OPW - Aug 7 - SinglesAroundMe is one of the first great mobile dating brands. Find out about SinglesAroundMe new developments, thoughts on outsourcing, and marketing advice. - Mark Brooks
What's your founding story?
SinglesAroundMe started in 2009. Before that I was running an Internet job board in Canada called JobShark which I sold to one of the biggest IT job boards in UK, called JobServe. Online dating has always been one of the successful fields within the Internet. When smart phones came around, with the capability to do geo-location, I thought there might be a niche that I could jump into. Clearly, you don't want to play in a game that everybody else is playing in because you'll never catch up. That's how we started and where the premise came from.
How much was first mover an advantage for you?
I think that was clearly important from the very beginning. To be out there, to be first.
Might I ask how many users you have?
We are approaching about 80,000 new downloads a month at the moment.
How many of those are still active three months later?
It's not so easy for us to monitor that so I don't have accurate information but we know it's a fun tool that users tend to keep on their mobile phone.
Tell us more about the user experience.
As soon as you download the app, it will plot you anywhere in the world, and from there it will show you singles within 100 feet to 100 miles or 100 kilometers of you. When we first started, you'd open it up in London and there'd be nobody. A couple months later, there'd be two or three. Now, if you open it up in London, there's thousands and thousands using it. You can get that feeling in almost any city around the world right now.
What's the demographics of your user base?
It stretches right up through every decade. The 20's, 30's, we even have a senior citizens' plan.
What's the fastest growing demographic?
30's and 40's. But newer versions are soon coming out which we call it our Mars upgrade. That should be really targeted to a younger audience.
So you're very geo-centric. What other features are very essential to the app for you?
There's two core features to the app - SinglesAroundMe and Destination Search. The SinglesAroundMe aspect plots you and everyone from 1 kilometer to 100 kilometers. If you want to go to a certain bar, The Destination Search Tool will show you the singles in that bar.
How do people make the first communication?
The actual connections are very typical of traditional dating, so winks and messages.
You could actually do a VOIP call within the app. What's your thoughts?
I think these tools are very exciting to have; voice and even video. I think we're moving that way with the smart phone capabilities. We tried that a bit too early and nobody really had the technology to run videos.
What technologies did you build SinglesAroundMe on?
We've built a native iPhone, a native Android, and a native Blackberry. The next version of our Mars upgrade will be native in everything.
Do you think there will be a day when HTML5 will be able to deliver the kind of functionality that you need?
Yeah, I hope so.
Is the iPad on your roadmap?
Yes, we are releasing iPad app very soon.
Let's talk about your team. Did you go in-house or did you use a third party provider? Somebody abroad, perhaps?
We're probably 70% in-house now and 30% out of house.
What are the pros and cons of each?
One thing is control. If you go out of house, you lose a bit of control. In-house you can go over things. At the end of the day, if you're going to be serious in this business, and you're going to be here long term, you have to be in-house.
Are the out of house folks abroad?
No, they are just a couple of miles away. You can easily pick up developers all around the world, but I think you need to be very close to these guys so you can just drive down the street and have a quick meeting with them and go over things.
Imagine you've got a friend who's building a mobile dating app, how much is it going to cost him?
I think you could get in the game for $50,000, but when you're downstream, you realize, no. You're in there for a lot more than just that initial start-up cost. You've got costs associated with each different platform that you're building out. And these things double or triple.
What do you think is the best way to grow to a beginning level of critical mass?
I may be the wrong guy to ask that. We're early. We got our mass organically. We've been lucky from that standpoint. You had to be a lot smarter than just throwing money at the traditional media route.
So you're not advertising?
No, we don't advertise. We just work our channels with the secrets we know how to do.
So you're generally discovered on the platform, on Apple's platform then?
We are. But it's what happens when you're an early leader and you're changing, and you're disrupting. People want to talk to you.
Are you out reaching to the media or are they just calling in?
I'd say it's about 90/10. 90% are calling in. We're doing the traditional things like press releases.
What other social media channels are you actively managing?
Twitter and Facebook.
How do you make money?
SinglesAroundMe has got in-app capabilities on different platforms. We're experimenting on different platforms. On some platforms, we're completely free. On other platforms, we're experimenting with an in-app capability.
How do you feel about paying Apple 30%? Do they really earn it?
Well, they created this industry, so it's hard to argue against that. I'm happy to pay them 30%. We wouldn't be in the business if they weren't around.
What's your vision for SinglesAroundMe for a year's time?
I think we're going to be really gaining a lot of traffic hopefully from the younger generation. People in their twenties. As we do the Mars software release and improve our platform.
Who are your competitors and who are the people you are concerned about, inspired by?
Skout, I think is doing very well. They're one of the guys we look at.