Esther Khong had seen her fair share of bad romances, both first-hand and vicariously through her friends’ breakups.
Staying in a relationship is hard and requires a lot of effort, she says, taking the classic “date out” activity as an example.
On one hand, spontaneity is easier said than done; intentionally not planning a date in advance can result in upset afternoons when seemingly romantic, trending restaurants are packed elbow-to-elbow, and couples default to the same old date spots, becoming increasingly resentful of each other’s inability to plan an amazing day or night out.
And on the other, in her own case, working in finance, she and her peers worked long hours, constantly hard-pressed for free time.
The last thing they wanted to do was to sit down, pore through website after website to find that ‘life-changing’, proposal-inspiring, memorable date idea.
This thought obviously stayed with her for a long time — at least five years before she and investment banker Ang Wei Yi, a good friend of 10 years, launched the Date Out app, a Singapore-based date experience and romantic gift marketplace, in June.
“I wasn’t sure if I was the only one,” Khong tells us about her initial hesitance to tackle this date- and gift-discovery problem.
After conducting prior research and establishing ‘product-market fit’, she decided that it was worth her time and money — she says that she had sunk in a six-figure sum from her own savings, alongside another six-figure sum from friends and family.
Putting her own money on the line has made her more prudent on what risks to take and more determined to not fail.
“If I fail, it’s six figures of my own money down the drain,” she says. “It’s not okay.”
The company targets couples with memorable date experiences, from candle-making sessions (S$60), to a private salsa class for two (S$120), to a private silversmithing workshop for two (S$250).
It also offers romantic gifts, including a surprise box that comes with a scented candle, massage oil, lingerie, body sponge and more (S$99), customised jewellery (S$54), and rubber stamps featuring a caricature of the couple (S$73).
There are other experience-centric marketplaces, from Klook to KKday, but these are mostly targeted at families or individual travellers looking for an “off-the-beaten-path” or “must-do” itinerary, not one that’s necessarily romantic.
The main difference between Date Out and the others in the market is the ‘concierge’ aspect of each experience: for a personal fragrance workshop, the Date Out team worked with its vendor to secure a private corner for their customers.
Each time a customer makes a booking, a Date Out executive would reach out personally to offer any assistance.
Khong explains, “We’re trying to do something that people don’t expect.”
It also offers a four-tiered rewards programme, where super-VIP Diamond members can enjoy exclusive benefits, including “personally planned dates with the full works when they reach the highest ranking,” says Khong.
Currently, Date Out takes a small cut from its vendors whenever someone books a deal.
Khong did not disclose the percentage of which the company charges its vendors for completed bookings.
Within the couples subset, Date Out targets people all ages, from students to people in their sixties, especially those who have been “in a relationship for a while” says Khong.
Going forward, Date Out will look at raising external funding to expand into Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, and target foreign couples visiting the various markets it operates out of on holiday.
This will be done within the next three years, she says, but did not specify how much funds she is looking to raise.
This article first appeared on KrAsia, and was written by Elaine Huang.