Kevin O’Leary’s deal with the Tabby cat lover dating app

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Leigh Isaacson created her start-up to fight stigma. Handsome men, she says, have been “shredded to shreds” on dating apps, all because of something they love: cats.

Isaacson is the co-founder and CEO of Tabby, a dating app for cat lovers launched in August 2020. It’s Isaacson’s second such business: three years ago, she also launched Dig, a dating app for dog lovers that has surpassed 100,000 users, she said on Friday’s episode of “Shark Tank” on ABC.

The data supports its premise. Last year Colorado State University and Boise State University asked 1,388 straight American women ages 18 to 24 to rate a group of photographs of men, some holding cats or dogs. The study found that the men pictured holding their cats were considered “less datable”.

“I don’t understand this cat shame,” said Shark Lori Greiner, a self-proclaimed person for cats.

Greiner didn’t invest in Tabby, but one of his cohorts did: Kevin O’Leary, who agreed to a deal worth $ 300,000 in exchange for a 30% stake in the ‘business. “I became a cat lover because he has a lot of cash,” O’Leary said.

He would know: O’Leary also owns a stake in Basepaws, a company that sells home cat DNA tests. He told Isaacson he helped push Basepaws to a valuation of $ 40 million, down from just $ 2 million on his first investment. Part of that, O’Leary said, involved building a massive database of cat owners – which could be useful for Tabby.

The start-up could need it. At the time of registration, Tabby only had 31,000 users, which translates to $ 43,000 in annual revenue: the company charges subscribers $ 19.99 per month. Platforms like Tinder and Bumble offer their premium services for $ 29.99 and $ 22.99 per month, respectively.

One of the potential reasons for the company’s lack of traction is that it was originally designed for the web, not mobile. When Tabby went mobile, Isaacson said, he essentially had to start from scratch – and suffered another setback when the developers she hired “terminated our contract earlier.”

Tabby did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request to comment on the reasons the partnership was terminated.

Still, Isaacson said on Friday’s episode, his experience with Dig gave him confidence in Tabby: “We’ve learned that there aren’t places like dog parks for cats to go out and meet, and there’s a stigma around cats. “

That stigma, she said, includes comments on other dating apps like “My friend said you have four cats, that’s four red flags” and “Ugh, do you sleep with that thing? “

On Tabby, followers can filter their potential matches based on pet size or hypoallergenic status. They are asked to answer cat-specific questions such as “How much do you spend per month on your cat” or “Does he / she sleep in bed with you at night?” “

“I think you’re really going to help him,” Shark Robert Herjavec told O’Leary. “What I see is that you are promoting the app with a photo of yourself, with a hairless cat.”

O’Leary laughed, referring to his budding feline empire: “I’m the king of the litter.”

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