In 1994, a new thing was just catching on. The internet and the world wide web. David Fritsche, a former NASA engineer, was running a technology business based in Reno, Nevada. David put together a network of software developers to develop database systems for the Internet. In doing so, they were able to attack over 80,000 developers. Microsoft hired David to write books and develop their Internet Database software.
David was also a youth pastor and youth sports coach at the time. David and his brother Bob started experimenting with their technology to allow Christians to communicate. It started with simple online chat rooms. Bob worked on the chat rooms and was simply there for people. Always lending a kind word and listening to their needs. The chat rooms were always open and continued to steadily grow.
In 1995, the Global Christian Network was launched (gcnhome.com). GCN then added a Google-like search for Christian sites. This continued to grow as well. Our hobby was starting to demand time and money. Over the next couple years, new services were offered:
- GCN Classifieds – online sales.
- GCN Prayer web – a very popular prayer chain.
- GCN Studio - online chats with famous celebrities.
- GCN Newsletters – over 100 Authors gave daily or weekly subscription content.
- GCN Instant Homepage – A web site creator for creating user owned web pages.
- GCN Singles - The world's first and largest Christian focused dating service. More on this below.
On January 1st, 1997, something happened that changed our lives forever. In one day, our internet traffic doubled. Our servers were already a stretch financially, but this caused them to crash. We had to make a decision to go all in on GCN or to kill it. We chose to go all in and began stopping all our development projects with clients. We had to raise capital to support the growth.
GCN continued to grow and achieved over 4 million subscribers. This made it one of the top trafficked sites in the world. We continued to add services and raise capital.
In 2000, the world changed again. This time not just for us, but for the entire industry. David had secured financial commitments from three sources for $45 million to support the community. Then in June of 2000, Bill Gates spoke before congress. Congress was not happy with his monopolist practices with internet Explorer. Congress voted to break up Microsoft. That day, the market crashed and so did the value of every internet-based company. Our company was valued on the public market at $400 million. In a week, we were at $40 million. Our financial commitments were gone. But the bills continued.
GCN was sold to a public company called iExalt in 2001. iExalt was later sold to Salem Media Group, a public company who still owns the domain and the rights.
GCN Singles opened in 1998. GCN Singles was a Christian Dating service centered around GCN's chat room technology and building profiles, just like sites do today. In the late 90's there was only one online dating service of note, Match.com. GCN Singles was the first of its kind.
GCN Singles was different. We brought in award winning Christian authors to be the face of the community. We programmed their proven methods for matching people. We did our best to make it a safe space for real people. It was also different in that we made it a platform for others who wanted to run their own dating sites. We did a revenue share with other businesses where they provided the marketing, and we provided a white-labeled site for them. Over 80 sites were started.
GCN Singles was controversial the entire time it. People in the Churches were skeptical that real relationships could be made online. They worried about the moral risks. But Bob and David saw something different. They saw lonely people who were developing lifelong relationships. Over 300 couples that we know of were married through the site.
When did it operate?
1998 - 2001
What was your role?
Who were the lead team?