Virtual dates and video speed dating: Dating.com Group launches a $50 million corporate venture fund 

The dating startup world is notorious for few exits, and a similarly slim number of buyers. There’s Match Group, which owns Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, and there’s Spark Networks, which owns Christian Mingle, JSwipe, Jdate and Zoosk.

Dating.com Group also owns a slew of dating brands, like Dil Mil, a dating app for South Asians. And it just closed a $50 million corporate venture capital fund to invest in more.

Dmitry Volkov, the founder of Dating.com Group, said that he’s looking for startups beyond swipe mechanics, referring indirectly to companies like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble, in which users can swipe through profiles of eligible individuals. 

“The new mainstream product mechanic is yet to be discovered,” he noted. Beyond capital, Volkov thinks startups can use Dating.com Group for technical talent and product advice. He also thinks the strategic investments could lead to acquisitions down the road, which isn’t revolutionary, considering this is a corporate venture capital fund. Volkov claims he is in multiple talks with companies across Asia, the U.S. and Europe. With more talent under its umbrella, he says that Dating.com Group will plan to exit via IPO. 

Dating.com Group is launching this fund during a time where people are told to socially isolate, not commiserate over dates and dinners. Volkov thinks that people spending less money in times of crisis could add to some “softness in revenue,” but he finds promise in streaming services. 

“People will spend more time online, in social networks and dating apps, so I expect a spike in user activity in video dating and chatting online,” he said. “Younger generations are more native with video-first content. New niche players will always appear. But sooner or later there will be a mainstream disruptor, like Tinder was some time ago.”

The company’s first investment was S’More, a relationship app started by for former managing director of Chappy, Bumble’s gay dating app.

To pull on the video thread a bit more, Volkov said that streaming services have gotten interest in Asia and across Europe and the USA. It’s the idea of video broadcasting from one individual to a big group, and he pointed to Meet Group for developing these services in the dating industry, too.

It was the first time I’ve heard of video dating, and since we’re seeing new use cases for literally everything during this time of social isolation, I decided to dig a little deeper. Sure enough, The League, which matches you with people you have on LinkedIn or Facebook, offers video speed dating

According to a press kit from The League [PDF], the speed dating option lets users go on three two-minute speed dates every Sunday night. People can also video chat their matches — an option that The League touted was both “safe and cost effective.”

We’ll see if virtual dating catches on as it moves from a cost-effective option to the only opportunity some people have right now. We know at least for now, at least one company has an appetite for it.