Abandoning his bank job in London six years ago, Shahzad Younas did not dream of owning the biggest Muslim dating website and app Muzmatch.
“At the time there were either these really basic websites for Muslims or big dating apps that didn’t quite get our culture,” Shahzad, who was born and bred in Manchester, told the BBC’s weekly The Boss series.
“In the Muslim community, a lot of us did, and still do, rely on matchmakers [to find a wife or husband]. These are ‘aunties’ in the community who know families, and who would match up a son with another family’s daughter.”
It all started when Younas, the then 32-year-old British entrepreneur, was in San Francisco pitching London-based Muzmatch to a group of high profile potential investors from the prestigious Silicon Valley investment firm Y Combinator.
He opened his address to the room by saying: “Muslims don’t date, we marry.” The investors burst into laughter at how frank he was and quickly gave Muzmatch $1.5m, one of 100 start-ups that got backing in 2017.
His idea for Muzmatch was that it would be a digital matchmaker app for Muslims who wanted to find someone to marry.
“I’d wake up at 6 am every morning and go to bed at about one or 2 am,” he said. “I was working from my bedroom at home, and it was intense. I had to learn how to build an app from scratch.
“But I knew I had to make it work. The opportunity was big enough – there are 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, and clearly, no one was serving them.”
Younas did a soft launch of the app in 2014, and his marketing methods were somewhat different from the bigger dating apps.
“I’d go to big mosques after Friday prayers and hand out cards for the app,” he said.
“Then I’d go to any kind of family Muslim event that I knew was on, and I would literally stick them under windscreens.”
Users started to grow from only 10 to thousands and now one million users who started telling Younas how they met their wives or husbands via his app.
“Once I heard the first success story it made it feel real,” he said. “And it cemented in me that the app was going somewhere.”
In a previous interview with AboutIslam.net, Younas said: “Our goal as a service is to help Muslims connect with a view to marriage. Our job is to allow them to express their preferences and for us to find them suitable people and run a platform that helps gauge their compatibility.”
Along with Muzmatch, other applications such as Minder and Salaam Swipe offer similar services to Muslims.
SingleMuslim.com is currently number eight in the top ten general dating platforms in the UK.