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New Austin app Desti uses TikTok-like videos to get you on dates

(Desti)

It’s not too late for some summer loving. A new dating app called Desti has launched in Austin and it aims to help singles explore the city.


The app works by having people build a profile and then select three different “desties,” which are places or activities that the user wants to go to. That way, when you’re swiping, you’re replying about a potential outing rather than simply liking a person.

COO Nick Dominguez said the app came about by brainstorming with founder John Taylor about some of the problems with the dating apps already available. The team brought on one of the designers at Hinge who explained the roadblock for getting virtual matches to meet in person.

“She said, imagine a woman in the middle of a room surrounded by 200 guys at the same time. They all come up to her and say, ‘Hey, what's up? How are you?’” Dominguez said. “200 strangers at once trying to have small talk with you, it turns into white noise. So we were like, how can we change that user experience?”

The answer to that is by making something that can appeal to the next generation. Dominguez talked about witnessing social media being repositioned for its audiences like with Myspace’s popularity transitioning to Facebook then to Instagram. With TikTok gaining traction as a way to discover and see reviews of places over other modes like Yelp, an interface that’s heavy on video made sense.


“We know short-form video is the future. It's just what people expect,” Dominguez said. “Every other dating app is more or less the same as far as the mechanism of showing people here's everyone around you, swipe through. For us, it starts with a destination, with where you want to go. So it is a completely different orientation of a dating app than anything else that exists.”

The team also sees their differences from the others in the opportunity they have to monetize, though they declined to disclose what that model will look like. Still, they say they’re prepared to scale quickly. Over the weekend, Desti had a launch party at the Belmont and is considering which markets they’ll enter next.

And it’s not just dating. If you’re looking to make new friends around Austin, this app could help. Using Besti mode, people can plan meetups with other users. Forming bonds outside of dating is an idea the team liked, particularly for a city like Austin that’s drawn in many transplants.

It’s features like this that make the team excited for the future of the app.

“Desti is poised to not just be a dating app,” Dominguez said. “The name is really about destinations. That's the center of our value proposition is around that short-form content. So we'll definitely lean into that quite a bit.”

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