George Rawlings and Matt McNeill Love: Founders of Thursday
Thursday. The company that’s stolen a day of the week and reinvented the way that dating apps work. Imagine creating a business model where your product only works one day a week. It’s not exactly the recommended strategy in any business manual but for the past few years, dating app Thursday has taken social media by storm with their viral stunts and unique personality.
The company is happy not fitting in with the norm and founders George Rawlings and Matt McNeill Love have serious ambition. If you think you know Thursday and its story, think again. If you’ve never heard of them, it’s time to pay attention.
Can you tell me about your backstory?
Matt McNeill Love
I studied at Oxford Brookes, and it was at university that I started my first business, which was an events company, but I didn’t have the drive or passion to grow this into something huge.
Following university, I then went to Sandhurst and was commissioned to the Welsh guards and spent seven years in the Army. Much of the time was spent abroad, with lots of time in Africa. I was actually serving in Afghanistan when we were crowdfunding for Thursday.
I studied at Birmingham University, but after two years I realised that I didn’t want to be a town planner. I then dropped out to start my first business, which was a video communication tool for businesses called Vox. It allowed businesses to send video emails to their clients.
Tell us the story about how you set up Thursday
George and Matt
We were two single guys who had completed Tinder and Bumble. We were on holiday together when we came up with the idea for our first dating app called Honeypot.
Our idea was to try to create something where people could find dates in the area they were in as quickly as possible. The concept of Honeypot was to try to match people the same day and to make it more spontaneous and exciting, as we felt the novelty of some dating sites and apps had worn off.
We struggled in the early days of Honeypot to get enough users for the platform to operate with a 24/7 model.
So, this provided the foundation for Thursday?
Honeypot was slowly dying, so we decided to pivot. Looking into the analytics, the most popular day for users was Thursday. We decided to switch to have the app work on one day of the week, as we felt there would be a fear of missing out amongst people.
And so, Thursday was born. If you create scarcity in a world of abundance, you’re on to something cool.
Can you tell us how it works in more detail?
The way the app works is that it is off six days a week, so if you sign-in on a Wednesday, it will tell you to go away.
The journey of the app is that there is a countdown until Thursday, and then once Thursday comes around, the app will come to life and show you people that want to go on a date. You will also be able to see venues or experiences where you can meet people, and we have built a network of these that are often exclusive to us. For us, it is about getting people together in a safe place where they can meet other single people.
We created the concept because we feel there should be more to life than dating apps. Just because you’re single doesn’t mean your entire life needs to evolve around finding ‘the one’. We encourage people to come off apps and go and live a normal life and see friends.
Do you have any concerns about the longevity of the idea and it remaining interesting for singles?
Since we launched this in October 2021, we’ve hosted 322 events (at the time of writing) and every week, without fail, they sell out. We’re selling out the capacity of every venue pre-nine o’clock.
We’re also seeing user numbers increase rapidly month-on-month and we’re looking at new territories, both in the UK and abroad. So, this is growing fast, and we don’t see any concerns around the concept fading out.
How have you funded the business so far?
Our first round was on Crowdcube in 2018. We launched in October 2018, with a landing page and 200 Instagram followers.
We also raised a round of £100,000 from friends and family (and fools.) This allowed us to get what was then Honeypot off the ground. Then in lockdown, we raised an additional £350,000 through angel investors and following this, we had our official seed round for £2.5 pounds last summer.
What have you learnt through your fundraising?
I would say raise what you need, rather than raising £1 million because you can. You can get an idea up and running for £50,000. I think people need to change their mindset on how they think about funding, rather than looking for the biggest possible funding round.
People seem desperate, especially in the tech world, to raise as much as possible and get a story in TechCrunch. I do think this approach is changing though, and they are moving away from this vanity metric.
You must worry about what you’re giving away too?
Exactly, if I see somebody has just completed a massive raise, all I am thinking is “how much of their company have they just sold to get that money in?” As first-time founders, we’re still learning, but our attitude towards fundraising has changed.
We won’t just take anybody’s money anymore. And we won’t just take money that we don’t need. If six months ago, we had £10 million in the bank, we wouldn’t have been able to deploy it. So, we would have wasted a lot of it.
When you’re raising, what are the expectations from those funding you?
Well, when we did our venture capital round, we were told to hire lots of senior people, as fast as we could. But we didn’t take this advice on board because it would have been expensive, and we would have run out of money.
This did create tension with the investors, but it was the correct decision as we didn’t need to build a boardroom full of ex-Uber directors. What many people might not realise when they start a business is that hiring is expensive, and salaries are expensive.
So, if someone’s telling you from the very beginning, go and hire twenty developers and a product manager, product owner and CTO, and a CFO because that is what Uber has, you’re never going to be able to afford to survive.
Therefore, we’ve been very careful about hiring and taken the process very slowly.
You mentioned you have noticed a shift in how people are raising?
Two years ago, making money wasn’t sexy in this game and in the tech space it was about users and hires and raising money.
I feel this is changing and there is more focus on creating revenue, profit and achieving product market fit.
What is the most outlandish thing you have done to raise money?
We held up a sign outside of a Lamborghini garage asking if anybody rich wanted to give us some money. We bumped into two people in the area that day and we raised around £20,000, just from holding up the sign.
Tell us more about how you use guerrilla marketing like this across your business?
Necessity made us do it. We didn’t have any money to spend on digital marketing, so we thought how do we get this out there? This has shaped how we approach marketing.
For example: we had someone stand in central London with a sign hanging saying ‘I cheated on my girlfriend and this is the punishment, PS: do not download Honeypot’. It went crazy, and we received 5,000 downloads. You can only do this once or twice, so you need to keep coming up with ideas.
And it’s all about being different for you?
Yes, we have a culture of not doing anything that has been done before. And also for looking at situations and ideas differently. It’s easy to say that but we do it. We hire this way too and we’ve recently rolled out our first bus and underground campaign too.
It can get you into some bother though. We were recently attacked in New York whilst carrying out one of our PR stunts.
Who comes up with the ideas and how do you organise your marketing?
We have a team of eleven in total, but we don’t have a marketing department. It is a case of us all getting together and discussing ideas, and no idea is stupid. If something doesn’t work, then so what, and we’re not afraid for somebody to have a go at something.
Where do you stand when it comes to building your own personal brands?
You see it on LinkedIn often and it’s often from companies that aren’t doing much, but it is really easy to make it about yourself and say “look at me, I’m the founder.” However, it is much harder to get people talking about your brand and to get engagements and likes for your brand.
That’s tough as people don’t like being marketed to and don’t often engage with a brand, but this is what we want to achieve, more so than it being about us. It’s also about the team and bringing them through to create value for the brand, and we encourage them all to post.
I think it’s important to be authentic and show vulnerability in personal brand building too, rather than posting “I get up at 5am, have a smoothie, read a book, run a marathon and then close a deal.” It’s just crap and people aren’t buying it in the long-term.
Do you have to change your marketing strategy for the USA?
Yes, you do, and it’s often focused on the differences in wording. For example: we told people that bouncers would be checking IDs at the door, and they didn’t know what we were talking about. It’s a small point, but if there’s twenty or thirty of those misunderstandings in your messaging, suddenly your brand is not relatable to their audience.
Do you ever worry you’ll lose the vibe you have in the business as it grows?
Thursday is reflective of our personality. It is not corporate or serious and the brand will continue to grow and have its own attitude. And yes, there will be more red tape and risk as we scale and the team grows, but it will endure.