What is your background and founding story?
My origins are from Ukraine. I immigrated to the U.S when I was 7 years old and moved to Los Angeles. I got my undergraduate and graduate degree in engineering at Stanford University. Afterwards I started working in the start up world in Silicon Valley.
As an online dater, I used JDate. I discovered that there was a large gap between what people say in their profiles and what the reality was when you met them. A lot of the pictures that you see are of people that are 10 years and 40 pounds ago with a lot of static content and generic stuff like walks on the beach. That doesn’t tell you much. I thought there could be a better solution. And that’s kind of how SayHeyHey came about.
How is your site different and how do people use SayHeyHey?
It’s free online video dating. We’ve built an online dating site with online dating mechanisms built in but the introductions happen via video with the idea that video provides a much more meaningful way of communicating. You can see people’s mannerisms and hear their voice. You can get a better sense of who they are even if they’re talking about generic things, so there is a higher chance of a good match when you meet them live. Members can have multiple private or public videos in their profiles.
If they like somebody they found on our site by browsing or through our matching algorithm, they can send their own video to that person. If the person likes the video and accepts the introduction, the two parties are automatically connected and they can have a free flowing conversation where they can set up a date, exchange phones numbers, whatever they like.
I like to think of it as YouTube with an online dating mechanism built behind it with a sophisticated video delivery platform inside as well. However when we launched, our users told us a completely different story of what they wanted. It became more of a soap box for people to share their experiences with online dating, their love life, relationships, and sex. This brought out a lot of entertainment value that has been dormant in online dating to this date and SayHeyHey became an entertainment media property as well.
The other key aspect is that we’re targeting the 18 to 28 year old demographic, which has largely been neglected in the online dating community. If you look at Match.com and eHarmony, the average age there is around 33 to 35 years. Those are people who are looking to settle down; they have disposable income to pay $30 to $35 a month for the service. That’s not the case with young adults. They’re not looking to get married. They’re looking to have fun, to date, hook up and enjoy funny videos. That’s what we are providing here.
How are things going with Verizon? I saw you had a partnership with Verizon.
Yeah that’s right. When we launched Verizon reached out to us and said: “Hey guys you have some really compelling content here. You are targeting the demographic that we’re trying to reach.” So we did a deal in a few months to distribute and license SayHeyHey content on V-Cast. We have our own channel and we’ve been live with them since May. I couldn’t be happier having such a great partner, which also helps us on the distribution side in addition to revenue.
How do you make money?
There are several ways. Licensing with Verizon is a big part of our revenue mix. There are other opportunities that I can’t really talk about too much but let’s just say mobile is a big part of our strategy and there are other integrations with sort of traditional media that we’re working with to get SayHeyHey content out there and make some revenue out of licensing as well. Advertising will be a big part as well once we think its best for our users. That will probably take from a post roll out, pre roll out in video ad campaign. We’re also going to offer a premium account, which will allow live video chat and conversations, as well as a Pay-for-Placement model which allows users to bid for added exposure on our home page to get more hits, and hopefully more dates. This has proven to work well in Europe..
Have you considered working with other site?
Absolutely. We had some preliminary conversations with a few major players that I can’t discuss but its one of the strategies we’re evaluating at the moment.
What are your goals for 2008 through 2009? Where do you see your company being?
Our key focus right now is to keep growing the user base and more importantly creating more and more content. We have a couple of things in the works that are fairly innovative and fairly groundbreaking. What we’re trying to do is really shake up the online dating industry.
From my perspective, it has really been lacking innovation for a long, long time and that’s why you’re seeing such bad growth numbers in the United States for online dating – 7% compared to Europe’s 40%. A lot of the major players are afraid to innovate because they don’t want to mess up what they have, which is pretty nice revenue numbers from their entrenched base. So we’re trying to shake that up as much as possible and we’re going to do that through our content and through our products. Another focus in the next year will be the international expansion. We are planning a strong push in Latin America this Fall.