OPW INTERVIEW - Jan 14 - Have you ever heard of Free.Date? I think you will. They're one to watch. PlentyOfFish's tagline was "100% free. Put away your credit card." Which was a great and unique position in the market 10 years ago. Now everything is freemium and noone seems to be entirely free. Free.Date intends to take the "put away your credit card" position, essentially. Its actually not possible to spend money with them. Here's our interview with Jason Lee who is busy growing this property. - Mark Brooks
What is Free.Date?
Free.Date is a totally free, ad-supported dating site. Our users never have to pay for online dating. Our focus is on offering the best experience, and our goal is to be a basic and reliable free dating site. Some people might argue that it is not enough but if we look at the history of some of the top free dating sites, that is exactly what they did before being acquired by larger conglomerates, caving to financial pressures, and ultimately charging customers for what used to be free.
What's your founding story?
After college I could not find a good, totally free dating site. Most dating sites and apps focus on gimmicks and try to get people to pay a membership fee. Frankly people should not have to pay for online dating because there are tons of companies willing to buy ads. Dating sites can still make a great profit. As a user of a dating site/app, you get two very simple things - access to a database of singles and secure method to contact them. This is basically all dating site is. So why isn't there a boatload of free dating sites?
What's your position in the market?
First off, I think you would agree that user acquisition strategies are what most dating sites lack when they launch. This is also why most dating apps fail. The reality is the cost to get users is oftentimes higher than the value of the users. Our goal is to sustainably grow without amassing a large debt load. Our marketing team is based in India while I am working between S.E. Asia and the U.S.. Meanwhile, our programming is done in China. Most people look at Internet dating as a market where the leaders will always be the same. In our opinion that is far from the case. The mobile transition was the grand reset button. 25% of the top dating sites from a decade ago are no longer mentioned in mainstream media, while other big names like DateHookup and Perfect Match do not even exist anymore.
Do you have a mobile app?
We are launching our "Free Dating" app soon.
What's your biggest mistake so far?
My biggest mistake was thinking it would be easy, and not understanding the difficulties when building a scale-able websites. I have also learned how to delegate better and focus on what the data is telling me versus hunches. Another mistake during the first few years was not realizing how gifted our programmers are, and truly appreciating their skills.
And your biggest win?
Our original concept included building free niche dating sites and giving people the ability to join those and also become a member of Free.Date simultaneously. While our focus is now entirely on Free.Date, these small communities continue to grow around us as well and drive lots of new members to the Free.Date community. So proof of concept was the first big win. Secondarily, we've been profitable for 4 years now. But my biggest win is in the satisfaction of knowing that tens of thousands of people visit the site each day and are able to connect with other real local singles for free.