Online dating giant Match Group acquires Egyptian dating startup Harmonica to expand into Muslim-majority markets

Match Group, the online dating giant with a market cap of over $20 billion that owns different dating websites and apps including Tinder, OkCupid, PlentyOfFish, and has acquired Egyptian online dating startup Harmonica, the Dallas-headquartered company announced today in a statement to MENAbytes, without disclosing financial details of the transaction.

Founded in early 2017 by Sameh Saleh, Tamer Saleh, Shaymaa Aly & Aly Khaled, Harmonica’s app that’s carefully designed for Muslims helps users find a potential life partner. The app, as a statement by Match Group notes, approaches mobile matchmaking with respect to local traditions and cultures. You can read more details about how the app works in this piece we had written last year.

“Sameh founded Harmonica after witnessing his sister and other relatives attempt to meet potential husbands through the arranged marriage process. He believed technology could facilitate meaningful relationships and empower singles to meet their future life partners, but there were no products serving his community or addressing more conservative cultural norms,” the company explained in a statement.

Match Group is acquiring the Egyptian startup to serve 33 countries in Asia and MENA that have a large Muslim population. Harmonica’s small team of 12 full-time employees (including the founders) is joining the American company as part of the acquisition and will apparently work on an English app as well as Harmonica currently has an Arabic-only app. Harmonica, per statement, will remain headquartered in Cairo, with Sameh Saleh continuing as CEO. It will be Match Group’s first office in the Middle East.

The American company with this acquisition will be taking on different (relatively smaller) players that have been trying to solve the problem of online dating for Muslims, with YC-backed Muzmatch that recently raised $7 million Series A, being the most prominent one.

Sameh Saleh, co-founder and CEO of Harmonica, said, “Two years ago, we founded Harmonica with our sisters, cousins, and friends in mind, with the goal of helping them find a perfect partner. It was critical that what we built was something to protect them and represent the values that our community cares deeply about. It was also important that our parents would be comfortable with them using our app.”

“We’ve already facilitated hundreds of marriages just in Egypt and believe that with Match Group’s vast experience, there are exciting opportunities ahead,” he added.

Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group, said, “As we think about international growth and expansion, there are huge populations of young singles — mostly across Asia and the Middle East — that will be looking for their life partners in the near future, and that are not properly served by Western products”

“The Harmonica team is not only smart and innovative, but has built a highly differentiated and technologically impressive product that, although early-stage, truly understands the needs of this culture. We believe we’ve found great talent, with local expertise and insights that will help us further succeed in our international expansion strategy,” she added.

Harmonica was backed 500 Startups (it was part of their global accelerator) and Flat6Labs Cairo. Both the investors with this acquisition have fully exited the Egyptian startup. It is the first high-profile exit for Flat6Labs, one of the oldest and leading accelerators of the region.

Ramez El-Serafy, CEO of Flat6Labs, commenting on the occasion, said, “From day one we’ve had a great deal of trust in Harmonica’s talented team, and their truly innovative marriage matchmaking application; and now, we’re thrilled that Match Group is sharing the same confidence in moving ahead with this remarkable deal. This deal marks the first major Flat6Labs exit with significant returns on investment in just over one year.”

Harmonica earlier this year had also joined Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center’s incubation program. The startup had graduated from TIEC’s incubator last month.

Update – Aug 8, 2019 – 11:50 AM GMT: The story was updated to reflect that Harmonica had joined TIEC’s incubation program earlier this year.

Mohammed Salah
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