Like millions of people, Vicky Cheng knew dating apps saturated the market and disregarded the very thing they promised: connection. Taking matters into her own hands, she built Victoria, a private circle of like-minded people who connect through premium experiences.
Here Vicky sits down with Reporter & Producer Lea Jakobiak (CNBC, Sky News Business & Reuters), to share her journey so far.
Lea Jakobiak: Tell us about Victoria and how it works
Vicky Cheng: Victoria offers young professionals a private circle where their interests and needs are matched. Members are offered fresh and exciting ways to connect; they network through illustrious, high-end experiences.
To begin, users have to apply for membership. Their application is reviewed by our team of influencers, creatives, and entrepreneurs — the very people who make up our membership.
L: You’ve just pivoted from Let’s Day Out into Victoria, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, tell us about that
V: Yes. Just about the only thing that we’ve kept between the two is the algorithm of matchmaking. And even that is geared toward networking and connection, not dating. The point of Victoria is to help driven, creative individuals find each other. Doing this through Let’s Day Out, a dating app, was never going to work. The dating app market is saturated with people who participate with a variety of intentions.
Instead, our aim with Victoria is singular. Our platform connects like-minded individuals who have a passion for exotic, thrilling experiences. Art, music, film, fashion — whatever it is — you can find it on our app.
At the end of the day, we want to make something truly unique, something people are excited to be a member of. COVID-19 highlighted the need for genuine connection — something people can find through our community.
L: Why did you decide to launch your own private community app?
V: I have lived in several countries throughout my life. I came here to study in London when I was 17. I have a lot of friends internationally, but after completing my Masters degree a lot of my friends moved back home to Asia. I understand firsthand the feeling of wanting to meet like-minded people, and needing an app that updates me on local, exclusive events.
I launched Victoria because I felt that there was a gap in the market for an app that connects people in a way that feels natural, and simply based on mutual interest. To put it bluntly, I’m a young entrepreneur. Where was I supposed to find other young, creative entrepreneurs? That’s the inciting incident behind Victoria.
L: Has it always been your ambition to launch your own business?
V: Yes. I have had an entrepreneurial ambition ever since I was in high school. I have always been pro-active, thinking outside of the box. I really enjoy creating something from 0 to 100 — that’s just what I’m like. I feel different than my peers in that regard. A lot of people I know are opting for the “safer” job.
L: Most “private community CEOs” are men. What do you think your strength is coming from a woman’s point of view?
V: Not only am I a female entrepreneur, I’m also not white and under 30, so I don’t fit the “stereotypical” CEO profile of white male.
Because of my appearance, people have often assumed that I work as part of the team. They find it so surprising that I am the actual founder & owner of the business. I feel like people should be more open minded about what an entrepreneur should or shouldn’t look like, and I’m happy to break the mould.
We are still not seeing enough women, and in particular young women, launching their own start-ups. So, at times, my journey can feel lonely. I’d love to have a strong network of female entrepreneurs around me. That’s one of the goals of Victoria.
L: Your app is available primarily in London, why did you choose to launch here?
V: I love London’s diversity; that’s the absolute best factor. There are so many people from other countries, such a broad range of nationalities, that you always feel like you belong here, no matter who you are or where you’re from.
That said, the pace of life is fast, so even though there are millions of people here, it can be hard to make long-lasting connections.
In fact, back when the app was Let’s Day Out, we ran a survey that showed 39% of women and 34% of men aged between 18-24 find it “difficult” to meet new people in London. And when it comes to meeting like-minded people it’s even more challenging; 42% of women and 38% of men who currently live in London are struggling with this.
Victoria is the solution for people who don’t have a lot of spare time on their hands.
L: How is the Victoria technology an enabler for connection?
V: I don’t have a tech background myself, so I have surrounded myself with an excellent team of developers. We have daily meetings about A.I., the architecture of the app, user interface designs, new features and so forth. I come to them with my product vision, and we work together to achieve it.
What’s really cool is that we have developed our own artificial intelligence algorithm to match users that like and search for the same activities. The method takes into account ‘crowd knowledge,’ and can be compared to how Netflix recommends new movies.
Thanks to our algorithm, the Victoria app quickly understands what you are looking for in a new connection. And that makes the whole process so much smoother!
L: How has the app — and your brand — been received so far?
V: We’ve had fantastic press; we’ve been featured in publications like Glamour & Metro.
I’m also proud of all our exclusive partnerships. Our brand was one of the partners of the BRITS 40th Show, and we have participated in a series of exclusive “immersive” Secret Brunch experiences by luxury events firm A Brands. We regularly pair with Blacks Members Club in London to produce black-tie ‘Supper Club” dinners.
For our online events, we are doing collaborations with influencers such as Chef Niall Kirkland, Make-Up Artist Georgia Rose, Soul-Healing Psychotherapist Sophie Nevill and Personal Trainer Dan Lagimodiere.
L: Is Victoria involved with any charities?
V: Yes and this is an aspect I am really passionate about. For all events, our users have the option to donate £1 to the World Health Organisation to help them find a cure for COVID-19 with their COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
Victoria will be the main partner of “Jog On Cancer,” a celebrity fundraiser for Cancer Research UK — which was due to take place in April but has unsurprisingly been postponed due to COVID-19.
Even before setting up my own business I have always been heavily involved with charities; I went to Ghana to volunteer for a HIV project a few years ago, and I also led the One Campaign for the Chinese Society at LSE. We hosted a charity gala to raise funds for the Chi Heng Foundation, a HIV charity based in Hong Kong.
L: What is your top tip for aspiring entrepreneurs?
V: You really need to ask yourself why you are interested in solving this particular problem. Being profitable is great, but you need to be genuinely passionate about what you do.
L: Finally, tell us a fun fact about you.
V: When I was in Ghana, I held the tail of an actual live crocodile! I guess I am, and always will be, a proud risk taker.