OPW INTERVIEW - Apr 7 - Hal Oppenheimer is a Harvard and Yale grad and an accomplished investment banker and he wasn't very impressed with his Internet dating experience. Hal is the CEO/Founder of Dating Service Network (DSN). His frustrations with Internet dating led to the creation of DSN, his dating site aggregator. What's most interesting is, unlike former dating site aggregators, the service is actually good for dating apps (Match, POF, etc) because all members must have paid memberships. Full Disclosure: DSN is a client of Courtland Brooks.
What is Dating Service Network?
I always answer that question by saying we are not a dating site or swipe app. We are a third party outsource service for active online daters and professional matchmakers. Basically, our customers don't want to hassle with online dating on their own so they hire us. For that reason we are building a network of what I call Online Matchmakers.
What needs do you address?
Well, I'm sure you have seen the recent surveys about how frustrated online daters have become. For example, a recent Consumer Reports survey found that online dating had "the worst satisfaction scores in the history of Consumer Reports". Earlier this month, the New York Times cited a 2018 Match.com survey where 54% said it was a time-consuming hassle. It's what Lisa Clampitt (founder of the Matchmakers Institute of NYC) calls "online dating fatigue syndrome" and it's now an epidemic. Our Online Concierge Service offers these fed up online daters a hybrid combination of the personal service of a traditional matchmaker and our proprietary online dating platform. However, our service is $800 per month, not $5,000 to $10,000.
Who are your target users exactly?
They are 35 to 60 years old divorced singles, that are too busy to fool with online dating themselves. And, they make enough money to pay someone else to do it for them. Within that group we target the busiest most active online daters. That includes the top 13% most attractive, best educated and highest income users.
What will you do for offline matchmakers?
They can license our middleware platform, on a white label basis, to add online dating services to their existing offline business models. This give them a totally new opportunity to cash-in on the growing migration of frustrated online daters, willing to pay for convenience.
How does it work from the customer perspective?
Well, we are part of a rapidly growing list of third-party services, that help users construct and install their dating site profiles. Then, with their permission, we use those profiles to do a lot of legwork for them. Virtual Dating Assistants, and Personal Dating Assistants (PDA) are two other examples. And, by the way PDA charges as much as $1,700 per week. Or, you can even hire MatchSmith to do your Tinder swiping for you for $1,500 per month. Our business model is much different, but we're all third party services using our customer's profiles.
What are you able to do for them?
Everything we do are things any user could do on their own. But, we are around 30X faster and at a labor cost well below what our customer's time is worth.
To start with, our customers must have paid subscriptions to all the dating sites they want us to search for them. Once that's taken care of, what we do is pretty simple. To explain I will use Kansas City, Missouri, the site of our Beta test, as an example.
Step 1: In Kansas City, we review about 61,000 female online daters everyday across all the major sites.
Step 2: During that process, we pre-filter for our customer's basic demographic criteria.
Step 3: Next, we pre-filter for the top 35% most attractive.
Step 4: Then, we take these roughly 6,000 pre-filtered candidates and create a personalized online dating library for that customer.
Step 5: Finally, the customer, or their matchmaker, can then use our proprietary filtering system to reduce that 6,000 to the customer's top 100 priorities, in seconds.
What new technologies are you introducing to perform these services?
Well, I would say we are first-to-the-market with several major breakthroughs.
- For one we have constructed the first multi-site search and filtering platform in the online dating industry. Similar to Kayak or Trip Advisor in online travel.
- Second our patent pending attractiveness ranking platform is also a first. It eliminates the non-sense of previous attempts to rank attractiveness such as the one Okcupid finally shut down in 2014.
- Third we are the first objective third party service to pre-filter massive online populations for our clients. And, I believe pre-filtering by a trusted third party expert will eliminate do-it-yourself searches and wading through the silly recommendations the dating sites offer.
- Fourth we are first to create personalized online dating libraries full of pre-filtered candidates from all the major sites in one place.
- Fifth we have the first multi-layered filtering platform to use information gathered from photos as search criteria.
Tinder and other swipe apps are so simple to use. How would you compare your user experience?
Of course, we are too. In two clicks, you can delete candidates from your pre-filtered library and scroll through dozens, in a few minutes. That's not something new anymore, in my view. What's new is all the candidates you see on our platform are relevant and attractive and they come from multiple sites not just one. So, instead of searching for a needle in the haystack, we remove all the hay and you see only see needles.
Also, instead of swiping, customers can use our advanced filtering system to easily pinpoint their highest priority candidates. In fact, we tell our customers, if you need to swipe left, fire us.
Finally, depending on the age group you're after, our candidate populations are 3X to 5X larger than an app like Tinder. In medium to small markets these app swipers run out of candidates very quickly. So, they have to join multiple apps to see new ones. That won't happen on our platform.
What's proprietary about your filtering system?
Sure, it's very simple. Our highly mechanized procedures allow us to look at the entire photo gallery, of each pre-filtered candidate, in seconds. During that process, we identify and flag many facts and lifestyle items that can only come from viewing photos. For example, we rank her attractiveness, estimate her actual body type and her real age, and note that she likes horses or motorcycles, etc. People list dozens of things they supposedly, like or do on dating sites. But seeing it in their photos is what really counts. In the hands of an experienced matchmaker, these photo based filters allow them to pinpoint a very selective group for their clients.
How do you gather profiles?
Well, we don't really gather profiles. Using our customer's paid for dating subscriptions to each site, we simply conduct multiple searches, and identify the profiles they ask us to look for. Then to view a candidate's profile, or communicate, our client simply logs-in with his profile, like all other online daters do. Except, our platform automatically logs him into whatever site the candidate is on.
What value do you add?
Well we provide six quantifiable benefits. I won't drag you through the details of each one, but basically, they are:
- TIME SAVED: 30X TO 100X FASTER
- SCOPE: 5X TO 10X MORE CANDIDATES
- DVANCED FILTERS: 100,00O TO 100 IN MINUTES
- RESPONSE RATES: 30% to 60% instead of 5%
- BLOCK OUT IRRELEVANT CANDIDATES: IN MASS
- COMPETITVENESS: YOU WILL SEE THEM FIRST
How is the service priced?
Well, the professional matchmakers that license our middleware platform are on a white label basis, so they can bundle our service with their current offering and price them any way they want. Under our own brand, we offer three levels of services ranging from $200 to $800 per month.
How does this serve the interests of dating sites?
- Our biggest benefit to dating sites is that we will be a major source of new revenue. Let me explain. In our target demographic, which is 35 to 60 year old singles, the average user has only 1.2 paid subscriptions. (Not 3 swipe apps like the twenty something's use.) Our customers, however, are required to carry at least four paid subscriptions and that number will grow. So, one of our users is worth about 300% more dating site revenue than the average online dater today.
- Another benefit to dating sites is our network of online matchmakers will offer them a commissioned sales force and a very high level of customer service they don't have to pay for.
- Finally, our service will certainly improve the deplorable level of satisfaction their customers currently endure.
So, you have no API's with dating sites?
No, no. We are strictly a third-party service trying to make the experience better for their customers. And, in my view, the horrendous satisfaction scores online daters give today, can only be solved through innovative third-party services like ours.
What about women looking for men?
We hope to have that included in our market test by August of this year. We also plan to create pre-filtered libraries aimed at older daters, minorities and major religious groups.
What are your plans for 2019?
Well, at the moment, we are looking for seed capital to complete a full-scale market test, in Kansas City, and add our women looking for men service. We are already seeing very positive reaction from our beta testers. So that should help our money raise. After the test in Kansas City we will look for later stage financing to begin our national rollout in 2020.