Dating app Siren, which empowered women, shuts down after running out of money

Sound the alarm for women looking for something other than traditional dating apps: Siren is shutting down.

The Seattle-based app, which billed itself as an alternative to sites such as Tinder and Match.com with a focus on empowering women, is closing its doors after running out of money.

Siren co-founder Susie Lee penned a blog post Tuesday detailing the reasons for the company’s shutdown. She noted that Blackrun Ventures, which last year invested $225,000 as part of Siren’s seed round, had never “completed their obligation.”

“Instead, we received small, unpredictable amounts, with the other investors courageously stepping forward,” Lee wrote. “Through the dedication of these committed individuals we were able to continue development, however we could never plan beyond a few months, hindering growth, milestones, and new funding opportunities.”

Siren co-founders Susie Lee, left, and Katrina Hess. (Lance Mercer Photo)

In an interview with GeekWire, Lee said that “all closing docs had been signed, but [Blackrun Ventures] never completed their commitment.”

“Instead, they issued small, unpredictable tranches, often with months in between, despite sometimes daily requested updates and repeated assurances,” Lee noted.

Blackrun Ventures, which invested as part of its women-focused investment arm, still lists Siren on its portfolio page. We’ve reached out to the firm for more details and will update this post when we hear back. Update: On Friday, Blackrun responded to GeekWire and provided this statement:

“Blackrun Ventures joined a number of investors to participate in Siren’s $500,000 seed funding round. As the lead investor, we committed $225,000, of which 75% was disbursed over the last 12 months following the completion of due diligence.

We were committed to providing the remainder of the investment to support Siren’s expansion, and sent our consultant to work with the team on their strategic direction. Unfortunately, the founders made a decision on April 4th to close down the company.

The dating app market is crowded and highly competitive, but our reasons for investing in Siren were strategic, and we were won over by the vision and passion of the company’s founders. Nevertheless, while we still see potential for the business, particularly internationally, we respect their decision.”

“Despite the uncertainty shadowing us, we did our best to build on our momentum, doing everything within our power to stay afloat,” Lee wrote in the blog post. “But without a way to harness and distribute funds for expansion, we simply could not grow fast enough. The efforts of two co-founders alone were not enough to compete with the well-funded companies in this space. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Siren showed strong traction—relocation and expansion to New York, the formation of key partnerships, and user success stories that let us know we were onto something special.”

Siren

Siren CEO Susie Lee celebrates the App of the Year win at the 2015 GeekWire Awards.

Founded in 2014 by Lee and co-founder Katrina Hess, who served as COO, Siren differentiated itself from other dating apps by prioritizing women’s safety and allowing users to engage through their answers to daily questions provided by local businesses and local cultural icons. The app relied on conversation as a starting point rather than long profiles or photo surfing.

“We’ve created the first mobile platform designed for unexpected and constructive flirting,” Lee told GeekWire in 2014.

After winning the GeekWire App of the Year award in 2015, Lee and Hess relocated Siren to New York City this past September as entrepreneurs-in-residence at the New Museum’s incubator program, NEW INC.

Lee said the company was “pre-revenue,” but had a three-pronged revenue model vision that included online-to-offline partnerships with local businesses, paid subscriptions, and “psychometric data analysis of aggregate user responses.”

The app had 38,000 registered users, with an 80 percent response rate to initial messages, Lee noted. Siren had raised $960,000. Its only current employees are the two co-founders, who are both now back in Seattle.

Here’s Lee’s full blog post:

It is with heavy hearts—and eyes to the future—that we must announce that Friday, April 7, 2017, Siren will be closing our “doors.”

While it’s not unusual for a startup to run out of money, the way we ran out was as unexpected as it was devastating. At the beginning of 2016, we closed our round with a lead investor whose mission was to support female-centric companies and who saw the potential in Siren’s clear differentiation in a saturated market. Yet, as of this writing, a full calendar year later, they have not completed their obligation. Instead, we received small, unpredictable amounts, with the other investors courageously stepping forward. Through the dedication of these committed individuals we were able to continue development, however we could never plan beyond a few months, hindering growth, milestones, and new funding opportunities.

Despite the uncertainty shadowing us, we did our best to build on our momentum, doing everything within our power to stay afloat. But without a way to harness and distribute funds for expansion, we simply could not grow fast enough. The efforts of two co-founders alone were not enough to compete with the well-funded companies in this space. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Siren showed strong traction—relocation and expansion to New York, the formation of key partnerships, and user success stories that let us know we were onto something special.

Indeed, we are enormously proud of Siren’s accomplishments and impact. One of our goals was to change the course of this industry—an industry historically run by men, rampant with harassment, objectification, and immaturity at every level. And as newer, better funded companies like Bumble and Hinge market themselves as relationship-friendly alternatives to Tinder, we can see how our early and persistent efforts to humanize the online dating space have influenced the conversation, and we hope this industry continues to grow in that direction.

Every day our Question of the Day (QOTD) hosts brought a creative new question to the table, and as a result, Siren has amassed one of the best repositories of quality ice-breakers in online dating history. At the end of our run, our QOTD hosts included Arianna Huffington, Anita Sarkeesian, and Esther Perel. Working with these inspiring women was a dream come true for us, and we only wish we had the runway to match the rest of our hustle.

Siren was a lightning rod for progressive spirit in the tech community, bringing together a dynamic group of advisors and investors whose fundamental integrity and respect for women’s issues is unparalleled and unique. It was only after meeting hundreds of people in tech that we could truly appreciate the courage and forward-thinking determination of everyone who signed on to help Siren make the tech world a more intuitive, humane place. Our advisors and investors rallied us on and supported us in our darkest days, and here at the end, they are with us, restating how honored they are to have been part of this venture.

Siren’s story inspired over 200 pieces of press, from the front page of the Seattle Times to CNN, NPR and the Guardian, to Bustle, the Stranger and The Establishment. Durex reached out to us to partner on a marketing campaign #Connect that garnered over 37 million views. We won Geekwire’s App of the year, beating Starbucks and Alaska Airlines in 2015. We presented at TEDx. We spoke at Grace Hopper, the world’s largest conference on women in technology, and we partnered with experimental marketing group Hello Velocity on a viral Tinder hack that satirized the objectification inherent in the swipe-to-reject model. We became entrepreneurs in residence at the New Museum’s incubator, NEW INC in New York City. And we accomplished all of this with a marketing budget of zero dollars and a team that never grew beyond 2-4 core members.

Some founders of social networks have revealed that they began to dislike their members as they grew, a sentiment we found surprising, as we have always loved our community: a creative, optimistic, and thoughtful group who supported us from the very beginning, kindly reporting issues, enthusiastically sharing their beautiful success stories, and thanking us for helping them find someone who saw them in a real, intimate, and deeply human way.

One woman told us that she had not been able to date for over seven years, and met a wonderful, kind man on Siren who had renewed her faith in relationships.

Another wrote, “In March 2015, I introduced myself to someone. I’m happy to say two years later we’re still enjoying each other’s company and refer people to your app all the time. Thanks for a great, easygoing way to introduce yourself online.”

Some jobs require a leap of faith to imagine that you are doing something meaningful in the world, but every time our members share a success story or their wedding photo with us, we knew the work we were doing was important. These are the people we knew we were fighting for. It was their chance, unexpected encounters that let us know our mission was worthwhile, and it is for that community most of all that we grieve this loss.

Siren’s ethos of fostering real conversations in a comfortable space based on mutual respect will live on in our future projects forever. Follow us individually to hear what happens next, and thank you so very much for your enthusiasm, your partnerships, your hope for our success, and your sharing in our every triumph and struggle. We can’t thank our community enough for standing beside us and showing the world that Siren’s mission was a vital presence in the history of online dating.

Goodbye, and thanks for everything.

Susie Lee & Katrina Hess
Co-founders of Siren

The “Dating app Siren, which empowered women, shuts down after running out of money” post appeared on GeekWire.

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