is seen as an abbreviation of ‘babe’.” The word “bae” is only the latest of trendy colloquialisms with urban vernacular origins to make it to the mainstream. The word is often used facetiously by millennials to make fun of their friends’ crushes and as an anointed title for celebrity crushes. However, the word has recently been given new meaning. Earlier last year, in April of 2015, a team of three launched BAE (Before Anyone Else) a mobile-first dating app optimized to connect people of color to potential matches—or ultimately, to bae—giving the word a whole new meaning.
Brothers Brian (CEO) and Justin Gerrard (CMO) with the help of Jordan Kunzika (CTO) started BAE. Brian, formerly a media analytics consultant at Neilson and UVA graduate, brings a strong understanding of audiences, business development, and vision for the app’s future. Justin, an MBA student at Dartmouth and Harvard gradate, serves as CMO while Jordan—also from Dartmouth who singlehandedly built the platform—serves as CTO of the company. Together these three hope to change the dating scene for multicultural millennials looking for love.
BAE was born of a problem that many people of color face when dating offline, but that was amplified by platforms such as Hinge or Tinder: not having enough diversity among their options. Placing priority on an underserved market is a strong competitive advantage in the crowded space of online dating. BAE’s users are also limited to 15 swipes within a 8-hour period, making it harder for users to exhaust options in a short time and narrowing the number of potential matches. In addition to facilitating connections, BAE incentivizes users to take their actions offline by offering coupons to local venues geo-targeted to the location of the latest matches. Eventually BAE hopes to serve users ads allowing users to swipe right or left based on relevance.
BAE has seen impressive growth for a product that has been in market for just over nine months. Since its April 2015 launch at Howard University—which made the pages of Complex for “The Most Epic Swag Surf”— BAE has received over 45,000 downloads. BAE, despite its current domestic focus, has started to win over hearts overseas as they currently rank in the Top 30 Lifestyle apps in Tanzania and the Top 50 apps in Nigeria. The team has also placed well at various pitch contests such as the MasterCard pitch contest at Northside Festival, at Dreamit Ventures 60 Second Pitch Contest, and Dartmouth Ventures Competition where they won first place. Their performance has helped them raise over $55,000 without giving up equity—an impressive milestone for any startup.
BAE’s growth has been fueled organically by word of mouth, in addition to lifestyle events that are well-aligned to their target demographic. BAE both sponsored and hosted a number of lifestyle events in New York City and Washington, D.C.–two cities that over-index in their target demographic. These events have helped them generate awareness among new users while enhancing the experience for current users by providing a space for them to take their connections offline.
As BAE looks to the future, they’re focus is on user growth and gathering insights on current users. BAE’s CEO, Brian’s philosophy is to “let the insights we gather drive the growth.” The team behind BAE has a strong grasp on their audience, a consumer-centric product, strong brand positioning, and a proven ability to acquire and mange resources. They’ve also been able to successfully integrate live events into their platform, a place where many online dating services fall short. If they continue to hone in on these competitive advantages, BAE might be the ideal match for the market.
For single multicultural millennials, BAE means more options. For Tinder, it means stiff competition from a nimble force. For founders Brian, Justin, and Jordan, BAE is just the beginning of an exciting journey through the world of entrepreneurship.
About the Author
Alix Montes acts as Startups Editor for TAOP. Those who know him well call him Alix or Montes for short. When he’s not putting in hours at LMO Advertising, Alix can be found writing about career advice for young professionals through Levo League, swimming, teaching yoga, or traveling. Connect: Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin