OPW INTERVIEW -- May 24 -- FriendScout24 is the top internet dating site in Germany and Switzerland and ranked #3 in Spain. See rankings. Here's our interview with the CEO, Christoph Mempel. - Mark Brooks
What is FriendScout24's founding story?
FriendScout24 was founded 1997 under the name People United by private founders in Cologne. In 2000, People United was acquired by the Scout24 group, a private finance company, and was renamed FriendScout24. The company then moved from Cologne to Munich, where most of the Scout24 companies are located. In 2003, the Deutsche Telekom Group, the largest telecommunications group in Germany, which has an internet presence, bought the whole Scout24 group, including FriendScout24.
How many people work at FriendScout24 now?
Right now we have 90 employees, and we think by the end of the year there will be about 110. We are constantly growing. To give you an idea of our development: we started with 5 to 10 people after the acquisition by Scout24.
How would you characterize FriendScout24 against your competition, and how is the service different?
In Germany, we have with 7 millon members the largest database of singles. FriendScout24 is the market leader and stands for reliable and first class service. For example, we constantly work to secure the authenticity of the user profiles. We want to offer our users everything they need, to get the best chance of finding the right partner by offering them a big variety of interesting singles. I think this is the most important thing to know about FriendScout24.
I see you're in Germany and Spain, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. With your top 3 positions in Germany, Spain and Switzerland, how are things going in Italy, which I hear is the emerging market for Internet dating.
This year, we could add the Netherlands to that list. We launched our service in the Netherlands at the end of January. Regarding the Italian market, we're doing quite well. We entered Italy almost a year ago and the market situation is similiar to Spain. The challenge right now is getting more and more online traffic in Italy. We support our brand with a lot of press work, furthermore we are working on identifying different channels, which we can use to push the online traffic and the business opportunities in Italy in general.
How have you reached out to users via mobile phones?
In Germany, we launched a mobile application very early and we were one of the first companies to implement such a service. However, this was no focus for our business for quite a while, because the technical development of mobile phones was not that fast. Now it is emerging again. Therefore we will extend our mobile application features, and will also implement new product innovations in this field.
Have you also considered launching applications on social networks such as Facebook and other local networks?
It's interesting that you ask, as this is also on our list this year. We believe, that this is not a big topic right now. In Germany, the social network companies, including Facebook, are ready to start with a German site and there are further popular sites, e.g. StudiVZ. We are monitoring this segment of the market very seriously and will - based on the developments - check the appreciation for such applications.
One of the arguments that I hear time and time again is that social networking is pulling people away from the Internet dating market. Is that true or do you think the two can work together?
I think they can work together. We don't see a shift in people going away from dating sites to social network sites and I believe it's still a different business. Two years ago, when the hype about social communities started, we weren't sure if there would be an impact on our work and if this would draw a lot of users from our sites. In reality, we can't see a big impact of social communities on our work, because the focus is quite different. Besides, social networks are successful in Germany, and especially StudiVZ, in terms of page impressions, is a very highly ranked site, regarding the younger target group. However, our members are not only looking for a social network, but also for a targeted search of a soulmate. We have 9,000 registrations daily, so they don't appear to be a real threat.
What are your goals for FriendScout24 over the coming year?
One of our main goals for this year is to secure and expand our market leadership in Germany. We see a market consolidation right now in Germany. For the last 3 – 4 years everyone expected a consolidation, but it didn't happen in Germany. Therefore it is important for us, to keep and to strengthen our position. There is a lot going on in the German market. I'm sure you're informed about Meetic, which acquired Neu.de, a big player in Germany.
A second goal is to expand our European presence. We have a few other countries on our list to launch our product this year.
Talking about product innovation, we do have a lot of convenient features for our users. It's our main focus, to offer a big variety of attractive features which make it easy, fun and successful to find a partner.