NOAH CONFERENCE - Nov 10 - CEOs of Parship, EliteSingles and The Meet Group were interviewed at the "Future of online dating" panel during the NOAH17 conference in London. They spoke about the past, present and future of online dating.
Parship – two brands - Parship & ElitePartner that operate in the matchmaking segment, €120M annual revenue (mobile revenue €35M), ~50% of registrations are via mobile, 100k babies
EliteSingles – renamed to Spark Networks, predicted 2018 revenue $122M, EBITDA $22M, 500K paying members
The Meet Group – 15M monthly active users, 4.5M daily active users (DAU), 190K new members every day, acquired Lovoo and Tagged; focus on live video streaming, 20% of DAU use live streaming every day.
Q: Are people on your platform looking for a relationship?
Geoff: Half of Meetme users would say dating, half would say friendship. On Lovoo, ¼ of users say they are looking for entertainment.
Tim: Serious relationship, people go through our questionnaire that takes 30-40 minutes.
Jeronimo: We have very similar product as Parship, our questionnaire also takes 30-40 minutes.
Q: What's your view on Bumble?
Geoff: It is a great success story. Tinder introduced double swipe to unlock the chat, Bumble amped it up with the female initiating the conversation after double swipe.
Tim: It helps them a lot to be part of Badoo.
Q: How much do you spend on TV ads?
Jeronimo: It is a double-digit million number. 2/3 of our marketing budget goes into offline media, 1/3 goes to online&digital.
Geoff: 70% of our revenue comes from advertising today, that was 85% before Lovoo. We believe live streaming is going to change that. People can send gifts to the streamers. The gifts could be purchased with our virtual currency.
Q: Do you see the younger demographic declining on your platforms because they don't watch TV with ads?
Tim: No, we have actually seen the biggest influx in the younger demographic (25+)
Jeronimo: We are shifting our advertising from TV to online. We are shifting to where our audience is. So I don't think shifting away from TV will impact our business.
Q: How global is your business?
Geoff: 80% is international.
Jeronimo: Half North America, half the rest of the world, mostly Europe.
Tim: We are mostly focused on the German-speaking market and we are very comfortable.
Q: What is going to happen in 5 years?
Tim: We will continue with consolidation.
Geoff: I think if you stand still, you'll die. The competition is big.
OPW INTERVIEW - Sep 8 - Geoff Cook is the CEO/co-founder of The Meet Group, which is a public dating-esque company that has morphed over the years. I remember talking with Geoff a few years ago in London and he was very enamored with the development of Momo. Their engagement was high, and they were doing interesting things with video. Fast-forward to 2017 and Momo's market cap has competed with and now exceeds Match Group's. So video seems to be working out very well for them with their tip-your-favorite-live-video-creators model.
The Meet Group (formerly Meetme) acquired Skout in 2016 and if(we) which operates Tagged, in 2017 and has been working to merge the platforms so members can interact between all three apps: Meetme, Skout and Tagged.
I spoke to Geoff Cook yesterday about the integration projects and he said it was going quite well. He had previously mentioned that Skout was on track for doing $7.5m in adjusted EBITDA in their first year and almost one year later, he said they're on track for that. They just launched live streaming video on Skout last week, using the same engine as Meetme. Now their intention is to add gifting in another month and then combine user-bases between Skout and Meetme.
Ultimately, this adds to the membership density, but Skout is more International. Skout is 80% international, whereas Meetme is 40%. What is common is that people on both platforms are looking to connect with new people, and not just for dating. That's a key distinction that really separates these platforms from the likes of Facebook and Match.
So what of Tagged? Geoff described Tagged as an African American app inside the USA. "That's what we found so attractive about it. It has similar features to Skout and gives The Meet Group the opportunity to create a live streaming app for African Americans. Video is now available to all of Tagged and is being well adopted and used."
By early next year, Geoff said they will have Tagged, Skout and Meetme on one video platform and they're working on adding some interesting new video features like the ability to add guest videos into a stream.
Just where does Meetme fit in the market now? Is it a social discovery service? Not so, said Geoff. Ultimately, the social discovery descriptor really faded out. He'd describe Meetme's services as belonging to "one big meeting category," which makes sense really. Facebook, Match and The Meet Group all seem to share a common cause in helping people meet. But the nuances of these services differ in that Facebook helps people stay in contact with people they already know, Match helps people within the context of wanting to meet a mate, and "Meetme and Tagged are the neighborhood bar, stated Geoff. "Video is the live entertainment at the bar."
"Meetme has always had a mission of helping users meet the universal need for human connection." Meetme's live streaming video is different from dating apps. Live streamers can ask and answer questions and receive gifts and the whole experience is more about "social entertainment." It's not really fundamentally about dating. "Meetme is the social graph of the people you want to know," stated Geoff.
Geoff described the distinction with Facebook further. Zuckerberg talks about connecting with communities and helping the world become less fragmented but Facebook doesn't want you to make a bunch of friends with people you don't know. That would just complicate the product and change the context too much.
The Meet Group will continue to be focused on live streaming. In fact, Geoff believes the entire live streaming video category to be fledgling. "Video has the potential to be as disruptive as mobile was to the web," Geoff believes. What do you think? Your comments, please.
(Full Disclosure: Mark Brooks owns shares of The Meet Group)
Previous interviews with Geoff Cook:
BUSINESSWIRE - Aug 16 - The Meet Group announces new live-streaming and gifting features on its mobile app, Tagged. Tagged Live allows users to broadcast and view live-streamed video and earn and send virtual gifts.
BUSINESSWIRE - Aug 3 - Total Q2 revenue was $31.3M, up 91% YOY, mobile revenue was $23.3M, up 55% YOY. The company has increased daily video minutes by 80% to 7.2M, with ~20% of its users watching videos every day. They expect to fully launch livestreaming video on Tagged and Skout by the end of this quarter. The Meet Group will also launch new banner and native advertising units within the video experience and gifting inside of video.
BLACK ENTERPRISE - July 31 - Black singles dating app Bae was recently acquired by Tagged, a social app with one of the largest African-American user bases. Tagged decided that the founders Brian and Justin Gerrard should be part of the deal in an acquisition that is known as an "acqui-hire."
Q: What made you initially decide to start Bae?
A: I started Bae because I made a decision that I wanted to build things that positively impact my community.
Q: How did Bae's "acqui-hire" happen with Tagged?
A: Bae and Tagged coming together was a convergence of complementary skill sets. They wanted our marketing and branding expertise to complement their technical acumen. Tagged grew to ~300M users without doing any marketing. My brother and I founded Tagged's marketing team and added ~1M new users. With The Meet Group acquiring us, we now have the ability to make sure everyone knows who we are and invest in expanding our brand.
BUSINESS WIRE - May 8 - Total revenue climbed up 51% YOY to $20M, mobile revenue is $18.8M, up 61% YOY. Net income is $0.4M. "We made strong progress toward rolling out livestreaming video inside of the MeetMe app. Currently, three out of four MeetMe users have access to the Live feature within the MeetMe app", said CEO Geoff Cook.
BUSINESSWIRE - Apr 4 - MeetMe has completed its acquisition of if(we), a social and mobile technology company, and changed its name to The Meet Group. The if(we) acquisition is expected to contribute $9M of adjusted EBITDA in the first 12 months post-close and to provide the combined company with a path forward for generating $150M in annualized revenue and $50M of adjusted EBITDA. Moving forward, The Meet Group will be the parent company of the MeetMe, Skout, Tagged, and Hi5 brands.
BUSINESSWIRE - Mar 7 - Total revenue was $76.1M, up 34% YOY. Mobile revenue was $70.7M, up 56% YOY. Net income was $18.2M, up 204% YOY. The addition of if(we)'s Tagged and hi5 brands into MeetMe portfolio is expected to increase their monthly active users to ~10M.
TECH CRUNCH - Mar 7 - The deal is worth $60M in cash, partially funded by a $30M loan from JP Morgan. Tagged and Hi5 will both remain their own distinct brands. If(we) reported $44M revenue in 2016, with 56% coming from mobile and claimed to have 5.4M MAU, with 18k new users coming every day. The company managed to raise $28.7M. After the merger, the combined company will have 10.6M MAU and nearly 1.1M DAU. MeetMe expects If(we) to add $9M to its earnings over the next 12 months.
This post also appears on InternetDatingInvestments.
FAST COMPANY - Jan 5 - Bae, the dating app for African-American millennials, was just acquired by if(we), the parent company of Tagged. The Bae name is being retired and its users will be streamlined into Tagged and its global dating pool. Bae was cofounded in 2013 by tech-savvy brothers Brian and Justin Gerrard, and friend Jordan Kunzika. Bae (Before Anyone Else) received 17K downloads in its first month. Brian and Justin will move to San Francisco to lead marketing and growth across if(we)'s entire portfolio, which includes Tagged, Hi5, Fandom, and new social streaming site WeChill.
by Lindsay Goldwert
See full article at Fast Company
This post also appears on InternetDatingInvestments.
TECH CRUNCH - Dec 2 - Greg Tseng is stepping down from the CEO role after 11 years running its dating social network Tagged and game studio hi5. He'll remain a board member. The company's new CEO will be its COO Dash Gopinath, who was formerly the Chief Product Officer of Tagged competitor Badoo. Tagged still have a team of ~100 people and 2015 will be its 8th consecutive profitable year. The company raised $12M.
TECH CRUNCH - Jan 22 - Tagged, the people discovery service with 300M registrations and 3M daily users, is stepping into offline meetups by launching standalone app Sidewalk that feeds you fun happenings in your city, as well as who you might run into where you’re hanging out. Building Sidewalk as a standalone app rather than as a feature of Tagged also protects the company. The idea is that you’ll open Sidewalk, discover something fun going on nearby, get off your butt and go there, and meet people. There are no gimmicks, forced ice breakers, or private messaging. Sidewalk also has less anonymity. The app is simply a portal to connection around real-life moments.
This post also appears on SocialNetworkingWatch.
OPW - Nov 3 - Irena and I were in Dubai for a few days so we thought we'd see which dating sites were blocked and which made it past government filtering. Specifically any 'Internet Content that contradicts the ethics and morals of the UAE including Nudity and Dating' get blocked. iDating doesn't fit the religion and culture of UAE. Matrimonials sites, on the other hand, are ok.
Match, Plentyoffish and OKCupid were blocked. I thought World Singles Arablounge.com might make the cut, but no. It was blocked. China dating sites Zhenai, Baihe and Jiayuan were all blocked as well. We got through to Facebook and thought we'd have more luck with people discovery services. Badoo was blocked but Tagged and Meetme were ok. Matrimonials sites made the cut. Shaadi, Bharat Matrimony and Jeevansathi were all available in Dubai. We were especially pleased that Online Personals Watch and Social Networking Watch were available as well. Of course, as soon as I fired up my VPN I could get to everything. Dubai Internet City also enjoys open access and alternative ISP Du is more lenient than Etisalat. [Full Disclosure: POF and Meetme are clients of Courtland Brooks]
TECH CRUNCH - Aug 22 - Tagged, a social network for meeting new people, has raised $15M in growth capital financing from Lighthouse Capital Partners and Comerica Bank. The company previously raised $9M in funding. Tagged was on an acquisition tear in 2011, buying hi5, Digsby, TopicMarks and WeGame. Tagged's revenue grew by 35% to~ $43M in 2011.
This post also appears on SocialNetworkingWatch.
OPW INTERVIEW - July 10 - Can Tagged beat out Badoo in the USA. They have a head start. Here’s our interview with the VP of Tagged, Steve Sarner. - Mark Brooks
What is your founding story?
Tagged was founded back in 2004, originally as a social network for teenagers. Once Facebook started to grow, we realized that Tagged was not going to be the winner of that race. We saw a huge opportunity in meeting new people. We have now over 330 million registered members worldwide.
So 30% of your users are now logging in via the mobile app?
Yes and we are very confident that by the end of this year we'll be over 50% mobile.
So tell us more about the phenomenon which is called friendsmaking?
We just simply call it the best place for meeting new people. A lot of people play social games. A good percentage of our users uses Tagged as a dating application.
How do you help your members use it as a dating service through the mobile app?
One of our most popular application within the app and within the site is “MeetMe”. Our algorithms will serve up people who we think you might want to meet. In addition to that, we also have enabled the location aspect on our mobile app as well.
What's your approach with location? What do you think is the best way considering women are a little tentative of using and declaring their location?
First it is really easy to turn it on or off. Our location is somewhat opaque. It will tell you if someone is within a half mile, but it doesn't give a pinpoint.
Do you push matches as well, based on location?
Not yet. You can filter to look for people close by. But that's certainly one of the things that's sitting on the product roadmap.
Would you consider compatibility and personality profiling, perhaps?
We're more in terms of trying to get like-minded people in interest. We're more general and casual friend-making. It's not designed to be the place to find your soulmate, but we do a pretty good job of getting people together and that happens quite often.
What's the typical demographic of Tagged members? Do they tend to skew a lot younger?
No, actually a lot older. Over 75% of our audience is 21+. Our median age is 33. Our fastest growing age demographic is above 40. 25% of our members are in the US. Our next largest countries are UK and Canada. We're very large in the Netherlands. Big in southeast Asia, Malaysia, Thailand, and then we kind of bounce all over the world.
How do you reach such an international audience?
Purely by word of mouth. We've had some great, engaging games where people invite their existing friends in and people just find out about Tagged. We grow by about 25,000 new members a day on a consistent basis.
How do you monetize mobile?
On the mobile side, we are completely ad free. People are buying gifts to promote themselves on the mobile app, as well as to play the virtual games. That's where the money is generated.
What are you charging in the USA and is that typical globally?
The VIP subscription is $20 a month. The gifts start at $1.
How do you feel about paying Apple 30%? Do they earn it?
Our app is completely free. There's no charge to download the app. To the best of my knowledge, those transactions are being done through PayPal separately.
How about Android. What's your approach for Android?
Android is actually our most popular platform.
It's definitely the one with the smallest usage. But we do have enough business on Blackberry to justify the development and keep that on.
Did you take an HTML5 route with the apps or did you go native?
At this point we are native, but we are definitely exploring HTML5.
What do you think the limitations are with it at this stage?
I think the biggest limitation is just having enough tech talent that's comfortable with it.
Have you built entirely in house, or did you outsource?
We built everything entirely in house. Almost all of our games now are built in house. We do have a few third party games left such as Playdom and a couple of others.
Why partner with Playdom?
Before we built our in house game studio, we did have all third party games. The Playdom games have been very successful so we've left them on the site.
You'd think the iPad would be wonderful for gaming and discovery, and social dating. What's your approach with the iPad?
You have to go to what the people are using. We certainly are committed to developing for all of the tablets, including the iPad.
What would be your advice to anyone who is building from scratch?
Our success has been through very fast iteration. I would say move quickly and get it out with minimum features, then find and test to see what's going on, and iterate quickly.
A big problem, of course, is growing to critical mass. Do you ever sell downloads, for example? I know some other apps will actually sell installations and promote other complimentary services.
One of the other companies we acquired last year, Digsby, was a download client, IM and multi-social real time communication application. That was one of the ways they could monetize effectively. Having that audience already of about 20 million monthly active users, we were able to remove those downloads, remove the ads and things that might be in the way of people enjoying the experience.
Digsby is one of my favorite IM's. Are you going to integrate this in Tagged?
No, we're not. We've come out with our own live IM client within Tagged. But we're working on something that we think the Digsby community is going to be really happy about.
Who would you regard as your top competitors at this stage?
Badoo in UK and MyYearbook & Quepasa in US. They have merged and they're re-branding themselves as MeetMe this summer.
Where do you see Tagged in a year's time?
We really want to crack the code on social discovery and meeting new people. We think there is a massive market. We are working hard on proprietary technology, algorithms, and patents to find a way to connect like-minded people.