OPW INTERVIEW - Nov 6 - Deepak Kamra has been an investor with Canaan for 20 years. He invested in Match.com in 1995, Bharat Matrimony in 2006 and most recently Zoosk, earning him the nickname The Love VC. Here is our interview with Deepak. - Mark Brooks
How does a CEO of an iDating site get your attention now?
Online dating is only one of the areas I invest in. Over 20+ years in the industry I have invested in only three of them – Match, Zoosk and Bharat Matrimony. I am always interested in the latest dating concepts, and it’s a very creative entrepreneurial world out there right now. The best way to reach me is through an email via our website at www.canaan.com.
What are you looking for in your next iDating industry investment?
I am looking for the same things I have always looked for since we invested in the first round at Match.com. I am looking for ideas that can scale quickly and those that are highly monetizable. Taking advantage of new platforms like mobile, social and geo is a big advantage. It’s pretty easy and inexpensive to launch a dating site right now, but not so easy to grow it to a meaningful scale in a sustainable way. Also anything that attracts a younger audience is interesting, since it is the biggest and fastest growing part of the dating market, but someone needs to figure out a way to make money from that audience, and advertising alone is unlikely to suffice as a source of revenue.
It seems some people have time, and some have money? Do you think dating sites could be charging more? Are they leaving money on the table?
Yes, yes and yes. But users are a skeptical bunch and need to perceive value for the money they are paying. And with competition from free sites, there is always pricing pressure. So you need to really offer something unique and useful to charge more. Or maybe you need to move away from the traditional monthly subscription business model?
Are you a fan of using facial recognition on Google Glass? Is that the next killer app in iDating?
I think facial recognition would be awesome if it was available. From what I have heard, Google Glass is not planning to include it, at least not initially. And people would have to get over the creepy factor of strangers on the street knowing who they are and everything public about them. Instead of everyone being recognizable, there would have to have some sort of opt-in gate. A dating site is exactly the kind of quasi- private network which could allow the facial recognition feature to be of real value for those who wanted to participate. I think facial recognition has so many other uses outside of dating, for social and business applications, and I am looking forward to new entrepreneurial ideas in that space.
What else are you excited about in iDating, right now, and for the near future?
Mobile and Big Data are the trends I am following right now. Companies like Zoosk are busy working those angles and are phenomenally successful at it. There is lots of innovation at sites like Grouper, HowAboutWe and Coffee Meets Bagel, but it takes time to scale the offline, real world aspects of those businesses. Apps like Tinder are getting a lot of press, and I look forward to hearing about how they intend to make money.