"Why I moved from Tinder to Joiner App"

Former Tinder chief designer Yaroslav Zubko on the frustration of dating apps, and the potential solution
Yaroslav Zubko

The era of explosive growth in the dating app industry may be reaching its zenith. As a seasoned veteran who once spearheaded product design and monetization efforts at Tinder, Yaroslav Zubko now charts a new course, placing his bets on an unconventional contender – “Joiner App”, a Lithuanian startup poised to change how people connect and communicate in the digital age.

I initially discovered the Joiner App through LinkedIn, which led to my acquaintance with its founder, Eduard Titov. From the moment I learned about their concept, I was captivated. 

Joiner App is a socialization platform that makes it easy to find like-minded people anywhere in the world. In Lithuania, the test market was officially launched 2 months ago and has since grown tenfold, now boasting more than 13,000 active users. The app has also attracted over 0.5 million euros in investment from angel investors.

In the Joiner App feed, users can scroll through and find nearby activities that match their interests. Additionally, anyone can create their own events or activities. A standout feature of the app is the chat function, which allows participants to communicate once they've joined. Users can also follow each other, and the most active members have the chance to become influencers.

As an enthusiastic traveler, I've often stepped out of my comfort zone to adapt to new environments and cultivate social circles from scratch. This project resonated deeply with my personal experiences and challenges. As the startup began to gain traction, I was compelled to contribute to developing a high-quality product that would make socializing in the US as seamless and accessible as envisioned.

In the dynamic and competitive US market, new dating apps emerge daily, each touting unique features. However, amid this digital proliferation, the essence of live communication and genuine social interaction often becomes lost. For me, authentic connections and meaningful social engagements are paramount, especially in the context of romantic relationships.

That’s why I was happy to join the team as Head of Product Design and leverage my expertise from Tinder to drive the growth of the Joiner App.

I am convinced that many dating apps create unrealistic expectations. On a first date, there is an implicit pressure to evaluate the other person as a potential life partner, leading to stress, tension, and misaligned expectations. This mindset obstructs the natural process of getting to know someone authentically.

I have long envisioned an app that bridges this gap—a platform designed to connect like-minded individuals for casual meetups and shared activities. Unlike the more formal and complex MeetUp, this would be a relaxed, user-friendly solution aimed at fostering spontaneous connections and leisurely social interactions.

The Crossroads

Once deeply entrenched in the dating app industry, and responsible for its design and monetization, I eventually found myself at a crossroads. The question posed to me often is, "Were you disappointed when you left?" Disappointment, if any, wasn't rooted in the app's success. Undoubtedly, Tinder reigns supreme as the world's most popular dating platform, with regional contenders in the United States. However, despite its triumphs, I found myself increasingly disenchanted.

My disenchantment with dating apps stems from a profound belief in the intrinsic value of real-world connections. Face-to-face interactions offer an authenticity that digital profiles often obscure. In the realm of dating apps, personas are reduced to pixels—avatars designed to attract rather than reveal true character.

This digital paradigm poses significant philosophical and psychological challenges. Many individuals have yet to fully explore their own identities. Who are we, truly? Beyond superficial labels and hobbies lies a complex tapestry of traits waiting to be discovered. Online interactions offer only a curated glimpse, failing to capture the essence of a person.

The true appeal of meeting someone in person lies in the gradual unfolding of shared moments and the authentic revelation of one’s self. Face-to-face dialogue breaks down barriers, fostering genuine connections. It's a process of vulnerability and trust, a journey of mutual discovery that transcends the limitations of digital interfaces.

In a world filled with illusions and fleeting digital interactions, the simplicity of human connection stands as a beacon of hope. Genuine encounters bridge the gap between virtual and real, creating connections that endure beyond the screen. The beauty of meeting someone in person lies in this authenticity, a quality that digital interactions cannot replicate.

Real Life Matters

In the realm of digital connections and the ever-evolving landscape of dating apps, there's been a recent buzz surrounding Renate Nieborg, the former manager of Tinder, and her bold venture into the startup world with Meeno. She's voiced her disillusionment with dating apps, predicting their eventual demise as interest dwindles. But what are my thoughts on this?

Disillusionment, often associated with the dark side of online interactions, resonates deeply with me. Harassment is a significant issue in the digital dating sphere, where anonymity fosters a culture of impunity. The ease with which individuals can create multiple profiles to engage in malicious behavior highlights the inadequacies of current safeguards. In contrast, the real world imposes tangible consequences, promoting a sense of accountability often missing in virtual realms.

Limiting technology's role in our quest for connection may seem counterintuitive in today's digital age, yet it's a perspective I wholeheartedly endorse. Authenticity thrives in face-to-face encounters, where genuine connections transcend the superficiality of digital profiles. While stepping out of one's comfort zone may be daunting, human interaction is intrinsic to our well-being.

The allure of online dating lies in its perceived simplicity, offering a gateway to potential relationships with a swipe of a finger. However, this convenience often leads to disillusionment, as genuine connections become diluted amidst fleeting conversations. This reality has driven my passion for projects like the Joiner App.

The Joiner App represents a beacon of hope in a landscape of digital disillusionment. Its rapid growth and expanding user base underscore its potential to revolutionize social networking. Launching such a product in the US holds immense promise, given its diverse population and strong demand for connection.

Having personally experienced the challenges of relocation, I understand the pressing need for platforms like Joiner. The United States, with its melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, presents fertile ground for fostering meaningful connections. Investors, attuned to market dynamics, recognize the untapped potential in Joiner's vision.

As I continue to dedicate my efforts to this venture, I am filled with a sense of purpose and excitement for the journey ahead. Joiner App is not just about facilitating connections; it's about building communities, forging bonds, and enriching lives. I am truly grateful to be part of this journey.

Written by
June 18, 2024
Written by
Yaroslav Zubko
June 18, 2024