OPW Interview -- Feb 21, 2006 -- I met Markus at iDate2005 and barely gave him the time of day; a hokey little site called Plentyoffish. I have a lot more respect for him these days. Plentyoffish is free and has snuck up on the Canadian market and now he is sneaking up on the American market.
What's your background Markus?
Computer programming. I went to a Technical Institute for a few years and then worked for a few dot com companies. Every one of them went under after 6 months. I was a developer of websites and databases; nothing glamorous. I was really good at making things efficient. They threw me from project to project making things super efficient.
Why did you decide to offer plentyoffish for free?
I originally created the site because I had to learn asp.net and I didn’t want to buy a book, so I created the site and I just kept adding things to it that I liked. I had to continue to learn new things and it just kind of became a dating center; it wasn’t meant to be an actual site. Then I wanted to learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization), so then I read up on SEO and I integrated that into the site and taught myself. Then it just kept growing and every time I wanted to learn something, I would add that to the site. Eventually it just became a huge thing.
How do you make money?
I make money off the ads upselling to other sites. It doesn’t need much money to run. The site does about 13 million pages views a day, making it one of the top 5 sites in Canada of any site and in the top 60 or so in the region according to Hitwise. I started this in March, 2003 and I haven’t kept track of the registrants, but my traffic has grown 12 fold in 12 months overall in both markets.
How can you afford to do radio and TV advertising?
My costs are next to nill Look at American Singles. According to their quarterly reports they spend a million dollars a month just handling servers. I spend about $15K a month tops. It is cheap to advertise on radio if you have none of those other costs.
Who do you regard as your top competitors?
I’m really competing with Match.com. In Canada, I started at 3% last year and I’m sitting at over 50% market share and in the next 6 months I will double the size of the dating industry in Canada.
Are you at all worried about other major players or new entrants starting up with free sites?
Not really. A lot of VC’s are throwing around a lot of money and probably have funded some of the other free sites, but I have so much of a head start that I don’t think there’s much they can do. Google and Yahoo would only affect me little if they went free, in fact I think they would help me rather than hurt me. If the average dater is using 3 dating sites, they are probably currently using Plentyoffish and Match and Yahoo. If Google comes in and offered a free site, most of the paid dating sites like Match and Yahoo would get pushed out of the market. I took a poll today that says that over 55% of my members are paying members on other sites or have been in the past.
What's next for plentyoffish in 2006?
Plentyoffish is already blazing the trail. All the other dating sites are attempting to go niche, whereas plentyoffish is the only site that segregates the database on the spot, so no individual user has access to whole database. When they login and create their profile, the database is refined and they only access to a limited subset. So basically, as soon as you sign up, a niche is created around you. You only have access to that specific niche. Currently, no other site is doing this. This is like creating a niche site on the fly. If you logon and you don’t want to see ‘smokers’; every person on there that is a smoker will get filtered out of the search results and no smoker will ever be able to message you. This is specifically the reason why people leave the big sites or the niche sites, because a lot of the people that they don’t want to message them are messaging them. If you filter them in real time, the brand power of a large site will blow away a billion niche sites. No one will remember a tiny niche site and they won’t have the brand to be able to compete. 2006 is setting the stage for a show down with Match.com.