Dating app Charmr invites users to ‘push the paw’ to find pet-loving potential partners

Charmr CEO and founder Manish Methai with his pup Ladoo, named after an Indian dessert. (Photo courtesy of Manish Methai)

Instead of swiping right, a new dating app asks lonely hearts to “push the paw” to find a potential match.

Charmr, a Bellevue-Wash.-based startup, hopes to make friend- and love-connections through peoples’ passion for pets.

CEO and founder Manish Methai was introduced to a Maltese pup named Goodie on his second date with a woman. Man and canine hit it off, and Methai realized that Goodie’s good opinion of him mattered to his date — whom he ultimately married.

“One of the things that sealed the deal was that her dog approved.” Methai said.

The company officially launched in March, though Methai has been working on the idea for more than two years. The app has hundreds of active users with a focus on the Seattle area, and plans to expand across Washington and the West Coast. Charmr has seven employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed some of the venues for app users to meet up, but with outside interactions generally safer than being inside, people and pets are still able to find dog parks and restaurants and breweries that accommodate the four-legged set.

“You’re home, you have a pet now, you want to connect with other people who have pets,” Methai reasoned.

In addition to facilitating dates, the app shares discounts to dog friendly restaurants and is looking to add hotels and other pet services. Charmr is free for users, and Methai said he’s interested in exploring the idea of selling ads to pet-related businesses. The platform’s name was inspired by people complimenting cute pets as “charmers.”

There are other big-name dating apps in the space and some dog-specific options as well, including Seattle-based Wowzer, which was previously featured in GeekWire. Dig, another app for dog enthusiasts, last month launched Tabby, an app for fans of felines. Methai said his startup is unique for welcoming all pet lovers, be they rodent, reptile, avian or equine.

We caught up with Methai for this Startup Spotlight. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

What does your company do? Our mission is to help pet lovers looking for romantic matches connect through a more modern means: an app that pairs them based on their commonality, a love for pets. Charmr removes dating pressures by shifting the focus to pets, so you can hang out comfortably and create long-lasting friendships or potentially more serious relationships. We also offer our users discounts to pet friendly restaurants and services. This feature encourages matches to meet in public places with their pets and redeem deals. Charmr is open to all pet lovers, whether or not they currently have a pet.

Inspiration hit us when: The idea sparked when I met my wife and saw how significant a role her dog played in igniting our romantic connection. Once her dog approved of me, the rest was history.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrapping. I’m pooling money from my personal funds and close friends. I’ve given up a small percentage of Charmr in return for the money needed for app development and marketing.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Tapping into the pet lovers niche market. By focusing on this market, users automatically have a shared interest, which provides a conversation starter. Unlike other dating apps, we do not focus on hook-ups or the pressure of marriage. Our vision is to create a laid-back environment by concentrating on a passion for pets.

The Charmr app’s interface. (Charmr Image)

The smartest move we’ve made so far: Partnering with local businesses that are featured in a special section on our app. We also work with charities and pet adoption services that are promoted at our events and social media campaigns. With our partners we host joint events, which reduces our marketing costs and provides a chance to connect with pet lovers. We further build community through content creation, social media and our monthly newsletter, Charmr Treats, which contains pet-related entertainment.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Failing to appreciate the importance of representing the broader pet community. We initially built partnerships with the larger communities serving dog and cat owners, but did not include the more niche pet owners. We are correcting our mistake by partnering with virtual expos for pets such as reptiles, horses and birds. Our vision is to represent all types of pets and we’re building those relationships.

Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? Mark Cuban. He’s an advocate for small business owners and showcases as an investor on Shark Tank. Cuban provides investments as well as knowledge from his successful businesses. He has invested in pet-related companies such as Dog Threads and Shake it Pup! He understands the pet industry and its potential.

Our favorite team-building activity is: Going out to our favorite pet friendly bars and restaurants. We also love to enjoy our time at a park surrounded by our furry and scaly friends.

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: A shared our passion for pets and excitement for our concept. We seek individuals who are enthusiastic about the idea of helping people connect. We want go-getters driven to help our company grow and who want to be involved in their local pet communities.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy. But the truth is, we’re capable of anything we can imagine if we have the right discipline and attitude. Don’t let your past or current situation be an excuse for not tapping into your potential. Take a deep breath and create weekly, monthly and quarterly goals to track your progress. Small steps are better than no steps. If you are disciplined with your new routine, you will see just after a couple months how far you’ve come from when you first started. Enjoy the process.

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