OPW INTERVIEW - Aug 28 - MeetMoi is a hallmark mobile dating brand. A great app, built by a notable founding team. Here’s our interview with the CEO, Alex Harrington. - Mark Brooks
How did you come to start MeetMoi?
I'm not the founder. I was brought in three years ago. The company was founded by Andrew Weinreich and Jeremy Levy in 2007. Andrew notably wrote the original patents for social networking, which is presently held by Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman of Zynga and LinkedIn, respectively. He saw social networking coming a long time ago and also saw the disruptive nature of mobile. He sort of foresaw back in 2007 that mobile was going to create opportunities for disruption in all types of industries. He saw dating as a field that could benefit consumer and potentially disrupt the status quo in the business landscape.
Wasn't he also the fellow behind Six Degrees?
That's correct. He founded the first social network of scale called Six Degrees.
How did it evolve up until the point you took over?
The mobile landscape has been reinvented probably four or five times since the company was conceived. When Andrew first started off, he envisioned it as a sort of a texting based interface. They quickly realized the opportunity was really on the mobile web. We launched our mobile web service in 2008. That's still going strong. More recently we have built out our service on app.
How would you categorize MeetMoi? It is not internet dating; what is it?
We use the online dating category as our touchstone. We've referred to ourselves as a mobile matchmaker, but it's an ongoing process to define what exactly our category is. Social discovery is also a good label as an industry term, but not particularly helpful when you're talking to consumers.
How is MeetMoi doing now?
We're doing great. We're in expansion mode. We're well capitalized. This summer is going to be a big rebirth of the company in terms of creating a higher profile and getting a significantly larger audience.
What platforms are you on now? You've got Android and iPhone?
Is there a dedicated iPad app?
There isn't a dedicated iPad app, no.
Are you on Blackberry?
No, we serve Blackberry users by having a capable mobile web platform.
Was it developed entirely in-house? Or how are you splitting the in-house versus outsourcing at this stage?
We do use outsource development help to extend our capabilities, but pretty much everything has been built in-house.
Where are you finding new members? How do you market out to them?
We acquire users principally through mobile.
How would you describe MeetMoi as differentiated from the competitors?
There are a number of people that have taken an approach to mobile which are natively online services that build quite nice mobile apps. Though they may build in features that are specifically geared to mobile, like location sensitivity, to the extent that it's not the main platform which their users have been habituated to use. The way we've always thought about it is that if it's natively mobile, your location is tracked in real time so that we can provide the best possible location sensitive matches. If you don't know your users' location information in real time, then is worse than useless because it's misleading. A lot of competitors haven't quite got that.
Have you dealt with women differently than guys or is it the same for everybody when it comes to geo-location?
I think for us, like most dating services, you design the service to be sensitive to the concerns of your female users. We have a lot of focus groups for women to determine just how to tailor the product to their needs.
How's the wing-man feature working out for you?
It's great. One of the challenges that dating sites have is that traditionally people don’t want to invite their friends. One of our objectives was to make dating more social. We wanted to map our product to support the ways people interact in the real world. If I'm in a group of guys looking to meet a group of girls, just meeting one isn't going to do it. I want to be introduced to another group of girls. That's the product benefit.
How are you monetizing at this stage?
We've always had a paywall since the inception of the service. If you want to send an email to another user and you're not both in the same place at the same time through the introductions that we make, then you have to become a premium member. On our iPhone and Android apps, that's a $20 a month.
Are you finding that people are sticking around for the typical three months, or how's the behavior a little different than internet dating?
I think we're doing better than that. The way our product works is that we're making introductions to you and you don't have to do a whole lot other than view the introductions and make a decision on whether or not you want to act on them, or ignore them.
How does the matchmaking work? What are you matching on? Are you going into personality profiling in the future, do you think?
We keep our profiles short and sweet, so our goal is to introduce people to quality matches and learn people’s preferences as they give us feedback. Right now, because it's on mobile and people originate their profiles on mobile, we don't want to give people elaborate personality tests.
Have you seen much difference in the behavior between people across different platforms? So iPhone to iPhone users, Android to Andoird users. Do people behave differently?
There's certainly differences in the types of users on Android and iPhone. iPhones are expensive, so it tends to be a more for affluent users. The app ecosystem on iPhone is mostly a paid ecosystem whereas on Android, there is a lot of freeware.
How are you accepting payments?
We use carrier billing and credit card.
Do people enter their credit cards, or do they prefer to go through the carrier?
We get a lot lower friction conversion on carrier billing without question. We do see quite a lot of credit card revenue as well. Part of it is, we have some algorithms to sort of determine which payment method suits the user, and if they fail on one we present the other.
Of course you'd rather take the credit card, you wouldn't be paying quite so much. A few years it use to be 50% that the carriers were taking for on-deck apps. What are they taking now?
They're moving in that direction for sure. It still very tentative.
What do you think is reasonable? Are you happy to pay 30% to Apple?
Happy is the wrong word. I think willing is a better word. Seeing revenue shares of 80% is big progress. The reason why I'm willing to pay 30% for iTunes connect is that they've built a community of users that pay and the transaction interface is relatively frictionless. If you look at Google Checkout, by contrast, that takes the same percentage. They haven't yet built in continuity billing, the billing failures are significantly higher than on iTunes. I see Google Checkout as being overpriced, but iTunes can get away with that kind of pricing because they've built the best mobile billing interface out there.
So Google isn't doing month-to-month yet?
No, there's not continuity billing in Google Checkout in the app store. They have it as a mobile web or web-based Google Checkout product, but in Google Play, it's transactional billing.
Do you think Blackberry is going to be on the radar in the future?
I don't have high hopes for it. It feels like it's riding off into the sunset. We don't have any foreseeable intentions of building out for that platform.
What's your vision for the future? Where is MeetMoi going to be in a year's time?
I think we'll be more or less the company we are now. We'd like to have a significantly larger audience concentrated in urban areas. I think in a year's time, we'd like to have a very strong New York audience base. San Francisco, Chicago, L.A., Austin – places like that.
Do you think you'll go into the real world advertising realm?
We've already done some event-based marketing. So there will be some offline marketing, but I'd say the bulk of it will be online.