OPW INTERVIEW -- May 9 -- RedHotPie is a top 10 dating site in Australia. Here’s our interview with the co-founders, Max McGuire and Mark Semaan. - Mark Brooks
What’s your founding story?
Max: Back in 2002, we had a brainstorm that we wanted to get into the digital industry. At the time there was a need for online dating in Australia, particularly with a community feel. Australia was being serviced mainly by the international products that weren’t speaking with an Australian voice. We combined our relevant talents in IT, web development, and sales and marketing, and built RedHotPie.
Tell us more about the Australian voice. How is that different from America and the UK?
Max: Speaking with an Australian voice means the user is able to identify with what the site is saying. In particular, we speak about Australian events or Australian places and in Australian colloquial terms.
Mark: We do offline gatherings, events and parties to get people together and tie the online with the offline aspect.
But you don’t run them yourselves; you let other people run them, correct?
Max: It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement but yes, we have our party and event partners, and we support and promote them. We hand pick them. People approach us and we look at their bonafides and what they’re trying to achieve with their event, and if it fits the RedHotPie model, we jump straight in.
So if you get complaints about a particular brand of event or a particular provider then you would tend to pull it?
Max: Oh absolutely. If there is some problem, we would no longer support them. It’s a very important aspect of taking the cyber out of your product and actually having real world events.
I’m intrigued with the name RedHotPie. Can you tell us how you came about the name?
Max: I think everyone would agree that trying to come up with a name is always a challenge.
We wanted something interesting and quirky. So in the name, the ‘Hot’ part was more saying that we’re edgy, we’re a product with passion, and the ‘Pie’ part was where we wanted to go with having a community. Get your slice of the pie, be part of the pie. So we ended up with RedHotPie.
How are you situated against the likes of RSVP? I think they’re still the number one in Australia.
Max: Yeah, RSVP is a very significant brand name in Australia. They’ve been around the longest and have been brand building an awful long time. They’re sort of what we consider to be a little less flamboyant, or you can call it “vanilla dating”. We like to have a more party feel, a more passion feel, and then again we’re very much more about this community and creating the stickiness and the sense of belonging.
How much would say the webcams have contributed to RedHotPie’s success?
Mark: With the webcam, we focus a lot on the reality aspect of the site. We started on a small scale and every 6 months we add a bigger pipe for the room because it keeps on growing. There is a definite shift that people want to see who they’re communicating with and that it’s real.
Max: And in the Australian marketplace, we were the first with webcam chat where some other Australian based start-ups are still playing around with Java applets and Java chat.
You also have a couple that give advice, Bessie and Geoff. Can you tell us about Bessie and Geoff?
Max: Bessie Bardot and Geoff Barker are partners in life and they have a celebrity status in Australia which makes them recognizable to our users. They’re published authors of books on dating and relationship advice. Geoff’s last book was “What’s On a Man’s Mind?” which was directed more towards giving girls some insights into how the male mind works. It was important for us to have someone our users could identify with.
You have recently launched in the UK I understand.
Max: Yes, we went live in the UK in 2007 so it’s fairly recent in the age of RedHotPie, which is 6 ½ years old now. We’ve spent some time and effort and considerable money branding the product in the UK. We’re working towards traction and market share there.
Have you found the Brits to be different from the Aussies?
I think that most people who are interested in meeting other people, no matter what their cultures or nationalities are, have the same sort of desires or requirements, and probably not too different.