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Why an entrepreneur launched a dating app specifically for people with autism

Brooke DiPalma
Associate Producer

Hiki, a recently launched dating app, is vying for a specific audience looking for love or friendship — individuals with autism.

This app joins a number of targeted dating sites like Christian Mingle, JDate for Jewish Singles, and OurTime, a dating network for people over 50.

Hiki’s founder and CEO, Jamil Karriem, was inspired to launch the app because of the experience of a family member with autism.

“My cousin is autistic and we were spending time together about a year and a half ago and he confided in me that he was really lonely,” Jamil Karriem, Hiki's founder and CEO, told Yahoo Finance’s YFi AM this week. “He was finding it difficult to make friends, to find a girlfriend and ultimately he was worried that maybe he wouldn’t be able to have a family of his own one day.”

Karriem, a former director of business development for the online real estate company Bungalow, points out that is cousin is far from alone. According to the the CDC, 1 in 59 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Speaks, the advocacy organization, defines the disorder as "a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication."

Yet, when Karriem set out to help his cousin, he realized there were no dating apps catered to the autistic community and so he says “we decided to just do it ourselves.”

Hiki, an online dating app specifically designed for the autistic community, allows users to look for both romance and friendship. (Courtesy: HIKI)

‘Not just specifically a dating app,’ Hiki looks to introduce friendships

The online dating industry is expected to be worth $12 billion by the year of 2020, but Hiki hopes to engage users who are intested in friendship, in addition to love.

It is “not just specifically a dating app, but a friendship app as well,” Karriem tells Yahoo Finance. “Relationships can span the gamut of you know, what it is that you’re looking for.”

In a similar style to the well-known Tinder swipe, the Hiki app allows users to swipe left or right, depending upon what it is they’re looking for — friendship or romance.

But keep in mind, this app is intended for users 18 years of age and older.

“There’s no way for a parent or something like that [a guardian] to be hooked in specifically to that account of the individual but Hiki is 18 and plus only, so it’s only specifically for adults,” Karriem says.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @brookedipalma.

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