Diana Kalkouk and Neda Robat-Meily are an incubator’s dream with their new app Winkd, an inclusive dating platform specifically designed with the LGBTQ community in mind. Most founders struggle to get the opportunity to pitch in front of accelerators and incubators, let alone get accepted into their programs. For Winkd, competition is even fiercer with a never ending supply of new app ideas and plenty of dating services already in the market. So what made Diana and Neda stand out from the crowd and get chosen for the University of Sydney’s highly competitive USU Incubate program?
PRIOR EXPERIENCE & DELIVERY TRACK RECORD
Diana is no stranger to the start-ups world, having worked at both Google and Uber before co-founding Winkd. Whereas Neda is the tech expert of this duo having already built a multitude of apps with over half a million users across them worldwide. Between them, they have a background in disruptive digital businesses and the CVs to prove it. So why is this so important to an incubator? “They don’t just look for the idea; the team and what you have done so far is really important to not only incubators but also investors,” Diana explains. This makes sense considering most start-ups fail due to poor execution, which means incubators want to be sure you can deliver on your promises, “It shows them how capable you really are; are you an executer or an administrator. There’s a real difference between the two.”
EXPERTISE IN YOUR NICHE
Being an expert in your business’ niche is not a nice to have, it’s a necessity for incubator applicants. And expertise is something Diana and Neda have in spades. Apart from a serious level of business acumen, this intelligent team are also heavily involved in the Sydney LGTBQ community, being regular attendees at events such as GiRLTHING, Birdcage and Unicorns. This is critical to an incubator-judging panel, as it ensures that their founders really understand their market better than anyone else. For Diana this meant she had first hand experienced with the pain points of hetero-dominated dating apps, their main competition, “We just felt that it didn’t work. Tinder is shit.”
POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Another benefit of being close to their target market, was that Diana and Neda were able to regularly bounce ideas off people in the LGBTQ community and get on the spot customer feedback. This insight into their customer segment helped them design one of their biggest points of difference, their gender preference categories. Rather than the stereotypical male/female/ straight/gay categories, Winkd gives the option to choose “I’m a human looking for a human” if you feel that the conventional options don’t suit you. “We’re trying to be really inclusive with our settings…we spoke to a lot of people and we came up with the setting we thought was best. The app is for everyone, we really want to be all-inclusive.” This feature is so simple, so matter-of-fact and makes you smile and wonder why it hasn’t been done before. Yet the fact that this new customer solution is a first in the dating industry ensured that USU Incubate could see the high value of Winkd with its unique selling point.
With 200 new sign ups in their first week, it’s pretty clear that Diana and Neda are onto something special. Winkd will definitely have a strong impact in their communities and ensure minority groups are no longer forgotten or neglected in the dating world. However, having a desire, an interest and an idea is not enough to get selected in the increasingly competitive incubator programs; you need a track record for delivery, an expertise in your niche and a point of difference to stand out from the crowd.
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Rebecca Ridhalgh currently works in Banking and Finance and runs her e-c-commerce business JetSetGel. Obsessive about business and the entrepreneur space and always a feminist at heart — Rebecca loves her opportunity to meet impressive female business owners and learn from their experiences. Contact Rebecca via [email protected]