OPW - Mar 26 - Here is the review and highlights from the last iDate that took place in January in Las Vegas. Executives from Match.com (including Tinder), eHarmony, Zoosk, JDate (Osmium Partners) and POF attended this year.
FORTUNE - Mar 26 - Kelly Steckelberg took Zoosk’s top job in Dec 2014. Since then, she’s been clearing a path to profitability. Less than one year ago, Zoosk had filed for an IPO. Things quickly changed. In December, the company called it off and its two co-founders, CEO Shayan Zadeh and president Alex Mehr, stepped down. And in January, it laid off 15% of its staff. Kelly Steckelberg, the new CEO, has been at Zoosk for 4 years and held roles as its CFO and COO. When asked what sets Zoosk apart, Steckelberg was unconvincing. “I think we consider ourselves a serious dating site". Zoosk took in ~$200M in revenue in 2014 but lost money. It had been profitable in 2013 for the full year. What changed? Steckelberg says Zoosk decided to invest heavily in growth, “even at a loss situation.” The company also overstaffed. Zoosk seems to have been operating with the startup mentality that profit doesn’t matter. Zoosk will announce that it was profitable in Q1 2015 and Steckelberg hopes the company’s finances will stay that way.
CBC NEWS - Mar 25 - Two Canadian women, Gabriela Klacansky and Jan Blackmer, say they are out thousands of dollars after signing up with dating service Lifemates Canada. Gabriela Klacansky was interviewed at a Lifemates office in Vancouver. She describes the interview as a "draining interrogation" that lasted more than 2½ hours. She paid ~$4,300 for a one-year membership. Her first match was so off it seemed random or maybe a mistake. She gave the company one more chance, but the next match was no better. Klacansky asked for a refund, but got an "outright refusal" to cancel her membership or offer compensation. Jan Blackmer tells a similar story. "They asked me to bring financial documents with me to prove that I had money in the bank … so that I qualified", she says. Lifemates Canada says the two women gave up too soon.
FAST COMPANY - Mar 26 - Happn, a fast-growing French mobile dating startup, is launching in its second US market today - San Francisco. The app is like a combination of Tinder and Craigslist's missed connections. Happn, which is already live in New York City, Paris, London, Berlin, Barcelona, Sydney, was founded by former Daily Motion COO Didier Rappaport. It boasts 2.5M users worldwide. It offers users a form of digital flirtation called "charms" which they can purchase - 10 charms for $1.99.
KELOWNANOW - Mar 25 - POF has been ordered to pay $48K for alleged violation of Canada’s new anti-spam law. Complaints received by the CRTC (The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) launched an investigation into the email practices. Last summer, POF users were sent commercial emails with an unsubscribe mechanism that was not clearly and prominently set out.
BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - Mar 24 - Rekindle is a Boston-based mobile app that allows users to discover friends of friends and connect with them. The app launched last fall and is backed by Google Ventures and FKA Atlas, the tech-investment arm of Cambridge-based Atlas Venture. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Rekindle will be shut down and HubSpot will be leveraging the mobile app's back-end technology. HubSpot is a Cambridge-based marketing and sales software firm.
QZ.COM - Mar 25 - In March, Tinder announced it was moving to monetize its service with Tinder Plus. For a company said to be valued at ~$1B, the move was inevitable, but also risky. Tinder has built its reputation and user base around a casual, fun and totally free-of-charge experience. Competitors will likely be keeping a close eye on whether Tinder is able to cash in on its estimated 50M+ active users. “Tinder is certainly setting the pace and is kind of the bellwether for whether these apps can be monetized,” said Justin McLeod, CEO of dating app Hinge. “The investment dollars are going to depend going forward on whether Tinder is able to monetize.”
BUSINESS INSIDER - Mar 25 - London dating app and website "The Inner Circle" bills itself as a platform for "high-end" community. The Inner Circle has a strict invite-only policy that includes a thorough screening upon registration. The site just launched in London after setting up in Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Stockholm and Amsterdam, where it was founded. So far, 50K people have been approved; there's a waiting list of far more.
OPW INTERVIEW - Mar 25 - Events are a real challenge for most dating site operators. Jeff Strank is a real professional in this area, so I asked him for some advice. Here's what he had to say. - Mark Brooks
What experience have you had with events? I founded NetParty.com which sponsors large-scale business / social networking events for young professionals in cities nationwide. Through NetParty, I’ve also helped create unique events for brands targeting young professionals.
I also started LetMyPeopleGo.com for Jewish Singles. Our largest event, “The Ball,” has been the nation’s biggest singles event 20 years in a row. In NYC, The Ball attracts ~4,000+ people annually and is held in as many as six of the city’s top nightclubs at the same time (we provide complimentary limousine service for party-hopping).
I’ve also done work with a number of dating sites, including Match.com, OKCupid and Spark Networks.
What makes for a successful event? A successful event is simply one where our guests have had a great time and have had the opportunity to make many new connections. When you add in the cost of drinks, transportation, coat check, etc. to the admission fee for an event, even a lower-priced event can become quite expensive, so it’s our job to ensure that it’s money well-spent.
What makes for a profitable event? The cost of producing an event has gone down markedly in recent years, often approaching zero depending on the type of event. The downside of this is an increased competition in a world where everyone with a Meetup account or a few hundred Facebook friends can organize an event. But the upside is that it’s fairly difficult not to turn a profit on a per-event basis. That said, producing and promoting an event is well known to be time-consuming, which is why ROI is of greater concern and why we mainly focus on larger-scale events.
What's your secret sauce? First, we’ve established credibility on both ends – a city’s top venues will usually be glad to host our events because they are assured by our track record that we are going to bring in not only a great crowd who will produce revenue for them but also the type of crowd they’d like to have return as their own customers. And attendees trust that we’ll book only their city’s most stylish and unique venues. Second, we market our events differently. We aspire to have our event marketing elicit some emotional reaction in the potential guest that will render our event a “can’t miss” for them. Maybe we’re highlighting a particularly unique feature of the venue like a "scent machine which can fill the room with up to 30,000 different scents” (It’s something people are unlikely to have experienced before) and that’s one of the unique hooks for that event. Also you have to actively manage an event – the lights, the music, the set-up, the flow, etc. Leaving this to the venue is leaving your reputation to chance.
Why should dating sites definitely not do their own dating events...and why should they? I believe events can be a tremendous asset to a dating site’s brand. But the prerequisite to that is a commitment to effectively market and actively manage the events. Without that, dating sites are taking a big risk with their brand for a comparatively minor return. Last year I attended a NYC event sponsored by a major dating site where the venue elected to play music at a volume that made conversation literally impossible. As a result, many guests walked in and then walked out shortly thereafter. And the irony is music can greatly enhance a singles event – the right music at the right volume can encourage mingling, create a livelier atmosphere on a slower night, and can transform an average event into a great one. At another dating site event, I witnessed a guest unkempt, shirt half-open and belly hanging out, sleep sprawled across a couch positioned slightly past the entrance to the event. The site’s lone representative was collecting fees at the front of the venue and there was no one from the site managing the event itself. On this night, the sprawled-out, half-naked guy was effectively the brand’s representative.
Finally, I’d note that I think dating sites are missing a number of opportunities. Among them, an opportunity to leverage their scale to promote events that only they could uniquely offer. Instead, most seem to be content to sponsor events not necessarily distinguishable from any singles-oriented Meetup-type event.
How can you help? I’m actually taking a little bit of an event hiatus because I’m working on something new that I hope will bridge the gap between online dating / networking and offline events. That said, I’m in business of making new connections and I’m always happy to meet others in the space and to explore new opportunities.
RACKED.COM - Mar 24 - Bumble, a dating app created by Tinder's co-founder Whitney Wolfe, requires women to make the first move. If she doesn’t start the conversation within 24 hours, the match disappears. The app boasts more than a million matches, as well as a global network of ambassadors (cool girls enlisted to spread the "buzz" about Bumble).
Q: How did the idea of Bumble come about? A: I actually had a different idea. I wanted to start a Snapchat or Instagram-like social platform app that would encourage kindness among young women.
Q: What made you change directions? A: CEO of Badoo, Andrey Andreev, who is my partner at Bumble now. He told me online dating was a good place to stay right now.
Q: Who is Bumble's target demographic? A: Age 18 to 35. But we want to be the brand that any woman can turn to.
Q: How are you tapping into the growing college market? A: We have a very strong college representative program in place right now, with ~90 college reps.
Q: How would you describe the actual user pool? A: It’s a very sophisticated and international group.
Q: Would you say that the Bumble user takes dating more seriously than a Tinder user? A: People have been taking Bumble quite seriously. The fact that we include job and education in the profiles, it makes it feel more secure.
Q: What does your team look like now? A: We’re a team of 12, including developers.
CNBC - Mar 24 - Zoosk is rolling out the beta version of its app for Android Wear smartwatch this week, and plans to fully launch next week. The app allows users to browse matches on the smartwatch and alerts them when they have matched with someone. Other dating apps like Match.com are already on the Android Wear platform and offer similar features. Zoosk filed for an IPO last April, which was later delayed. In December, the company laid off ~15% of its workforce and made management changes. Zoosk ended last year with $200M in revenue, but at a loss.
MARKETWATCH - Mar 23 - MillionaireMatch.com, a dating site for millionaires and attractive people, has introduced “true selfies", a feature that encourages women to put “makeup-free” badges on their profiles to verify their natural beauty. However, the site doesn’t have any photo verification for men. Not everyone is a millionaire on MillionaireMatch.com. The site claims 2M members globally, but it doesn’t disclose how many are actually millionaires. There is a verification process for finances for both men and women but it is only optional.
PR WEB - Mar 24 - According to Todd Mitchem, co-founder of the cannabis-themed dating app HighThere!, the app has recently gained an average 2k new users daily. With the recent push for legalized marijuana in many states across the U.S., cannabis-themed businesses have seen explosive growth.
PR NEWSWIRE - Mar 23 - Luxy, a controversial dating app for millionaires, now allows its members to reject new members if they think they are ugly and poor. This new feature is called Vouch which is a filter that allows members to screen applicants based on their appearances as well as their financial status. 20% of new members has been rejected so far.
CNN MONEY - Mar 22 - Philippines app Peekawoo is a group dating app. Peekawoo's group dates can include up to six people. The app even hosts larger events with "an in-house wing man and wing woman. Woo app launched one year ago and claims 1M users in India. The app doesn't allow married people and rejects ~30% of sing ups a day. Paktor, the Singapore-based app, screens users for fake accounts, and requires them to have at least 50 friends on Facebook to sign up.
VANCOUVER COURIER - Mar 19 - "The idea of finding love on a desktop computer is quickly vanishing", says Markus Frind. He’s not referring to a decline in online dating services but about the massive shift of its user-base to mobile devices. POF announced this week it now has 100M users worldwide and its annual run rate is at $100M for 2015. 80-85% of users are using mobile devices instead of desktop computers.