A group of college students raise a seed round to pioneer Gen-Z social dating product Lolly in the face of a pandemic

LOS ANGELES, March 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Lolly is the brainchild of Babson College senior Marc Baghadjian and NYU graduate, Sacha Schermerhorn. Lolly was borne out of their frustration with the pictures, swiping, and height thresholds that defined all dating apps. Realizing that people were turning to social apps as a more fun way to date, Marc and Sacha decided to set out on a journey to build their own dating app that embraced this evolution in user behavior.

“I was just frustrated with how one-dimensional the dating scene was. To be frank, the world has changed but the platforms to support us just have not. COVID only made that clearer to me and the Gen-Z community,” Baghadjian says.

Lolly’s product vision is focused on creating a fun feed of engaging short social videos that bring life to what was once static pictures of complex people. Video allows people to tell their stories by being funny, interesting, attractive, and more. Our clap functionality allows users to appreciate content without committing to matching, allowing fun social flirting to take the scene. Features like these bring the fun in social applications to the dating scene and give us an opportunity to pioneer a new category we call, Social Dating.

Product Manager Alyssa Goldberg says that this is what sets Lolly apart from other dating apps. "We are bringing organic fun back into dating. Never in real life would you judge someone from afar and immediately say yes or no. People want to talk, engage, laugh, flirt and find common interests. Lolly is enabling users to showcase their personality through video content, find people based on common interests, and easily flirt using claps. Living at the intersection of social and dating gives us that perfect sweet spot of entertainment and self-expression to create more engaging connections, not just a platform for virality.”

New users first undergo an onboarding process, in which they first see sample videos of dating content created by existing users. This serves as an example to inspire new users to put themselves out there and showcase their own personality through their own content. After making an account, users can interact with each other through Claps, Crushes, and messaging for their matches. What is unique about Lolly's Clap and Crush process is that those signals are kept private—only the receiving user will know who has "Clapped" or "Crushed" on them.

“Sharing content and commenting on each other’s posts, getting to know each other through profiles and photos, sending videos… this is how relationships are already being formed online. Current dating apps just don’t have the bandwidth to take on the types of connection that properly represent those currently happening among Gen-Z," Baghadjian states.

In fact, it was through online interactions that Marc met his co-founder and President of Lolly, Sacha Schermerhorn. Schermerhorn met through Baghadjian via a mutual friend who was in the same prestigious Pioneer accelerator cohort as Schermerhorn, whose background is in neuroscience.

“We met through someone in my fellowship program where I help kids get funding. My mentee won the Pioneer accelerator and Sacha had also won Pioneer. He was the one who originally connected us," says Baghadjian.

"He had insisted that Marc and I would have a lot to talk about, and on our first phone call, we literally ended up talking for hours. It was freakishly instant chemistry," Schermerhorn reflects.

That first call was on June 3rd, 2020. Since then, the two have moved in together, have amassed an incredible team, and have taken Lolly from merely a bold idea to a fully-fledged, venture-backed startup. Their efforts and progress have not gone unnoticed either.

Lolly has attracted the attention of John Sculley (former CEO of Apple), Ron Conway’s SV Angel, John Pleasants (former President of IAC [Match Group parent company] Ticketmaster), Blair Shane (former CMO of Sequoia Capital), Jane Metcalfe (co-founder of WIRED), Scott Eagle (former CMO of E-Harmony), Mitch Lowe (Founding Executive at Netflix), among others. In keeping with its focus on the Gen Z experience, Lolly is also currently working with investor California Crescent Fund, a student-run venture fund located in Southern California, to assist in community building and growth.

Notably, Baghadjian and Schermerhorn have accomplished all of this despite the challenges of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way people interact, as evidenced by the meteoric rise of Zoom and TikTok, providing otherwise isolated individuals with an outlet for creativity, self-expression, and most important: interaction. Baghadjian and Schermerhorn believe that the Lolly team’s Gen-Z DNA has been key advantages that set them apart from others.

Schermerhorn states, "We, as humans, are more multifaceted than static pictures. Could you sum up the person who means the most to you in 3 pictures and a 1 sentence bio? The reality is that the incumbents are led by people so far removed from Gen-Z that they simply cannot sympathize with the demographic. That's where we see the massive market potential. Dating is dated (pun intended), it's time to breathe fresh air into the industry and give Gen-Z what they've been waiting for."

Baghadjian agrees. "COVID-19 and our quarantine experiences in 2020 only validated our mission with Lolly. We want to focus on connections that aim to empower, include, and lift each other up. Swiping culture is exclusive, it’s dehumanizing, it’s the past. We want to focus on multi-faceted attractiveness and, really for the first time in this industry, introduce personality into the equation."

Lolly is a social dating app that uses short-form video content to let you tell your story. Our product vision is closest to a TikTok meets Tinder and allows people to stand out in a noisy world by being more attractive, funny, interesting in videos than static pictures.

Media Contact:
Zach Conley