Do we really need more dating sites?
Venture capitalists and other investors think so — even though the field is already stuffed with competitors.
Icebreaker, of Bellevue, Wash., has raised an undisclosed amount of cash from Lightspeed Venture Partners and individual investors, to launch a mobile dating service — called Crush or Flush. You can meet people with similar interests in your area. More details about the service here. It is similar to HotorNot.com’s mobile version.
Meanwhile, OkCupid, a New York dating site, has raised a whopping $6 million of cash from individual “angel” investors (first reported by GigaOm), the latest sign that some entrepreneurs are shunning venture capital firms.
OkCupid aims to be a serious dating site, while offering its service for free. Serious dating sites — these include Harmony.com, Match.com and Yahoo Personals — all charge, chief executive Sam Yagan tells VentureBeat. Meanwhile, free sites, such as HotorNot.com, or Friendster, are places where some people, for example many women in their 30s, feel uncomfortable, or at least don’t take the dating process seriously, says Yagan. However, Vancouver, Canada’s PlentyofFish has a similar model as OkCupid, and has at least as many users.
OkCupid has about 500,000 people have logged in at the site over the past 90 days, Yagan says. PlentyofFish says it has about 250,000 users logged in daily. Match.com has 1.3 million users, he says.
If you try OkCupid, you will see that it is easy to browse for dates, and that it finds matches for you based questions it asks you. OkCupid’s site isn’t the most intuitive at first. Once you log in, you’re supposed to go to the “matches” tab and answer questions, something that Yagan says will be made clearer with a site redesign within several weeks. On average, people answer 200 questions, on everything from smoking, politics, sex to sports, Yagan says. The resulting calculations, which show how compatible you are with a potential date, is what sets OkCupid apart from Plenty of Fish, says Yagan.
Yagan said he raised the cash from individuals — two New York hedge fund professional, a “rich alum” from Stanford and two entrepreneurs — because venture capital firms had demanded tougher terms. Several firms made offers, but they insisted on clauses forcing Yagan to get their permission first in the event of a sale (VCs might choose to reject a sale, to try instead to get a bigger sale price down the line). One VC told Yagan that a sale of $200 million or less would be considered a failure, he said. (Some VCs are upfront about the mismatch).
Yagan plans to make money from advertising. He is seasoned: Earlier, he formed SparkNotes, an online Cliffs Notes competitor acquired by Barnes & Noble, and eDonkey, a peer-to-peer file-sharing application.
OkCupid has eight employees.