Remember “Bang With Friends?” The controversial app, which later rebranded as Down, was acquired by Singapore-based dating startup Paktor (they’re, um… hooking up).
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but we’re told it was several million. After raising just $1 million, it was a “positive outcome” for investors like Tim Draper. Paktor has pulled in more than $50 million from investors, including a recent $32.5 million round in October — it is focused on Asia but also has services in Latin America, the U.S. and Europe.
Colin Hodge, founder and CEO of Down, is joining the Paktor team and will keep both the Down and Sweet apps operating. Hodge will also be overseeing Paktor Labs, where he’ll be testing new ideas and acquiring other apps.
“Bang With Friends started as a late-night side project and took off like a rocket — we hit 1 million signups in less than three months,” Hodge says of their 2013 launch. To date, they’ve had 5 million downloads and currently have about 200,000 monthly active users.
Down is also profitable. Hodge says they have a $1 million annual revenue run rate stemming from in-app purchases. They also had minimal costs because he had been the only full-time employee lately, down from six staffers in its earlier days.
The original Bang With Friends gained a lot of early attention for its controversial concept. The startup let users select which Facebook friends they were attracted to and would only disclose it to them if there was mutual interest.
Hodge said the publicity resulted in conversations with television executives about a possible show. But the attention also generated a lot of criticism. Because it dealt with sex, he says he saw a “target on his back.”
The app “faced a lot of extra scrutiny due to the sexuality of BWF — with raising money, platform access, recruiting, and to potential acquirers,” said Hodge.
The founder didn’t even want to have his name attached to the project early on. He went by the pseudonym “C,” but was ultimately “outed.”
BWF rebranded to Down after Apple kicked it off its platforms and a lawsuit with “Words with Friends” maker Zynga. The app also expanded beyond Facebook friends and now includes all nearby users.
We’re told there were acquisition talks with others, including a large messaging company in the U.S. But Hodge says he’s happy to join Paktor, “the biggest app for dating in southeast Asia.”
The purchase is notable for the online dating industry, because the typical buyer is usually Match Group. Tinder, OKCupid, PlentyOfFish and the name-bearing Match.com are part of a long list of brands that now fall under the umbrella of the same company.
Calling this an “unlikely exit,” Hodge says “we’re proud to have survived it.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Down fits into Paktor’s existing business. While it operates a Tinder-like service in Southeast Asia, the company’s international businesses are run in conjunction with partners and do not carry the Paktor name or brand. CEO Joseph Phua recently told TechCrunch that Paktor is expanding into ‘social entertainment,’ such as mobile streaming, but this acquisition looks like an effort to increase its presence and user numbers in the U.S. and other western markets.
Additional reporting by Jon Russell