OPW INTERVIEW -- Feb 10 -- Speed dating is fun, but wouldn't it be cool if someone bottled it and put it online. Turns out a couple of companies have done just that. Namely WooMe, Camlink and Speeddate. Here's our interview with the founder of Speeddate.com, Dan Abelon.
What is the founding story of SpeedDate.com?
I was at Stanford Business School with a good friend of mine and co-founder, Simon Tisminezky. He had used a lot of different online dating services and found them frustrating. We also kept hearing these same stories over and over from many of our friends. On most sites, there’s a long process you have to go through before actually interacting with someone. We really liked the offline speed dating idea, but found nobody was doing it online. We thought of the idea about a year ago and the site launched this past October.
How is it going so far?
It’s going really well. People seem to be responding and joining very fast. We have a bunch of success stories so far and a lot of people are signing up every day. I think people in general are looking for a new way to meet people that is more interactive and that’s what SpeedDate is providing for them. It’s spreading rapidly via word of mouth.
How does SpeedDate work?
You fill out a little information and it takes about a minute when you sign up for the site, which is completely free by the way. Then we take the information you’ve given us and match you with relevant people based factors such as age, location, gender and gender preference. Basically people pop up on your screen for 3 minutes at a time using live video, live audio and instant messaging. At the end, you vote yes or no. If you vote yes and the other person votes yes, you are considered a match and you can connect with each other through our site through email or instant messaging for as long as you want afterwards. If either side votes no, then you have a little break and go on to dating the next person.
What makes SpeedDate.com unique and better then some of the other services?
I think it’s because it’s such a fast way to meet people face-to-face. There really aren’t any other sites where you can quickly give a little bit of information and immediately be matched with someone who has also opted in to wanting to find someone for a romantic connection. There are a lot of sites out there that are starting to add more interactive features, but SpeedDate is completely focused on interaction. We’ve had over 300,000 dates take place on the site since we launched in October.
How did you decide on 3 minutes?
We went to offline speed dating sessions and tried them out at various different time intervals. We settled on 3 minutes because we thought that it worked best. Most people seem to think it’s an appropriate amount of time.
You used yourself as guinea pigs on speed dating sessions?
Now you mentioned a few times that your service is free. What is your revenue model?
We’re planning to introduce premium features potentially in the future. Right now it is completely free and we’re focused on user acquisition, and then refining the site and adding features.
Who is your typical member?
We have all different kinds of members. We have members of all ages. There are a lot of people in their 20s and 30s primarily because there’s a higher penetration of webcams and early adopters in that age group, but we do have a very wide range of people on the site. We have people from every state and almost every country. I think the commonality among people who join is either they have been frustrated with other dating services or they don’t want to fill out lengthy profiles and questionnaires. Any many are just looking for something new that’s a fast and effective way to meet people.
Now you don’t need a webcam to use SpeedDate right?
That’s right. We do encourage people to use a webcam. Live video with live audio is as close to the real world as you can get in terms of determining whether you have a connection with someone. But we do think that interaction in general is so important so we do let people instant message as well or just use their microphone if they don’t have a webcam.
Do you have any success stories?
Yes we do. I have people writing in a lot about how they really like the site and have met boyfriends and girlfriends on it. And actually, several people have written to tell us that they got engaged on the site which is really, really exciting. We’re a young site so I guess these people decided they wanted to move quickly.
Where do you see online dating going in the next 5 years and what is your place in it?
I think online dating in general will become more interactive. I think we’re one of the early sites that is completely focused on live interaction. We’ll start to see the industry transitioning too, especially as webcams have a greater penetration in society. More and more people have them and I think online dating will be most successful when it facilitates the richest interactions possible given existing technology.
How do you see social networking affecting online dating?
I think there’s a lot of talk about social networking taking over online dating but I don’t see that being the case. I think you’ll still have sites that are focused; we’re trying to be as focused as possible on romantic interaction. And the social networks, while they’re a place where a lot of romantic interaction takes place, they are not only about that. We do have a Facebook application that we’ve launched that allows people to SpeedDate from Facebook. So it’s a good way for us to acquire customers, especially of younger demographics.