Whereas Highlight focuses on specifically locating and identifying strangers in close proximity, Badoo casts its net much wider, linking like-minded souls in nearby neighborhoods and leaving it up to them to set up a physical rendezvous.
Yet, said Ling, it recognizes that people are clearly willing to take a leap into the unknown.
"As children, we have no problem meeting people, but as we grow up it becomes harder," he said. "The social friction increases. What we do is help reduce that friction."
Badoo makes money as a "freemium" service. There is no charge to join, but users can pay to promote themselves across the network in the same way that retailers optimize their position in Google searches. Ling said further revenues could soon come from advertisements.
Badoo has already achieved the critical mass needed to make it a going concern and seems to have no problem persuading users to share personal details -- a fact that should be encouraging to Highlight and other, newer social startups. Like any dating or social site, however, it must combat users who post false identities.
"The key thing in gaining trust is user choice. Users only share the information they want to share," Ling said. "As with every open platform, it is open to abuse. We have the ability for our community members to flag abuse, and we have 250 moderators. We allow users to authenticate their profiles, via Facebook or Twitter or their mobile phones."
And, said Ling, he is confident the space will grow as society opens up to the possibilities of sharing with strangers.
"Teens growing up now are more comfortable with the online world, and so the cultural mores are beginning to change over time, and that makes us optimistic," he said. "This model of interaction is going to be much more prevalent in the future."