OPW INTERVIEW - Feb 25 - Zoosk is growing fast and taking no prisoners. We interviewed Zoosk back in June 2009. See the interview here. Here's our latest interview with co-founder Alex Mehr. - Mark Brooks
How rosy was your Valentine’s Day?
My Valentine’s Day was great personally and more importantly, on the site, we had quite a few promotions that went very well. A lot of people joined our site 4 or 5 days before Valentine’s to find that last minute Valentine.
How big is Zoosk now?
It has just crossed 50 million people.
How are you driving such an incredible growth?
It’s a combination of few different things. We do a lot of online marketing just like any other dating site and we also promote heavily through social networks.
You just did a deal with IMVU. Can you tell us more about that deal? Why go virtual?
The deal was not particularly about IMVU being a virtual world website. It was more a test for us to see how syndicating our site to other websites would work in terms of monetization and added value to the end user. If it is successful we roll it out to many other sites. And we’ve been doing it for a couple of sites so far and it’s looking great.
What are your thoughts on virtual dating in an internet dating environment?
It might appeal to a really young audience. But I think for people who want to go on dates, avatar based dating isn’t a viable method. So we are staying away from it at this point.
Zoosk was started in December 2007 and we interviewed you in June 2009. Since then you’ve raised another $30 million round of funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Congratulations. What are you doing with the money?
A lot of it is going to go into promoting our product, not just on social networks but also through offline channels. We also have some product development in plan that requires more capital. I don’t want to talk about the specific details but you can expect a lot from us in the coming year.
What site developments are you most proud of since we last talked in June 2009?
There has been quite a lot happening on Zoosk.com in terms of making online dating more social. We have introduced the information sharing. Zoosk has a home page just like Facebook that has feeds.
Profiles on most dating have a structured look. You go to a person’s profile and see the stats and everything about them. We provide that as well but that doesn’t provide context for initiating a contact. Let’s say you see Angelina from San Francisco, she’s 30 and her birthday is coming up in 3 days. That would be perfect for you to initiate a conversation in that context. That has been, by far, the most successful feature we’ve rolled out.
How important is the iPhone platform for you?
iPhone is the way to go mobile. It has been an interesting project for us and we’ve learned a lot. We are rolling out newer versions of our iPhone app. Our plan is to roll out at least one new version every month for the next few months. Pretty soon we are also going to develop for iPad and Android.
Could you see a day when there are more people accessing Zoosk through iPhone and iPad?
You will see a lot of people having smart phones at a very young age and accessing websites through those devices. But I don’t think this is going to happen for another 3 to 5 years. It is a long term planning but we are developing and getting ready now.
What is coming next for Zoosk? How do you intend to give Match.com a run for their money?
We don’t compare ourselves to Match.com. We consider ourselves a social network for dating. We share a lot of characteristics with social networks but at the same time the main purpose of our site is dating.
We’re doing a lot of things and one of them is making our home page smarter with news feed items and information sharing, build more things around social graph.