When Anna Kirova first heard the idea that she should become chief executive of the dating app field, she was “terrified”.
It was 2021, and Ms. Kirova had been working at the company for five years. The suggestion came from Dimo Trifonov, the app’s founder and Ms Kirova’s romantic partner. Ms. Kirova had a strong hand in taking the field from a niche app to something closer to the mainstream. Still, he wondered whether it would be better to hire someone from outside.
Over dinner at Seymour’s, a Brooklyn restaurant, Ms. Kirova, 31, speculated that her hesitation in accepting the job was rooted in insecurities that might be linked to her gender. She said, “The more I thought about it, the more I felt like if I were a boy, I would take it and try.”
He decided to accept the role. “There is no such thing as a good CEO who is just born or falls out of the sky.”
Field, which began in 2014 as a dating app for couples and singles under the name 3nd, has, under Ms. Kirova’s leadership, established itself as the go-to site for non-monogamous, sex-positive and queer people of all sexual orientations. Installed as an app.
It has also gained a reputation as a place that promotes Directness, a rare thing in the dating-app world.
Amanda Miller, a sociology professor at the University of Indianapolis, said the field bills itself as a place to “find your humans.” “It’s a signal to the user about what types of people they’re attracting and what types of people wouldn’t be interested in joining,” Dr. Miller said.
According to the company, half of Field’s users in the United States identify as someone other than heterosexual. There are at least 20 other classification options on the field, including Gray, for people who rarely experience sexual attraction, and Objectosexual, for people who have sexual or romantic feelings toward inanimate objects. . Options are also abundant when it comes to gender (nonbinary and genderfluid are among the 18 options) and desires (texting, threesome, watching, foreplay, friendship, bondage and 20 others).
Today, the company, which for many years had about a dozen or fewer employees, today has about 100 employees, about one-third of whom have been hired this year.
Since receiving half a million dollars from an angel investor in 2016, Feild says it has remained profitable without any additional outside support. Since 2015, it has offered subscription memberships that come with various benefits, such as the ability to know when someone was last seen on the field and the ability to filter other users according to their desires. (Subscriptions are sold at different price points depending on length — for example, 30 days costs $24.99.) Recently, Feild has also made the leap IRL, hosting 31 in-person social events around the world this year. Hosted, with approximately 200 attendees each.
Feild won’t share how many active users it has or how many times the app has been downloaded. It has about 60,000 reviews in Apple’s App Store, while Bumble, which was founded the same year as Fields, has 1.4 million, Hinge has 763,000 and Grindr has 295,000. According to the company, from 2021 to 2022, average weekly active users on Fields increased by 90 percent, and the app is on track to grow 65 percent in weekly active users this year.
For years, dating app companies have prioritized user growth, but recently, the industry has shifted its focus to monetization, according to a report From Morgan Stanley.
In that regard, Fields is doing “very well,” said Lexi Sydow, head of insights at data.ai, a mobile data and analytics provider. The amount consumers spent on field subscriptions and one-time purchases increased by 107 percent between 2022 and the first three quarters of 2023, Ms. Sydow said.
And there may be a definite benefit to the app for users to maintain subscription. “The field isn’t necessarily about finding someone to marry,” Ms. Sydow said. “It’s not like a hinge, which is ‘designed to be removed'” as the company put it in an advertising campaign. “This bodes well for monetization.”
Still, Ms. Sydow emphasized that Fields is a small player in the market compared to giants like Bumble, Tinder, Grindr and Hinge — data.ai estimates Fields’ share of global spending on dating apps to be roughly Is 1 percent.
an eye opening step
Although Ms. Kirova is not the official founder of Field, she has been involved in the app since its inception, when she inspired its formation.
Ms Kirova, who now lives in Portugal, was born in Bulgaria shortly after the fall of the country’s Communist regime. After high school, Ms. Kirova entered the graphic design program at the University of Greenwich in London. There, at the age of 21, he met a fellow Bulgarian, Mr. Trifonov, then a 23-year-old 3-D motion designer.
Soon after she and Mr. Trifonov began dating, Ms. Kirova fell in love with a woman. She assumed this would be the death knell for their budding relationship. Instead, Mr. Trifonov told her he wanted her to have the freedom to investigate. The experience inspired him to create an app called 3nder (pronounced “thrinder”), where couples and singles could date.
“It was greeted with a lot of criticism and ridicule,” Ms Kirova said. gq Compare It’s a “24/7 Swingers Party” and VentureBeat Gave “5 Reasons Your Threesome Will Be Better If You Don’t Use This Stupid App.” But the press coverage attracted users.
In 2016, following a legal threat from Tinder, the app changed its name to Field. Around the same time, Ms. Kirova joined the company under the title of Zen Master and led operations, and was later promoted to head of product.
Around 2017, a researcher at the company noticed that many users said they had joined Feld for a specific reason – to go on a date with a couple – but as time went on, it became clear that That they wanted to engage in a deeper form of self-exploration – for example, finding out what it feels like to go on a date with someone of the same sex.
This observation was a revelation to Ms. Kirova. He and Mr. Trifonov began to think deliberately about growth and expansion. Feild introduced several major new features: paired profiles for couples to date together, new gender identity options, and the ability to peruse profiles without making immediate decisions.
That last one is the opposite of Tinder and Bumble’s famous swiping mechanism – left if the person the app offers is “no”, right if she’s “yes”. While this may seem like a minor difference in functionality, Ms. Kirova said it reflects a broader philosophy.
“A lot of apps have yes or no because then whatever algorithm you teach it teaches it with more certainty,” Ms Kirova said. “But it’s a false certainty, because what I feel like right now… is like, ask me again in two days.”
She and Mr. Trifonov are romantically involved. Ms. Kirova said working together is not as complicated as it might seem, and Mr. Trifonov, now chairman, has stepped away from day-to-day operations. “It can be stressful, but I’ve never known anything else,” Ms Kirova said. “I’ve never been in such a long-term partnership with someone who isn’t also my business partner.”
In search of clarity
Even users of Fields who don’t want anything unusual say they’re attracted to the frankness encouraged on the app.
Adara Bryan, 36, of Weehawken, NJ, joined Feld in June for monogamous, non-kinky dating — in theory, the kind of thing you can get on any other app. Although it is “pretty vanilla”, she said she has found that communication around wants, needs and limitations on the field is “far better than any other app I have experienced.”
He said most conversations start with questions about why people are on the field. “On other apps, it’s coded,” she said. “On the field, it’s very clear what people are looking for.”
Sometimes that straightforwardness can cross its limits and turn into aggression or sexual arousal.
Leah Slosberg, 31, a technology project manager who downloaded Field in January, said that although she has generally found Field to be a safe space for self-exploration, she has worked with many men. , he said, “They think ‘I’m entitled to have sex with you based on being connected to you.’
Kana Higuchi, a 26-year-old New Yorker who has used Field since 2020, said that although her experiences with Field have helped her “awaken a part of my sexuality”, she has noticed that there is a What a red flag: Some guys’ profiles indicate interest in young Asian women. “People will ask me, ‘What’s your race?'” she said. “I say I’m Japanese, and immediately, they’re like, ‘That’s very attractive’ or ‘That’s very attractive.'”
Ms. Higuchi said, “I think because it’s a kink- and fetish-friendly app, there are people who are more likely to be forward about identity-based fetishes or kinks, and that might misunderstand me. “
Users also complain that the chat functions in the app are poor, sending duplicate messages, taking a long time to load, or delaying message delivery. Fields said he is aware of the problems users are having with the technology and he is working to overcome them.
And some features designed to encourage transparency aren’t universally beloved: Ann Nguyen, 28, who has used the app since it was called 3nder, said she dislikes the app’s read receipts feature. “I’ve had people text me because I would see their messages and not respond right away,” she said. “I don’t like the increased sense of urgency.”
And then, of course, this problem is universal with dating apps.
“No matter what I do, I can expect to be ghosted more than 50 percent of the time,” said Ben Barr, a 34-year-old data manager who has been using Field for about two and a half years. “It’s the cost of doing business.”