PRESS RELEASE - Nov 18 - Spark Networks has appointed Eric Eichmann as CEO. Eric will replace Jeronimo Folgueira who is stepping down from the role as CEO. To ensure a smooth transition, Jeronimo will remain with Spark Networks through the end of 2019 and will continue to serve on Spark's board of directors. Previously, Eric was CEO at Criteo. Under his leadership, Criteo grew revenues from $320M to $2.3B, beat market expectations 19 quarters in a row, and became a recognized global leader in commerce marketing. Prior to this role, Eric was COO at Living Social and at Rosetta Stone.
DARBY NEWS - Nov 11 - Yacktman Asset Management acquired a new stake in shares of Spark Networks in the Q3, according to its SEC filing. The institutional investor acquired 220K shares, valued at $1,2M. Yacktman Asset Management owned ~0.07% of Spark Networks at the end of the most recent quarter. Gabelli Funds also purchased shares of Spark Networks, valued at ~$55K. Renaissance Technologies purchased $454K worth of Spark shares. Finally, Canaan Partners purchased $22.6M worth of Spark shares.
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IDEA - Oct 10 - The Internet Dating Excellence Association (IDEA.gp) exists to help the dating industry grow, and to help dating executives learn and share and improve their services for the benefit of their users.
I started IDEA in 2007, and we spent the first 10 years bringing dating industry leaders together socially prior to Internet Dating Conferences. Then we formalized it a couple years ago, and started running distinct gatherings. The first small gathering was IDEA WOW in Malta in November 2018. It went well, but attendees wanted more so we ran an IDEA WOW + IDEA SUMMIT in Chennai India and I co-hosted the gathering with Murugavel Janakiraman, the CEO/Founder of Matrimony, at the Matrimony.com HQ. It was a wonderful experience.
Our first European IDEA SUMMIT event will happen December 4th at the Spark Networks HQ in Berlin. I'll be cohosting with Jeronimo Folgueira, the CEO of Spark Networks. The event was released this Monday, and was full less than 24 hours later! Another small IDEA SUMMIT gathering is in the works for East Coast USA for March in 2020.
SF BUSINESS TIMES - Oct 1 - Zoosk is facing two massive rounds of layoffs this year and next, before its German-based parent company Spark Networks moves the operation out of San Francisco. Spark Networks acquired Zoosk earlier this year in a deal valued at $255M. The company wrote in a letter to shareholders that it plans to slash 66% of its workforce by the end of this year. It will then institute another round of layoffs to cut 80% of the workforce by April, with the company fully exiting San Francisco by the end of June as a cost-cutting move. It is not clear how many employees currently work for Zoosk. However, in 2017, Zoosk had 93 employees.
BUSINESS WIRE - Sep 30 - We have closed our largest acquisition (Zoosk) to date which has accelerated our expansion in North America. Shares of Spark have lost more than a third of their value thus far in 2019 and over 50% since the deal closed on July 1, 2019. The losses are largely the result of concentrated share sales by a minority of our shareholder base and not the result of financial or operational under-performance. Since the close of the Zoosk transaction, ~5M Spark shares have traded, representing 20% of our total shares outstanding. Spark Networks is active in the market of serious relationships. Through the acquisitions of Jdate, JSwipe, and Christian Mingle, Attractive World in France, and Zoosk, the company has quadrupled its revenue from €60M in 2015 to €250M on a pro forma basis in 2018.
PR NEWSWIRE - Aug 29 - Spark Networks, parent company of EliteSingles, eDarling, Jdate, Christian Mingle, JSwipe, SilverSingles, Attractive World, and Zoosk, reported its first half 2019 financial results. H1 2019 revenue was €49.2M, down 7.1% YOY. The YOY decrease was attributable to the 9% decrease in the number of Average Paying Subscribers. Net loss was €4.9M, an increase of €3.8M compared to €1.1M in the H1 2018. The YOY increase in net loss was primarily attributable to higher professional fees related to the merger with Zoosk that closed in the H2 2018, and an increase in income tax expense in the H1 2019.
CHEDDAR - Aug 3 - Spark Networks SE became the second largest dating company in North America after closing its deal to acquire Zoosk. Jeronimo Folgueira, CEO of Spark Networks, said: "With the acquisition of Zoosk we became now almost three times bigger than we used to be. So, that unlocked all the potential being really large in this market."
PR NEWSWIRE - July 30 - Bert Althaus is joining Spark Networks as CFO, effective September 16th, 2019. Bert currently serves as Senior VP Finance for Berlin-based home24 SE, the home and living e-commerce platform in continental Europe and Brazil. Prior to joining home24, he spent over eight years at Ernst & Young. Bert will replace Rob O'Hare, who has resigned to pursue a senior financial executive role at another company based in San Francisco.
OPW - July 2 - Senior executives from some of the largest dating companies in the industry participated in a panel discussion via webinar to examine the current state of online safety in the dating space and to outline their extensive operations for protecting their users as much as possible from inappropriate content, financial scams, or potential acts of violence.
The webinar, "Online Safety in the Dating and Social Entertainment Market", was hosted by Northland Capital Markets. Participating from the dating industry were Geoff Cook, CEO of The Meet Group, Casey Burton, Director and Senior Counsel at Match Group, and Jeronimo Folgueira, CEO of Spark Networks.
Representing the panel from various safety and online standards organizations were Larry Magid, CEO of Connect Safely, Stephen Balkam, CEO and Founder of the Family Online and Safety Institute, and George Kidd, CEO of the Online Dating Association.
"We put safety at the core of everything we do," said Geoff Cook, CEO of The Meet Group. "Our users are here to interact and connect – and we think the goal of a safety operation is to promote a safe environment free of bullying, hate speech, and abuse to encourage making meaningful connections."
Topics covered during the discussion included: the current state of online safety, content moderation and law enforcement, working with the app store partners, how technology can help users feel safer, and strategies for building a safer online community.
While safety will always be a major focus in the dating industry, Larry Magid, CEO of Connect Safely, wanted to set the record straight in two specific areas.
"One observation is that between the early 1990s and the mid-2010s, while Internet usage was on a steep rise, violence, both against children and sexual violence in general, has gone down," said Magid. "So anybody who wants to correlate online dating with increased sexual violence is actually looking at the numbers in exactly the wrong way. So while I can't claim data that shows that online dating has made things safer, I can say that during the period that online dating has risen, violence has gone down."
"The other thing to understand is that nobody can guarantee 100% safety on anything, whether it's food safety or transportation safety, or safety using tools," he added. "Nobody can ever say with absolute certainty that nothing bad is going to happen. What we can do is have best practices in an industry (like online dating) – and we can have consumer education."
TECH CRUNCH - July 2 - Berlin-based Spark Networks, the owner of Christian Mingle, Jdate, LDSsingles, Silver Singles, JSwipe and others, has acquired Zoosk for a combination of cash and stock. The deal values Zoosk at ~$258M. Spark says it will issue 12,980,000 American Depositary Shares (ADS) to former Zoosk shareholders valued at $153M based on the closing price of Spark ADS of $11.78 on June 28, 2019. Zoosk has for a long time struggled to compete against Tinder. A few years ago, the company laid off a third of its staff and even had to call off its IPO. According to data from Sensor Tower, Zoosk has generated worldwide in-app revenue of $250M and has seen 38M downloads since January 2014. In Q1 2019, Zoosk revenue was flat at $13M, the firm also says. Tinder revenue, by comparison, grew 43%. Zoosk's current CEO Steven McArthur is departing Zoosk following the deal, but will join Spark's board of directors.
SEEKING ALPHA - June 19 - Spark Networks targets adjusted EBITDA of $50M in 2020. The company says the California Department of Business Oversight granted a permit allowing Spark to issue securities in exchange for the outstanding Zoosk securities. The permit followed a hearing that was the last major milestone in the Zoosk purchase. The acquisition is expected to close on July 1. Spark shares are up 2% to $10.80.
PR NEWSWIRE - June 5 - An Extraordinary General Meeting of Spark Networks SE was held on June 3 in Berlin, Germany. Resolutions were passed with 99.9% of the present votes in favor - a resounding endorsement of the acquisition of Zoosk, which upon closing is expected to make Spark the second largest dating company in North America. For the purpose of acquiring Zoosk, the Meeting resolved to issue new shares to Zoosk shareholders in exchange for their Zoosk shares.
PR NEWSWIRE - Apr 29 - Revenue for the second half of 2018 was €51.5M, up 18.4% from €43.5M in H2 of 2017. Revenue for 2018 was €104.6M, up 22.2% from €85.6M in 2017. The increase was primarily attributable to the Affinitas / Spark Merger, which closed in Nov 2017. Net Loss was €2M in the second half of 2018, compared to €3.9M in the second half of 2017, a reduction of €1.9M. Net Loss for 2018 was €3.1M, compared to €5.6M in 2017. Average Paying Subscribers grew 21.3% to 478K.
OPW - Apr 18 - Want to get your head around Asia? There's a couple conferences we'd like to put on your radar. But best book soon, as they're coming up fast. They're in Singapore at the amazing Marina Sands Hotel. I'm speaking at both of them.
The 1st is the GDI Singapore Dating Conference on May 13-14th, and is 250 GBP. Leaders from Paktor, Pairs, The Meet Group, Matrimony and Spark Networks will be speaking.
The 2nd is the Global Love Conference on May 15-16th, is $295, and will be more matchmaking focused. Leaders from Viola.ai / Lunch Actually, 2 Red Beans, Paktor, and the Matchmaking Institute will be speaking. (Here's a feel good $50 discount code 50OFFSG)
I hope to see you there. - Mark Brooks
CRUNCHBASE - Apr 3 - US dating startups haven't attracted much funding. There were ~40 companies in the "dating" category on Crunchbase that were founded in the past three years, each with their own spin on the gaps they believe Tinder and Bumble haven't been able to fill. Tina Wilson founded Wingman, a dating app which involves friends in the dating process. Match Group partnered with content platform Betches to launch a similar app called Ship. Another new dating startup is Plum. The app is currently in its beta and aims to incentivize men to behave appropriately by implementing a ratings system based on communication, follow-through, and profile authenticity. "Anyone can have a good idea, but if the audience isn't there to back it up, that presents quite an issue," says Jeronimo Folgueira, CEO of Spark Networks. "It's very difficult for small companies to reach critical mass. That's a result of the sheer amount of competition and the massive amount of money that is required to spend on marketing," he said. But what does work? The backing of large players like The Match Group and Badoo. "Hinge is an excellent example of a company that had an amazing product, great concept, and it was going nowhere, and Match bought it for almost nothing," Folgueira explained, adding that now, with Match's backing, Hinge will be huge.
WALL STREET JOURNAL - Mar 27 - U.S. national-security officials have ordered a Chinese company to sell gay-dating app Grindr, citing the risk that the personal data it collects could be exploited by Beijing to blackmail individuals with security clearances, according to people familiar with the situation. Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. Ltd., which acquired a majority stake in Grindr in 2016, would have no choice but to share information on Grindr users if demanded by the Chinese government, U.S. officials believe. That triggered the recent order from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., known as Cfius. National-security experts said a Chinese company would never be allowed to buy a company like Facebook Inc., for example.
"If Cfius only applies to companies China acquires from the U.S., and not companies China builds, what can it possibly solve?" said Geoffrey Cook, CEO of The Meet Group.
Potential buyers for Grindr could include Match. Mark Brooks, a consultant in the dating industry, said Spark Networks and The Meet Group could be among other potential contenders.
PR NEWSWIRE - Mar 22 - Spark Networks today announced its entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Zoosk. With the addition of Zoosk, Spark will more than double in size and the combined business will be considerably more valuable than the two stand-alone entities. In 2020, Spark expects Adjusted EBITDA to exceed $50M. Approximately two-thirds of the combined company's revenue will be generated in North America. Spark will acquire 100% of Zoosk's shares with a combination of cash and stock valuing the company at ~$255M based on the closing price of Spark Networks stock on March 20, 2019. The transaction is expected to close early in Q3 2019.
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Match Group - Barry Diller
Born in San Fran in 1942, 77 year-old Barry Diller is Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC and Expedia. Diller married fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg in 2001 and is now estimated to be worth $3.3B. He also created the Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting. On top of creating his own empire in media, Diller's influence has spread to those who he mentored - colloquially called the "Killer Dillers" - which included former Disney Chairman & CEO Michael Eisner and Dawn Leslie Steel, one of the first woman to become the head of a major movie studio.
The Meet Group - Geoff Cook
Geoff isn't The Meet Group's founder. That honor goes to his younger brother and sister, Dave and Catherine Cook. Dave and Catherine created myYearbook in 2005 as a place for ex-classmates to meet up online. Geoff became the company's power player after investing $250K that he made from his EssayEdge and ResumeEdge startups he created in his Harvard dorm room.
Badoo - Andrey Andreev
Born in February 1974 in Moscow, Russia, Andreev founded Badoo, SpyLog, Begun, and Mamba. He also famously convinced ex-Tinder exec Whitney Wolfe Herd to create Bumble, of which Badoo is a 79% owner. Andreev was recently listed by Forbes as one of the world's richest people, estimated to be worth $1.5B.
Spark Networks - Jeronimo Folgueira
Before taking over Spark in 2017, Jeronimo was a Managing Director at Betfair plc (now Paddy Power plc). The Columbia Business School grad took over the reigns of all of Spark Networks SE when JDate and Christian Mingle-focused Spark merged with Affinitas GmbH.
The full article was originally published at Thinknum Media, but is no longer available.