OPW INTERVIEW -- Jan 13 -- WooMe is bottling speed dating. (So is Speeddate.com.) Here's OnlinePersonalsWatch interview with the CEO. - Mark Brooks
What is WooMe?
It's an introduction platform that allows people to meet in fast-topic speed sessions via voice and video. Users create their own sessions on any subject that is of interest to them. An example might be Nature Lovers in San Francisco. Each session melds 5 men and 5 women and each topic draws different personalities. Users enter the session and talk with each person of the opposite sex for 1 or 2 minutes (depending on what the session leader specified) and then are automatically transferred to the next person in the group. For now, WooMe is online speed dating platform, but we see many other applications in the future.
Tell me a little bit about your founding story.
My little sister and her friends were talking about how lame traditional dating sites are. It takes too long; they don't like the stigma associated with it; and they thought all profiles sound the same. My little sister had actually been to a speed dating event last Christmas and she was telling me how fun it was and wouldn't it be great if it could move online.
At the same time I was at British Telecom as VP in charge of new wave revenues. I had been looking at browser voice and video and trying to think of new applications. When she told me about speed dating, the light went off.
Who is your target audience?
Actually, it's deliberately the younger, more casual setting. Our tag line is Enjoy the Minute. Our audience wants a more fun, less intense meeting experience. We consider ourselves an introduction platform on which dating is the core application, though many sessions are not about dating at all. Before Thanksgiving, we had a few sessions for people trying to find travel partners. We want to keep it very open-ended and a bit lighter. It doesn't have the pressure of having to find your soul mate. Instead, its fun and allows people to connect in the way you would connect in person, without all the pressure. I think this has more appeal to the younger demo, who are as interested in meeting new people as anybody, but are turned off by the hardcore dating sites.
Do you find that when most people set up sessions that are geographically based?
Actually, only about 25% of the sessions are regional. The other 75% are interest-based only. There are a lot of people just looking to have a good time and they're not as concerned about geography. We have built geographic specification into the product and we expect it to get a bit more regional as times goes by.
Why do you think online speed dating is better then offline speed dating?
First of all, there's sort of a self selection. If you go to an offline speed dating event you don't know who is going to be there. A typical session might be Catholic singles Los Angeles Age 34-46. It's very broad. We are much more granular. We have had sessions called People Who Hate Bush and People Who Love Film. Each session is very different. It's a far deeper level of segmentation. In addition, WooMe is quicker. You can log on whenever you want. And it's free. You can also meet people from anywhere. For example, I might want to meet people in Europe or in Brazil. You have all kinds of different options when you webify something the way we have.
What makes you better then some of the other speed dating sites?
The biggest one out there is Speed Date, I think. They have a different model. In their model, the user enters and gets put into a blind session with somebody for 3 minutes. Then, they get switched to someone else that they might not have anything in common with. What we've done is a much more sophisticated platform. Our interactions are session based by interests, so it gives users greater ability to self-select. Users can create their own sessions with their own interests and invite people to their sessions. Plus, we have much more traffic. Come to the site at prime time and you'll see 10 or 15 sessions all starting within the next 20 minutes.
How do you plan to monetize this?
After I interact with someone I have the ability to Woo her. If she Woo'd me as well, the system sends a message that says, Congratulations Steven, Annie 21 was also Wooed by you. At that point it's $1 to get her contact information. So I pay a buck, get her email address and I can take it further myself. If she pays the $1, she gets mine as well. Right now we're giving people unlimited Woo credit, so it's currently free.
How do you prevent abuse by users?
We've got two functionalities. If someone is being abusive to you in a session, you block them and they can no longer interact with you or see your profile. Or users can report someone. If someone gets reported 3 times, we kick that person off the site.
You're still in Beta right now. When are you planning on going live?
We're open, but we're officially in Beta because we are adding new functionality every couple of days. We'll probably be in Beta for another 3 to 4 months. Whereas a month ago, we had just opened and we were adding about 200 people a day. Today, we are adding thousands of new users each day. We're still learning from our users what we need to tweak and what functionality we need to add.