OPW INTERVIEW -- July 24, 2007 -- Kevin Greene runs Ireland's AnotherFriend.com and is a regular attendee at the European internet dating conference. He has based his company in Poland, and is planning a Polish dating site, amongst other things. - Mark Brooks
What is the founding story of AnotherFriend.com?
Over seven years ago, I was working as a freelance web developer and tended to move around quite a bit. I was doing a lot of internal work, like intranets, and needed a showcase for my talents. At the time, there were only a handful of websites making money and online dating was one of them. So, AnotherFriend.com was born on New Years Eve, 2000.
We only got really serious about it, though, in the last three to four years. Now we're the No.1 online dating service in Ireland - probably four to five times larger than our nearest competitor.
What would you say are the main differences between the UK and Irish online dating markets? Who are you competitors?
The UK market is probably a year or two ahead of us. Consumers there are definitely more accepting of online dating. When we first started, very few people in Ireland were willing to put their photos online. That's changing slowly, for sure, but it's not there yet. About 85% of our membership base is from Ireland. We also get quite a lot of members from the US and UK, and have had a few of the marriages between Americans and Irish people. But our core focus is Ireland.
To maintain our dominant market position, we use various marketing strategies. Online marketing certainly works for us and Google is fantastic for that. We've also partnered with a few other websites and a number of newspapers in Ireland, such as The Irish Examiner and The Irish Times, since 2004. Also PR, member events, viral marketing and member testimonials have played their part.
Because Ireland's population is quiet small, the market is not as attractive for competitors as is the larger UK market. However, we have seen the Irish market filling up with competitors over the last year or so. Our nearest competitors are MaybeFriends.com (owned by Scottish Radio Holdings) and MeetingPoint.ie (Owned by Independent Newspapers). We are one of the few indigenous independently managed sites. Bebo hasn't really impacted our business because it tends to cater to the younger age group (the 15-23 year olds). Our site is aimed at the main serious dating age group - the 28-48 year olds.
What have you been up to lately?
This year, we launched a new niche site, www.SingleParents.ie aimed at the growing single parents population in Ireland. While running AnotherFriend.com, we noticed there were a lot of single parents on it and figured there was a big demand for a site that catered to them and their situations. Now, there's no need to wait until one is in a relationship to say, "Oh yeah, by the way, I have a child." Everything can be out in the open right from the start. Members have found this to be a great benefit.
We've also recently partnered with Pluto Life Mobile. AnotherFriend.com members who subscribe to the service now can view other members via their mobile phones. At the moment, they can only view very, very short profiles that are purely for SMS. We are looking at adding photos and more stuff later on. We need to do more work on this and it might be another year or two before Online dating gets popular, but we aim to have the technology in place.
We've also partnered with Vivox, a Voice Over IP (VOIP) company, that combines instant messenger with voice. This will allow people to do speed dating either through a phone or computer. Several people can go into a "room" and talk to each other for a specified amount of time before being switched to the next person. I think from a revenue point of view this will be quite good. They also have "bar stools", which are five people going into a room and chatting away via phone or instant messenger. All the while, we can micro bill and generate extra revenue. We'll release this hopefully within the next three or four months.
Are you planning to launch any new sites?
Yeah, we actually moved our development over to Poland and, as a result, are really looking at the Polish market. We've recently launched www.nightlife.pl but it will be a few years before any money can be made, but there are 38 million Polish citizens and I think that market can be quite lucrative in a few years. We've also launched ProfileApproval.com, which is more of a B2B service for other online dating sites. It's a way for them to outsource the approving of profiles, photos, etc.
What are your thoughts on being acquired?
Actually, six months ago we probably had no planned exit strategy - we were quite happy with building the business, which is growing rapidly. Over the last few months, though, we've been approached by a number of different people, so it certainly is something we would consider now. We pretty much have the whole dating market in Ireland tied up. So, if anyone was looking for a starting point, we certainly would be a very good one. I'd say we're worth between 6 million and 10 million Euros. We're talking to a couple of people but we're still growing rapidly and are very happy with the business, so we are not in any hurry to sell.