According to a 2016 Pew Research study, online dating has tripled since 2013 among young adults. Despite the significant uptick, dating apps geared toward Black folks were still limited, especially for millennials. San Francisco-based brothers Justin and Brian Gerrard saw this disparity and used their unique experiences in tech and marketing to create the “Bae” (Before Anyone Else) app with their former partner, Jordan Kunzika, in 2015. After having their company acquired by Tagged in 2016, the siblings are now part of a larger platform that develops products specifically for millennials. Check out their backstory:
A recent Pew Research study reveals that’s the approximate percentage of African-Americans who have used dating sites or apps, compared with 16 percent of Whites.
The amount of venture capital the Gerrard brothers raised for Bae’s first round of funding.
Justin, 30, and Brian, 28, have experience at top companies such as Microsoft, Nielsen and American Express. The budding entrepreneurs applied the marketing and business strategies they’d acquired to build their business, focusing on HBCUs to promote the app. The siblings also toured colleges and hosted mixers to build Bae’s customer base.
“We actually launched Bae in April 2015 at Howard University in front of a crowd of about 2,500 students at its annual Springfest. The video from our launch went viral, and we had millions of views and about 17,000 downloads in our first month,” says Justin. Adds Brian, “Howard’s the Mecca, right?”
Best in Show
Bae was named one of the “11 Best Black Dating Apps for 2016” by DatingAdvice.com and is registered as a “Top 50 Lifestyle App” in 20 countries across the Diaspora.
“[The dating app] was our first venture,” says Justin. “But as Brian always likes to say, we started building Legos together and now it’s businesses. It’s been a great opportunity to go through this process, grow with him and bring our company to heights we weren’t initially sure we could achieve.”
Acquired by dating site Tagged, which has more than 100 million users, Bae will be rolled into a new platform that will include more features and debuts in early 2017. The siblings now hold executive positions in the brand’s marketing and innovation departments. In addition, Justin and Brian recently launched the first lifestreaming app for urban millennials, WeChill.
The Garrards credit much of their success to understanding that “millennials care about authenticity, particularly expressing themselves creatively. Now, they’re the content providers. All you need is a phone, and you have your own entertainment company,” says Brian.
The founders constantly receive feedback from couples who have connected on Bae and gotten married—they’ve even received an invitation to a wedding.