February 10th, 2011
(written by lawrence, however indented passages are often quotes)
My friends tell me I should sign up for OkCupid. I do not feel inspired to do so. But why? Without question, it is the best dating site. So why don’t I sign up for it? What do I have to lose?
There is another way to think about this. What would I like to see in an online dating site? On this subject, I’ve strong opinions. I know exactly what I, as a single person, want. And I think its important to be single when you start one of these sites. All 4 of the founders of OkCupid were single when they started the site, and all 4 of them are married now.
So, I’m thinking about building such a site. From what I’ve seen, the best dating sites are not about dating. I know more couples that met through MySpace than who met through OkCupid. So the site I’m thinking about is really not a dating site at all. Its more about shared interests.
In terms of the business potential, I take inspiration from posts like these:
Aside from the network effects encouraging incumbent laziness (a la eBay), there are three other reasons why the status quo in this space is quite poor:
The big players are making lots of money off of their self-destructive business model. We’ll talk more later about why their business model kills long term value, but suffice it to say that they’re not looking for ways to grow the market that involve cannibalizing their revenues.
Second, there are an astronomical number of new approaches a new entrepreneur could try. The search space is quite large so most people throw their hands up in the air and copy large chunks of broken DNA from existing approaches.
Finally, when new entrants do try new approaches, most of the time they aren’t well contemplated.
But there is still a ton of opportunity. In the words of my respected friend Zao Yang (FarmVille creator), “Online dating is like the mobile world before the iPhone.”
That quote hits the nail on the head, both in terms of the magnitude of the opportunity and in terms of how hard it is to do really great work in this space.
And to redefine the problem a little bit, I suspect there’s more value and fun in helping people meet new friends generically, and only incidentally maybe a significant other. I only talk about this problem in terms of ‘online dating’ because that’s the existing anchor in peoples’ minds.
So let’s say you’re crazy enough to take a shot at this unicorn. How should you think about winning this market?
I think of dating sites as the sum of three components: the business model, the back end, and the front end.
The status quo sites like Match and eHarmony have all three components wrong, I believe.