OPW INTERVIEW -- Nov 3, 2007 -- Mark Ezra knows background checks. It's not the online dating industries favorite subject, but background checks are here to stay. Mate1 will be offering them as an option to members on their site. I interviewed Mark to find out what checks work for dating sites. - Mark Brooks
What is Honesty Online’s founding story?
It all started a couple of years ago. I kept hearing story after story from my friends and others about people misrepresenting themselves on online dating sites. People who weren’t really who they said they were or who mislead people with false information. All of these problems and all of the fraud online sparked the idea. We saw there was a need in the online dating world and went out and did the research. We discovered there was no way to properly and accurately authenticate individuals and conduct criminal searches in a high-volume capacity.
What is your background?
My initial background is in the commercial real estate industry. I segued into the technology world when I co-founded a company that constructed technology buildings throughout the U.S. We sold that in early 2001. My partner’s background is technology. He’s built six startups. His last startup, Reliacast, which involved streaming video technology, was sold to Comcast last year.
What kind of background checks do you do?
Our background checks involve a few steps. The first thing we do is validate the identity to confirm that the person on the other side of the computer is who they claim to be. After validating all aspects of their identity, we run a background check and a sex offender search. One of the things that makes our products so successful is we use every possible data source out there to get the most complete data. We don’t rely on any one source. We combine the results from our various sources and use our technology to sort the enormous amount of data we receive. This ensures that we locate all relevant criminal records and match those records to the right individual. We spent a year alone building our proprietary technology.
What kind of background checks would you recommend for dating sites?
We would recommend a process like ours which is accurate, instant, cost effective, and easily integrated. Unfortunately, there are many holes in the data that results from performing a national criminal search. That’s why we have created products that allow us to plug a lot of these holes with technology that can handle gathering data from multiple data sources and then sorting that data so that errors of omission and over-inclusion are avoided.
We built our products so that we could use the data that people already are accustomed to giving on dating sites. We don’t require social security numbers or home phone numbers and our accuracy levels are just as high as if we had that information.
Why haven’t other services in the past been able to provide as much accuracy and speed?
We’re the first consumer-based product built for online properties with high volume. Traditional background checks, on the other hand, are targeted for lower-volume (typically HR) applications and rely on human beings to sort through the records and properly match a criminal record to an individual.
How much does a background check cost?
We charge an end user $10. For large partners, like dating sites, we have sliding scales of commissions we pay out to our partners that are based on volume. The retail cost would be the same, but what we pay the partners would vary.
How fast and accurate are your results?
Our background checks are done in seconds and are nearly 100% accurate in locating the individual and validating their identity and 95% accurate in matching the criminal records. Common names are no problem. Even with all the John Smith’s in the world, we can approach 100% accuracy levels.
I understand that Mate1 is a customer of Honesty Online. Tell me more about how the tests are being offered on Mate1.
We’re waiting for the Mate1 model to be released, but I can tell you that people will be able to opt-in to our process. We’ll be offering two products. One is a verification ID product that we call “Verification”. If you’ve been verified, we will know that you are who you say you are, that you live where you say you live, are “x” years old, etc. The next level up is what we call “Certification” and that ensures that you’re not a criminal or sex offender. Mate1 is going to have people opt-in and is going to heavily market our services as a means of keeping their environment a trusted one. With our products, they’ll be bringing to their consumers what a lot of them have been asking for. They believe our products will help create a market differentiator for them and value for their members.
What are your goals for the rest of 2007 through 2008?
I hope to be able to announce very shortly some partnerships with some large sites. Some, obviously, are in the online dating world and some are in the social networking market. We’re in all levels of discussion with numerous online communities that we can help. Our products can help create trusted environments and values to all of these sites’ members.