Can a Dating App Being a Radical Tool for Self-Discovery? Feeld’s CEO Thinks So.

A few years ago, as we sipped overpriced glasses of tempranillo at a Brooklyn bar constructed to look like an abandoned cabin, a friend told me that after a recent, harrowing breakup, she had decided to dip her toes back into the dating pool. However, she was no longer interested in the kind of monogamy that could tear your life into two devastated halves. Instead, she had found intimacy, understanding, and excellent sex on an app called Feeld.

In some ways, Feeld could be placed in the same category as the cascade of dating apps that have emerged to serve various romantic and sexual needs over the past decade: Hinge, Grindr, The League, Raya. The list, as anyone who has spent a Friday night swiping and agonizing over their “about me” bio knows, goes on.

But most of these apps reinscribe dating norms that existed long before the internet. Hinge, the “app meant to be deleted,” targets singles in their 20s and 30s seeking long term (usually monogamous) commitment. Grindr replicates the hook-up culture that has long been a centerpiece of urban gay life. The League and Raya are predicated on the uncomfortable fact that dating is often an outgrowth of capitalism—rife with hierarchies rooted in wealth, access, and fame.

In contrast, by embracing concepts first put forth in books like 1997’s The Ethical Slut, Feeld has grown alongside—and contributed to—a widespread rethinking of relationships, sexuality, and identity. When users log onto the app, they are offered a huge menu of identifications to choose from. While most apps only offer labels like “queer,” “heterosexual,” or “bi,” Feeld offers “androgynosexual,” “bi-curious,” “gynesexual,” and many, many more. That also includes numerous ways to label the type of relationships you’re open to, from various threesome arrangements to simply watching.

While non-traditional relationship dynamics and underground sexual cultures have always thrived—particularly within queer communities, which have long been forged in steamy bath houses, sticky dive bars, and overcrowded apartment parties—Feeld was founded on the simple idea that such spaces and set-ups should be less stigmatized and easier to access. That ultimately led to another proposition: that a dating app can do more than connect us with other people; it can help us connect with our own pleasure, agency, and even power.

This belief came from personal experience. Feeld’s current CEO, Ana Kirova, met her partner Dimo Trifonov, the company’s founder, at a party when she was 21. The couple fell for each other, but a few months later, Kirova began to have equally-powerful romantic feelings for a woman, she recalls. Kirova was scared that the crush would spell disaster for her relationship with Trifonov and decided not to tell him. Soon, though, the feelings became too overwhelming to bear. In a letter she never planned to send, Kirova laid out her feelings, including how conflicted she felt about falling in love with two people at the same time. It was a burst of internal honesty that would go on to transform their relationship in more ways than she could have predicted.