OPW INTERVIEW - July 17 - Back in 2004 Friendster had its thunder stolen by MySpace. Then Facebook retired MySpace. Badoo is distinct. Its a leading social discovery site and over 40% of its traffic is mobile now. - Mark Brooks
I can't see Badoo retiring Facebook, but how is it different?
Facebook is for your existing friends. Badoo was designed for meeting new people.
Is Badoo dating? Or is it something else? Friends-making perhaps?
All of those things. Dating exists on the site but we don't view ourselves as a strictly dating site.
Now is it more flirting? There's something fun about flirting. I've heard flirting described as making other people feel good by giving them compliments. If I look at the home page now, there's chat, flirt, but there's no mention of dating. I think “dating” and “singles” are words which you've avoided. Quite rightfully so. Is the active word flirting really what Badoo is?
I have no problem saying that people can date on Badoo. You can equally flirt. The top reasons people go on the site is chat and making friends. That constitutes about 70% of the activity on the site. Badoo is trying to mirror real life by throwing you together with a whole bunch of different people. Some people you may chat with, and it may never be anything more than that. Over 50% of people have added someone they've met on Badoo to their Facebook.
Jonathan Abrams started Friendster in 2002. He was on a number of dating sites. He thought internet dating was “cheesy.” So one of the things he endeavored to do was make Friendster a more natural way for people to meet. I see Badoo delivering on that vision. You've taken the international route and you're just coming up on 150 Million members. How many of those members are now non-USA and non-UK?
If you look at how Badoo grew, you would see a spiral out from Spain into the rest of southern Europe, then crossing over into Latin America. There's obvious linguistic and cultural ties to Spain and Portugal. And then it started to spread north from Latin America. So the bulk of that 150 Million is outside of Anglo markets. And UK and US markets are among our fastest growing as the product has just now started to hit those two countries.
Plentyoffish had a similar growth trajectory. It started off in Canada and then Markus chose UK because he knew he could get his arms around it more easily. It's a very price sensitive market.
Yes and because we are free, it lends itself to virality. We do have a freemium model and it has reached over $150 Million run rate.
How predominate is the mobile Badoo in those numbers?
In the US, over 50% of our new registrations are happening on mobile. Now we look at mobile first, and then the web.
How has that trajectory changed geographically? Is it the USA that's 50% and are you seeing other demographics that are even stronger for the mobile adoption?
The US is the strongest in terms of new registrations on mobile. But he primary source of registrations is still going to be web in certain parts of the world such as Latin America where the smartphone penetration is not that high.
You've got a really good app that people love. How are you getting word out to these new markets?
Again coming back to “we're free”, helps. We really aren't prescriptive in terms of how you interact with the site, what to do on the site and the kind of people you can meet there. I think ultimately our users understand Badoo flexibility and make use of it and that's why it ends up spreading because it works.
What's the split between mobile money and online revenue generation?
We wouldn't break revenues down into different platforms. We don't do advertising. We make money from subscriptions and micro-payments. You can pay a small amount to place your ad at the top of our site, for example.
What about virtual gifting?
We have it on the site as well.
Has that been popular?
People use it. It’s just another feature that we have, and it contributes to the revenue.
Have you see the behavior of people actually gifting themselves to make themselves seem more popular?
Not so much. But guys do not tend to be the most creative gift givers. You see a lot more diversity if the women are giving gifts.
Can you see a day when mobile usage is going to exceed online usage for Badoo?
Absolutely. We always wanted Badoo to be something very casual and very flexible. I think mobile compliments that very well.
How are conversions different?
You do see a difference. Mobile users, perhaps because of greater activity, are more likely to convert to paying users.
And Android versus iPhone?
I think it's still early days to be able to compare in great depth, in part because some things aren't available today on Android, such as subscription billing.
Are there any other unusual behaviors that you've seen with the way people behave on the mobile phone versus online. One area would be location based services. How have you incorporated LBS?
We have a feature that shows you people nearby. At the same time, we've built in lots of different controls for people. So you can choose to not show your distance or that you're online. As a woman, those kinds of features would be important to me. Location is important because I’d probably want to date someone who's near me versus someone who's off in another country.
So you think women are really warming up to the idea of sharing their location?
If you'd asked that question 10 years ago, the response would have been very, very different. There has been a shift among a lot of people.
Badoo has grown without any marketing budget. But now, advertising is happening for the very first time, from what I hear.
We don’t want to rely on viral growth only. At some point that's going to stop. We're still seeing 125,000 sign-ups a day but I think we have to look at using some traditional marketing as well to start explaining to people what Badoo is and how they can use it.
So it's a seeding strategy then? Basically to prime the pump to get an initial audience.
I think so. I would not compare us to a traditional dating site, where a lot of acquisition comes through TV advertising and other kinds of offline advertising. I wouldn't see us in the long term going down that route.