SINGAPORE (Oct 1): It was a failed romance that prompted Esther Khong, then a banking and finance professional, to embark on a journey of exploring and defining the fundamentals of relationships.

“We were both working in the finance industry, and even though we were always busy, I still wanted to go out on dates. I ended up spending a lot of time after work on Google just searching for date ideas, late-night hangouts, things to do over the weekends, whereas he was just working non-stop,” she says of her ex. 

“It was during these instances when I found myself thinking, ‘If only there was a place I could go to find everything I needed [for date planning]’,” she recalls. “And then I got angry because I felt I was putting so much effort into spending that day or two out of a week with him, but he just wasn’t doing the same. Eventually it took a toll on us.” 

Three years of conducting paid research, as well as personally interviewing friends and colleagues about the intricacies of their intimate lives, reinforced Khong’s convictions that her problems were shared by many. In particular, she found that relationships in general — be they romantic or otherwise — were taking the back seat to the hectic schedules typical of working adults like herself. That was when Khong and a former university schoolmate, Ang Wei Yi, conceived the idea of developing Date Out: a “one-stop-shop” platform to provide activity, venue and gift ideas for couples and friends to experience together.

Room to Imagine’s acrylic pouring workshop is among the multitude of date ideas that Date Out has to offer

Officially launched in June 2018, Date Out is available as a mobile app for download from Google Play and iTunes. The marketplace platform is also accessible as a website from a mobile or desktop browser.

Currently, Date Out provides a mixture of services and experiences across a number of categories depending on one’s preferences. Book a session for two via the app to make your own candles and fragrances under “Workshops”, or purchase and have customised gifts such as rubber stamps, handcrafted clay dishes and jewellery delivered to your significant other under the “Personalised Gifts” category. There is also a “Near Me” function that provides a Google Maps view of nearby activities and services available on the platform.

About 70 businesses, mainly small and medium-sized enterprises, are now listed on Date Out. “We screen our vendors very carefully by meeting them first, individually, before trying out what they have to offer,” shares Khong, who has personally tried her hand at everything on Date Out from an acrylic pouring art workshop to bungee jumping at Sentosa. 

“It was sweaty palms from the start to end for me [during the activity], but at the end of the day, I felt that it brought my partner and me closer,” describes Khong of the latter activity. “I didn’t want to do it at first, but had to eventually convince myself that it was for the business [Date Out]. After that I found myself thinking: Wow, [my partner and I] achieved something together that we both thought we would never be able to,” she laughs.

Khong says she and Ang are also planning to roll out what they call “surprise dates”, the platform’s equivalent of omakase (a Japanese meal consisting of dishes selected by the chef).

“We realise that people in their 20s to 30s are generally very adventurous, but they are also very busy. We let them choose the amount they want to spend on the date, their preferences — whether they are sporty or just feel like going on a more relaxed date and chill — and we’ll put together something special for them,” elaborates Khong. 

“This kind of ‘feel good’ things are very important in a relationship. You might not remember the exact details [of an experience], but you can easily remember the feeling you get from activities you’ve participated in together.”  

Now that Khong has found a new love, she has all the more reason to use Date Out herself. “We’ve tried out a lot of things together [on Date Out]. Now, the only time I ever spend on Google is when I’m doing work,” she chuckles.