About The Guest
Passionfruit is the brainchild of creator Paul Deng who came up with the concept of his social app while volunteering at Toronto Distress Centres, where he realized that there was a need for people to make deep, genuine, and long-lasting connections. Without such connections, individuals can become isolated and may lack an adequate support network.
Existing products and services often highlight superficial qualities like status or looks, which are unreliable when depended upon as foundations for long lasting relationships. In response, Paul’s vision is to create an app which helps people meet others on the same wavelength by using words and closeness. If someone near you is thinking about the same topics, the app matches you and gives you a platform to chat and break the ice.
Discover what you’re passionate about, reach out to others with shared interests and passions, meet, learn, and grow together through those passions and build a strong foundation for relationships.
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Lacking Adequate Support Networks Can Lead To Mental Health Issues
10:26 – We all have challenges in life, and you know, there’s ups and downs, and so on. But I would argue that not having, you know, real, strong, authentic support networks, people that really in your corner, through time, consistently, that makes these things probably something like 10 times harder, it just, you know, you have to grapple with these things yourself. And a lot of times we get into these tunnels where we going through life where we’re busy, busy, busy, if we don’t have if we don’t really maintain or nurture or cultivate those strong connections, we might notice later, that something really important missing, but it’s, but it’s a little bit late to start to sort of address those things.
The Downsides of Other Social Networking Apps
11:32 – Yeah, so I’m quite an avid user of both Shapr, and Bumble, in all, its various forms, like Bumble dating Bumble Bizz, Bumble BFF. And I’ve talked to a considerable number of people also that have used these services extensively.
I would say, a big pain point for me, is just that I have spent a lot of time on those platforms. But really, much of the time that I’ve spent, has felt like a really huge waste of time. And, you know, it’s unfortunate, and I really struggle with, like, it is the people’s fault? Is it the fault of the app itself, because of the user experience that it entails? And I don’t think there’s any real easy answers to it. For example, on BumbleBizz and Shapr a lot of the times, you run into people who are really just trying to promote themselves or market something, rather, whether it’s some multi level marketing scheme, or you know, they’re trying to get clients for their dental practice, or, you know, they’re a real estate agent or they’re a lawyer, you know, what I mean? They’re there to get leads, on a business level, and that can make it challenging.
And the reason I say that is because So, yeah, okay, is it really their fault? I don’t know. It’s not 100%? Because right, the way that the apps work, it’s like, I mean, I think we’re most of us are familiar with, like Tinder swiping or swiping paradigm, there’s not really a very strong context, you, you don’t really know that, you know, offhand, before you choose to engage with someone, right? You swipe right on them, because, okay, why not? You know, they look like a reasonable person. But it’s not until you actually start to get into these interactions, and you’ve already invested a lot of energy. And then you realize, Oh, well, you know, I mean, it’s, it was pretty much like for them, it was free advertisement for their services, they’re not really looking to get anything like, like we were talking about what was the mental health issues and people building, you know, support networks. That’s not really what they had in mind. And I’ve tried to be engaged in these kinds of conversations, but but it’s really tough when you do not have mutual alignment from both parties.
It’s very hard for one, one side to really steer things in a way that works. You know what I mean? Like, if I’m not looking to get a real estate agent, can I still make something out of this interaction? It actually does feel very, very tough in most circumstances. So that’s like a big pain point that I’ve noticed with what’s existing out there.
Not Every App is Meant For Dating
15:23- But the reason I bring it up is because so it’s really a good example. Actually, you know, by and large, you wouldn’t expect, like a dating phenomenon to emerge out of couch surfing. But it did happen.
15:50 – Because what would happen is that some people would use it purely as a way to romantic liaisons. It’s the classic problem, like how much responsibility do you put on the users? And how much responsibility do you put on the app, you know, the UI and the UX?
So on Couchsurfing as a host of a place or whatever, you’re allowed to say that I’m only looking to host women, or men or males or females. So you can do that. But actually, what people end up doing is, some men only say that they’re only comfortable hosting women. Right? And they would use that as a way to, I guess, you know, score dates from people that, okay, it’s sort of this sort of like this interesting side, use case going on in the app. It tends to happen a lot in everywhere you see, I’ve even had people tell me about on LinkedIn, that just some people just, you know, don’t don’t get the memo.
Taking The Focus Away From The Visuals
19:22 – Like there is an aspect to seeing somebody’s face, you know, seeing their body language and, and all that helps with bonding. It does help to, you know, like, put us at ease and you know, helps relating. I understand that right? So that’s the kind of tradeoff we have to make, I guess.
And so yeah, what I’m saying is I’m willing to go there and make that trade up because the other side of the equation, the fact that you know, we just can’t if we see somebody attractive and and that just really colors everything. It’s really tough to to get beyond that and I think that’s why even with LinkedIn, even with Couchsurfing, with all these examples, you see people turn these into dating, you know, it’s very hard to police that kind of thing. And I just think that having a different take, it will allow for different types of interactions to blossom, because we, we take those parts, those nuggets of information out of the equation.
And so what happens when you take that out, you have to fill that void with something else, right? And so we’re trying to fill it with things that people are passionate about, and, you know, really stoke the fire of a conversation based on those, let’s say intangible things, let’s say non materialistic things. You’re really, really good people, you know, brains working, thinking on those things, as opposed to being focused on you know, how people look how people are dressed, whether I’m physically attracted to this person, for example. So it really just trying to make more space for those things to happen.
What Is Your One True Passion?
33:10 – Oh, that’s a very interesting question. I’m glad you asked. And I actually thought long and hard about how many passions we actually should allow, before deciding to settle on this decision. So there’s a few reasons that, that I just made that call.
But you know, before going into them, I’ll just say that from the perspective of a startup, now, you know, it might be our assumptions might be false, our rationale, or hypotheses, you know, the reasons that we decided to go with one passion, that might be false. So there is a, there’s leeway for us to change, depending on the feedback, we get the insights that we get from our users. And we could go towards three passions, five passions, ten passions, right? We can make that decision.
So I really wanted to just start this question from first principles, right? Like, what is the absolute minimum number of passions that you need to spark some connection? Right? So I think we’re just being completely reductionist in saying that one is the absolute minimum, right? If I have zero, then basically, it becomes completely random. And so there’s, there’s a few services out there that are completely random. And that has a different kind of experience. Like, I think a lot of people know about Omegle. There’s things like Chatroulette. Even that app, I think I mentioned last DialUp.
So with complete randomness. It’s, it can be exhausting, right? You could you could go to a lot of people, and you have no strong context with them. So I really asked the question, what is the absolute minimum that we need? And that, you know, hypothetically, could work? And I think, yeah, so you go with one and you see, is that enough? And is that too much of a hindrance? Do people really need to have more than one, okay, so it’s something that we’re actually very interested test to see if it actually works really well. Right?
So now let me go into the reasons why we think starting with one is a smart choice. So the first reason comes down to user experience, right? So if you are, let’s say, the type of person who you have one really strong passion that you can’t stop talking about, right? And then it seems like everything else sort of just, it’s, it’s very tertiary for you. And if you were to be forced to be dragged into some conversations that aren’t revolving around your one, true core, Northstar type passion, you might get bored very quickly, you know, you might lose interest, you’re not gonna have a lot to contribute. So if you’re in that boat, then I think it really fits you to a tee to have that one passion, right? And like, if we made the signup process where we would force people to put more than one, even though they only had one, you know, you might have to really, really stretch yourself thin to try to fill in those other gaps, right? So that’s if you, you know, fit the ideal case.
So but what if we didn’t force people to put extra if they only have one. So there’s an interesting problem that I’ve observed with some of the other social apps, when it comes to this, there’s this asymmetry dynamic going on. So what I mean by that is like, so let’s say I’m on some kind of a dating app, or a social app, or something that makes me fill out a profile. And then part of that, you know, lets me really flesh it out, I can really, you know, add all my interests, make my biography.
39:09 – So anybody who sees you on the app and sees your profile, and they’ve seen they’ve seen what you’ve chosen as your foremost passion that you really want to talk about on this app, it shows something, it reveals something, right? Whereas if I saw, like, 10 different passions, I’m not really sure which one is really most important, or I’m not even sure, like, Is there a hierarchy to it? Are they all equally important? Are you know, eight of them really just things that you put, but, you know, I don’t know, we wouldn’t really go very far if we started to talk about them. So there would be more ambiguity. So we really want to cut down on ambiguity. Because like I said, we really want to focus on quality connections over quantity.
So if there isn’t anything worth making an introduction, making a match for two people to start the conversation, we actually want to avoid, you know, needless conversations. So we just want to maximize the chance that when we bring two people together, that there is a very good reason to do so.
Being Matched With People Who Have Similar Interests
46:01 – HOST: So I had another question regarding passions. If someone doesn’t have an exact match, based on their passion, is there a possibility of being matched with things that are closely related that may have some overlap? So to give an example, I was thinking, if somebody is interested in manga, would they be matched with somebody who’s interested in anime?
46:25 – So actually, this is a very good question. Excellent question. I’m glad you touched on it. So the long term goal is actually to implement the best, you know, tec. Things like machine learning, predictive algorithms, that actually are able to intelligently group these things, even without manual human intervention, right? I think but I think that that’s a lofty goal. And for that, we need a lot of data, we need a lot of users. And we need a lot of traffic to really, to be able to work something like an algorithmic solution, or, you know, a machine learning deep learning solution to this. And that’s a very, very long term goal.
But I do believe that, so the way we’re doing matching, there are passions that are quite adjacent, right, even if they’re not an exact match. And I do think it would be, we would be serving our users well to, to to actually bring people together even if they were adjacent. So this is something that, you know, in the interim, I’ll say before we can actually, you know, implement like these really great algorithms to it, what we can do is, we might have to do it more manually.
So what we’ll do is we’ll be attentive. So we’ll sort of have a heat map of, you know, the different passions that people are putting in the app, right, we can see that as the developers of the app. And what we can do is we can sort of run these live experiments where we, where we kind of Yeah, like you said, we match people, even though they don’t really have exact same thing. And then we can observe the results of that experiment, see if that’s actually a good idea or not, like we actually may make a decision and say, Oh, no, actually, that was a terrible idea. These two types of passions should never be mixed. These people should be kept away. Like find that, but we might also find the opposite that Oh, looks like a great idea. Like we should, we should keep doing this.
So it’s definitely something we’re planning to be very attentive to, as we build out this community. And yeah, that’s for sort of things that might require some judgment calls. There are some other things, which, as we get more data, as we get more users, we might just actually realized that those actually those two things were pretty much the same thing, even though they had a different name, right? There’s like plenty of things like this, like language is imperfect. There’s different cultures have different names for different things., right? So there are things that are really much similar enough that they are pretty much can be considered the same umbrella of a passion, you know, with your example of anime, so that might require judgment call. Like, there’s just specific genres of anime for example, but you know, we’ll see, so. So one thing was, if somebody loves manga, we might just basically connect them with everybody who loves anime. Right? That might be a judgment call that makes sense to make. So we’ll see. It will be interesting.
Some Advice If You Don’t Have a Technical Background and Would Like To Build An App
51:08 – So the first thing I will say is that, now, it’s you, you should try to fail cheaply. Yeah. And this is not like, I’m not inventing this, like this is this is well documented, like the whole Lean Startup methodology is about failing cheaply, right? So and I didn’t really know about this, so I didn’t do this.
So but I am telling anybody out there, if you know, if you can’t build it yourself, so the question is who you’re gonna get to build it, right. And a lot of people they automatically gravitate towards, you know, outsourcing it, you know, hiring some contractors, freelancers to do it. So with that approach, which is something that I tried earlier on, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s tricky, like, the thing is, that you, I think you got to understand, you have a certain amount of emotional connection to your concept, your idea, you really, really want it to succeed, right?
And, you know, you you’re thinking about this in the shower a day and night, 24 hours, it’s on your mind, right? If you, so you have a very clear concept of what it is that you want to do. If you give this as a sort of a contract to to somebody, the chances are, there are going to be things that are going to be lost in translation, or that are not going to be covered in the scope document. And that’s just, you know, because you have invested so much of your mental energy into this, and you know, how things should look, where things should be, how they should work, and you’re going to try your best to really distill that down into a written, you know, sort of a spec sheet. But I think realistically, some things are just going to be missed, right? Even if you’re going to be super careful. There’s always like reading between the lines, I think it when it comes to doing any kind of work, you know, there’s a certain amount of interpretation involved.
58:11- And so what are some other ways that you can try to solve this problem? So the classic way is to you know, find a co founder, right? So far, I haven’t yet found a CTO. So that’s, that’s one thing, by the way, I haven’t actually found, like a real CTO that I can say, Okay, this person is in charge of the tech and the anything, building the app related breaks, okay, that’s their responsibility. I have yet to find that person.
It’s incredibly tough to find a CTO. So you, so why is it tough to find a CTO? Because, you know, it’s not just the fact that you need somebody who has the skill set, right, they can do the work, they can code or whatever. And this is the mistake that I made earlier on, when the when I actually I had a CTO. So you know, it just didn’t work out is the fact is that I think they have to really share the values that you do. I think that the you know, the tough question is like, you have to ask is what is like, what is their Why, right?
Like this, this is the sort of the classic question that, you know, when you’re, when you’re starting a company, you have the what, what it is that you’re doing, you have the how, right? Like how it is that you’re gonna go about and execute that plan, like that service, the product wherever you’re trying to do. But then there’s also the why. Why are you doing? Why are you invested in this? Right? And that’s the really, that’s the toughest question, when, in my opinion, when it comes to, you know, building that team, getting co founders, because while you might be able to do like, you can answer the how, right, they might have the competence to do it. If you are not aligned in terms of the why you know, there’s a there’s a pretty a sizable chance that you’re going to come come to odds, right?
And that’s one thing that I didn’t really understand, because this is my first startup that I tried to do. So when the the first time around, when I was looking for co founders, I sort of just focused very much on skill set on a technical level. I didn’t focus on values. And I, in my opinion, I think that’s why things didn’t really work out. And it couldn’t keep people motivated. And, you know, things sort of just got bogged down.
So now, given where I am, right now, what I will say is that, if you can’t get somebody like as a CTO, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make it happen. Okay? I think that a lot of times, people assume that, like, that’s a checkbox that you have to fill. And if I can’t get this filled, then I can’t move forward. Like I just, I’m just gonna be stuck here spinning my wheels, keep looking for the CTO, right? Okay, I don’t think that’s true.
So, the reason I say that is, because when it comes to building like a, like an MVP, or a prototype, or something that you can, you know, first version of something that you can bring to market, a lot of the times, you don’t really need, I mean, it’s always nice to have a CTO, right. It’s always nice to have somebody really, really competent to look up, look over things and make sure that nothing’s ever going to break. But you could build something conceivably a version one that, okay, this might start really breaking if we have like 10,000 or 50,000 users. But it might work reasonably well if we had like 500 users, you know what I mean, it might be good enough.