A Conversation with Co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel Dating App

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Arum Kang founded the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel with her three sisters. She lives in Orinda with her husband and two sons.

    In 2012, after getting her MBA from Harvard, Arum Kang and her two sisters (one of whom is Arum’s twin) founded the dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB). The sisters pitched their company on Shark Tank in 2015 and rejected Mark Cuban’s offer of $30 million for the company – the highest offer ever in Shark Tank history at the time.

Tell us about your upbringing and how that led you to forming a company with your two sisters.
    We were born and spent our childhoods in South Korea where our dad has been an entrepreneur all his life. He started a metal recycling business with our uncle and we grew up watching him grow the business. He encouraged us to be entrepreneurs – to create something for the world.
    Our parents sent us to the United States to go to high school and we became really independent and our relationships with each other became really tight. We talked regularly about starting something together.

How did you get the idea of Coffee Meets Bagel?
    While in business school, I looked into dating apps as part of my education. It was a growing market, and while there were a lot of players, there was a need to cater to women. We saw an opening to create an app to speak to those needs.

And the name?
    We studied a lot of brand imaging and discovered while guys want a feeling of exclusivity, women want comfort and safety. We thought coffee breaks are something people look forward to; they’re comfortable. And since we were in New York City at the time, and we loved the bagels there, we came up with Coffee Meets Bagel.

What’s unique about CMB?
    We’re not a high-volume swiping app. We curate the best matches every day at noon and send them to our users, who then have 24 hours to decide on the match. If the interest is mutual, simply connect and start chatting.
    Our streamlined approach resonates with busy professionals. They are prioritizing what’s important. Our users want a long-term partner and to meet other people with the same intention. Our tagline is “We’re for serious daters.”

How have dating apps changed over the years?
    Dating apps have changed as we’ve moved heavily toward mobile from the web. People can have access via their phones which is different than even a few years ago. Also, the negative stereotype of dating apps is largely gone. The proliferation of mobile devices and the trend of online, allows access to a greater variety of people.
    “In the 70s, 90% of people married someone who lived within 10 miles of their home. Your zip code dictated who you married. Now you have the whole world open to you.”

How did it feel to reject Mark Cuban’s $30 million offer for the company?
    We felt fine about passing on Cuban’s offer since we already had funding and were not willing to give up control of the company.

You live in Orinda with your husband, Marc Piette, another entrepreneur (founder of Xwing) and your two sons, Loic, age six and Teo, age four. What do you like most about living here?
    When I grew up in Korea, we knew all our neighbors and the kids all played together. We have that here. I was one of those people who said they would never move out of the city, but I love the community and having more space and a backyard. I’m so blown away by how beautiful it is here.
    Visit CMB’s website at www.coffeemeetsbagel.com.

Kathy Cordova can be reached at cordova@theorindanews.com.

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