OPW INTERVIEW - Nov 9 - Gelato combines online dating and real-time search. Profiles are created by pulling information from members’ accounts across Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and other commercial sites. I spoke with founder Steve Odom about Gelato’s revenue model, the site’s API usage and how his own dating life has influenced his work. – Jenn Rubin
Why did you decide to start Gelato?
I got divorced a couple of years ago and found myself on dating sites that I felt could be so much better. About the same time, I started using Twitter. I found that if I followed somebody on Twitter for a couple of weeks that I really got to know them. I knew their schedule, what they complained about and what they liked.
I wanted that type of experience on a dating site, so I started building Gelato about a year ago.
What would I do first upon arriving at the site?
We don’t ask for email addresses or passwords. You sign in with either your Facebook or Twitter login. Next, you have an option to import what you want from, say, your Facebook profile, whether it’s your relationship status, your profile picture, the books that you like, etc. This forms the basis of your Gelato profile. You can also sync your Gelato profile with accounts on Twitter, Netflix, Flickr and more.
Are you partnering with Facebook, Twitter and these other sites directly?
All of these sites have application interfaces, or APIs, which allow you to integrate this user information.
Why did you decide to merge Gelato with content from various social networking sites?
The problem that I found on other dating sites was that it took a long time to create a profile. Despite having to write a lot of information, many of the profiles still sounded the same. We all like long walks on the beach and to have a good time. I wanted to make it easy to create a profile on Gelato.
For instance, instead of just writing about my favorite movies, I can also show you what I’ve rented at Netflix. That tells you more, and it gives you a richer view of what kind of movies I like.
Second, I wanted Gelato’s profiles to be more authentic. We’ve all heard of people fibbing on their profile. Gelato pulls information from the stuff you’re doing on Twitter or Flickr, so it’s more authentic. You get a better idea of who I really am.
How do you plan to grow Gelato’s membership base in the months to come?
We launched this fall at the Demo Conference in San Diego. We have less than 5,000 users. We’re not focused on growth right now. I still need to understand the metrics of the site, what users are doing, how long they’re staying and how long until they’re coming back.
How will Gelato make money down the road?
I don’t think that we’re going to have advertisements. The way Gelato will make money is a premium option. So for some amount, say $10 a month, you’ll get additional features like analytics — who has viewed your account, how long they stayed, real-time alerts and more.
Tell me more about the real-time alerts feature.
With a premium account, I can create an online alert to ping me on my phone or email if someone signs on who is, for example, a woman 30 to 40, non-smoker in Austin, Texas who mentions World of Warcraft in her profile.
Who are some of Gelato’s backers?
I’ve been the sole backer. The great thing is you can build a site for less than $100,000 these days. We’re not at the point yet where we’re ready to take on additional capital.
There are hundreds of online dating sites. Why should singles pick Gelato?
Gelato helps you find others who share your specific interests and present yourself in a more authentic manner. If two people are authentic, you have the basis for a good connection.
What is your goal for the site over the next year?
The next big feature we will be releasing is recommendations and compatibility. We have a lot of interesting data about who you are. We plan to leverage that and be able to show you other people that are compatible with you.