What’s your personal background?
Max: I finished Medical University in the Ukraine and, in 2000, started a web development outsourcing company. In 2004 I relocated to the UK and started HitDynamics, a WebAnalytics package which is now part of Hitwise, with one of my clients. At the same time we started an online dating business. We realized very quickly that you cannot do a dating business unless you have a database. So through Bill and his network we found a company in London which had been in the internet dating business for years. On top of their database we built what’s now known as EasyDate. We continued to work together with Bill on the other few projects under the IDE group, and the website content optimization company, Maxymiser.
Bill: After graduating from university with a degree in mathematics I moved on to sales and marketing with Unisys computer company. In 1989 I started Teledata which I sold to Scottish Telecom in 1996. Then after an earn out period there I started Iomart (AIM : IOM) and at the same time I created a joint venture with AboveNet which was sold to Metromedia Fibre Networks (MFNX). After I left Iomart and AboveNet I started several other businesses in the UK which include EasyDate and IDE Group.
Can you tell me more about some of your sites? What are the top EasyDate sites at the stage?
Max: DateTheUk is a traditional dating site which is growing quite successfully. On top of that we have SpeedDater which is now a fast growing component. Be Naughty is the other side of our business which is now bigger than FriendFinder in the UK. These three brands I think are recognizable in UK right now and have over 200,000 registrations a month just from the UK.
How are the sites differentiated from other sites in the UK?
Max: The lifetime value of the customer on sites like Match.com is around 2-3 months. People get tired of the interfaces and the site and cancel their membership. We have several white labels sites and can change design and integrate different functionality quickly, thus making more of our acquired customers by cross advertising between sites.
Bill: It’s important that we’re beginning to differentiate by niche and customer preferences, and by functionality. We will soon be integrating speed dating and mobile services in a way that hasn’t been seen before. You’ll see very shortly what we’ll be doing with events and, before Christmas, what we will be doing with mobile dating.
You’re large and you’re not really competing with the likes of WorldDatingPartners and WhiteLabelDating. You have your internal brands you’re rolling out and you are looking for external market, is that right?
Bill: Yeah but we debate whether we should try White Label Dating. But only because people come to us and have asked us to do White Label dating.
Max: Yeah. We have the engine ready for that but realistically, external white labels are not really protected. We believe internal white labels are much stronger because we’re effectively monetizing the brands and the brands belong to us. FriendFinder did it successfully. They built it on the basis of different niche websites.
One major strategic concern we have on white labeling is that your revenue and margin is dependent on a third party who has no real interest in your business and could leave you tomorrow, on the flip side it is probably a good short term cash geneartor as publishers and entrepreneurs are attracted to the dating business.
What are you plans and goals for Easy Date through the end of 2009? What will EasyDate look like by the end of 2009?
Max: We are going to replicate what we’ve done in the UK in other countries. Potentially, if we have enough resources and human power, we definitely can start in Brazil and India. We’ve already started successfully in the USA, Canada and Ireland.
Bill: That’s very much a secondary priority. The main priority is to improve our financial stand by doubling our profit in the next 18 months.
Max: For the 3 years, we have been doing this business, our profit has tripled and our revenue has grown 2 to 2.5 times every year. This will be our year number 4 and I don’t know why we couldn’t do it this year as well.