Austin’s Newest Dating App Urges Singles to Meet IRL

The Desti app has Austin-area singles bonding over date night destinations from the beginning of the conversation.

Written by Jeff Rumage
Published on Aug. 09, 2022
Austin’s Newest Dating App Urges Singles to Meet IRL
Image: Desti / Built In

When Portland real estate agent John Taylor became single, he found himself on dating apps where conversations often fizzled out and lacked the energy of an in-person conversation.

Frustrated by online conversations that never led to real-life interactions, he teamed up with Austin-based developer Nick Dominguez and growth director AJ Qutub to develop a dating app that would immediately get people talking about the destination of their first date.

The app, called Desti as in “destination,” launched July 31 in the Austin area. 

In addition to uploading basic information and four photos, Desti asks users to choose up to three Austin date locations from a drop-down menu of more than 100 date spot suggestions, according to Dominguez, the company’s COO.

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A short-form, B-roll video from each date destination appears in the background of the dating profile, giving a TikTok feel to the platform. Dominguez said the Desti team has filmed short-form videos for thousands of destinations across 15 to 20 markets, which will be rolled out in the near future.

“This is a different day and age where it’s all about video,” Dominguez told Built In. “That’s the way every platform is going. It’s the content people are used to seeing and digesting.”

After selecting their destination, users can choose from a variety of captions that appear over the video. You could, for example, select the caption “Let’s debate about…” and then finish the message with “the best taco in Austin.” Other users would then start the conversation by suggesting their favorite taqueria in Austin.

Unlike other dating apps, conversations don’t begin with a like or match; Users must reply to a prompt on the other person’s page to begin a conversation. 

“You’ll never have a case where your matches are just sitting there and you’re waiting for someone to say something first,” Dominguez said. “We start the conversation from the very first interaction.”

Taylor and Dominguez said they designed the app with women in mind. Many women get bombarded with low-effort messages like “Hey” and “What’s up?” on dating apps, they said, so Desti is designed to inspire more creativity and personality in conversations. 

Julia Chesbrough, a former designer at Hinge, also helped design the Desti app.

“When I heard that Desti wanted to bring people off of their phones and into the real world, pushing people to meet their matches in real life, I was really excited,” Chesbrough said in a statement. “Having worked in the dating app industry before, I knew just how difficult it was to motivate people to get outside their comfort zones and onto a date.”

Desti has seven employees and has raised a $1 million pre-seed round.

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