OPW INTERVIEW -- May 23 -- BoonEx built the Dolphin platform, the internet dating software that anybody can use to build their own dating site or social network. Here are the people behind BoonEx. BoonEx is launching a new and improved version soon, Dolphin 7. Here is our interview with Andrew Boon, the Director and co-founder of BoonEx. - Mark Brooks
What is the founding story of BoonEx?
I founded the company in 1999 with my wife, Julia, and we’re still running it together. It was just me and Julia when we started a small dating site back then, which was an affiliate site of Soul Mates Technology.
One day we stopped being part of their affiliate program. We decided we could build a dating site on our own. The dating site didn’t work really well and we went onto building software for websites. We started hiring people and the software started to sell and the company took off. It went on to be more of a community software company than a dating software company when social networks started to pop up and our customers started to request more and more features related to social networking.
Just 2 years ago we incorporated in Australia and we have started moving the offices and operations to Sydney. The company is still private and we’re not seeking any venture capital or investments.
How many sites are live on the Dolphin dating platform right now?
Since the software is free and it’s open source software, it’s really difficult to track the number of sites running on this software. We are pulling about 500 downloads every single day and we have just about 50,000 webmasters registered in our community. So normally each of those webmasters would at least install one or more websites based on this software, some of them have dozens of them. So from that figure we can tell that there would be probably somewhere around 50,000 websites running on this software.
Again, with the Dolphin 7 we expect to at least double the download rate of the software because there is much more included, it is much more easy to operate and install and it is a lot more attractive than the current version.
What are the top 3 new features in the new software?
Dolphin has been developed based on the request of the webmasters. This time we’ve taken a very different approach and redesigned the whole package for the end users, not just for the webmasters. We researched the functionality of Facebook, MySpace, PlentyofFish and other websites that are popular right now.
So Dolphin 7 comes with improved navigation, new logic, it’s going to work faster, it’s going to have caching, the proper support of the clusters… It can work for a bigger size and there are quite a few new features that are coming from the latest trends, from things like Twitter. So we have very similar status updates and it will come with the iPhone application, with an Android application and with the desktop application. We have a new mail system, new whiteboards, a video player and a new music player with the visualization features.
When somebody sets up a new site, can they click off what features they want?
Yes, the package is designed in a way that the webmaster can turn off at least half the features.
What would you say are the top features?
I believe it’s the media sharing – the photo, video and music sharing feature. The blogs definitely, and events and groups.
But isn’t this more of a social networking than Internet dating?
These are, yes. And Dolphin, like I said, is moving more and more into social networking. The dating features like search, match and the profiles are staying there no matter what. You can’t really take them off. They are the core part of the system and we are already used to not talking about them as extra features. If you want to build a dating site on Dolphin, all you need is to remove the social networking features and it would work just like a simple dating site.
Are there a couple of sites you could point us towards as demo sites, sites perhaps that you launched personally?
The best example of the software working in action would be our own site BoonEx.us. It is a social network for people who are interested in our software.
Another one, a fairly typical example of our customer, is MilitaryRomance.us, which is a site for single soldiers looking for love online. You can see other examples here: http://www.boonex.com/about/case_studies/