In The Media
You will find the original TechCrunch article here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/25/facebook-can-disrupt-online-dating/
by Brian Bowman
The responsibility of dating sites should be to facilitate great first dates. Unfortunately, the dating industry has chosen to protect its charge-to-communicate business model instead of give consumers access to information to make an educated decision about a potential date: Is my date a real person? Who do we know in common and what mutual interests do we share?
But there is a site out there with 1 billion people that is quite familiar with my friends and me, as well as all of our interests: Facebook.
I have been involved in the dating and social industries since 2003. I was the vice president of product at Match.com, then vice president of community at Yahoo and am now the founder and CEO of Likeit.com. I met my wife on an online dating site, and we have been happily married for nine years.
Since the launch of Match in 1995, singles have searched for fun and love online by attempting to describe themselves in 500 words or fewer. They check boxes, they answer quizzes, and they hope for the best. This method has worked for some, but it has left millions of other users dateless and dissatisfied with their online dating experiences. A shallow pool of compelling matches, coupled with outdated information, leads to a constant churn of unhappy daters. Singles belong to 2.5 dating sites on average, expressing their desire to reach more people and find a better solution.
Men and women experience online dating very differently – think hunter-gatherer. Men typically send out hundreds of quickly written emails hoping someone will respond. Women can receive hundreds of emails a week, but respond to less than 2 percent. Part of the single’s frustration is that you can’t respond to an email unless you pay. On average, fewer than 10 percent of people subscribe to and unlock communication, meaning 90 percent of people can’t respond to your emails.
To complicate the single’s experience further, most dating profiles are static and lack social network updates. The site restricts information sharing to prevent identity leakage and maintain control over communication. A common question you will hear most singles ask when they first meet is, “Who do we know in common?” While real identity is standard on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, a majority of dating sites require anonymity, which prevents consumers from seeing mutual friends. The result: Most consumers don’t pay, and they abandon sites in frustration.
WHY HASN’T SOCIAL DISCOVERY DISRUPTED ONLINE DATING?
The social discovery market can be distilled into two primary markets: business networking and dating. While Badoo, Tagged and MeetMe position themselves as “meeting new people,” their primary use case is dating. Each has achieved reasonable success, but they have not integrated Facebook’s social graph so you can see someone’s friends. There is a lot of untapped opportunity to disrupt traditional dating if they take steps to integrate further with Facebook.
WHY HASN’T A KILLER SOCIAL DATING APP TAKEN OFF?
I remain convinced that online dating will evolve and integrate social elements. People have always met through mutual friends and shared interests, and bringing these capabilities online will enhance the user experience. But for most startups, there is a significant cold-start problem. Few startups are funded well enough to afford the marketing required to achieve scale. To be a successful, U.S.-wide, general-purpose dating site you need about 250,000 profiles. This allows the display of meaningful search results when singles filter for age, ethnicity, religion, distance and sexual preference.
Since most social dating sites can’t afford to buy users, they launch features to get viral. However, independent of age, four out of ten people will not post publicly on Facebook that they are using a dating app, and this arrests virality. The reluctance to share romantic activities on Facebook seems due in part to the intimacy of dating and the desire to share only with close family and friends. Many people feel increased reluctance to share their romantic endeavors on Facebook, because their group of Facebook friends has grown substantially to include co-workers, high school/college friends and extended family.
To illustrate the challenge, no social dating site has gained meaningful traction: theComplete.me (10,000), Yoke (10,000—Buzzfeed acqui-hire), Circl.es (1,000), LikeBright (1,000), thedatable (200), and atthepool.com (Alexa Rank 164,000) have struggled, while Wings, Gelato, and Thread are shuttered.
Despite these challenges and lack of innovation by the leaders, the online dating industry continues to be recession-proof – it is growing and has won wide acceptance among singles today. With Facebook’s Graph Search and the company’s newly expressed interest in online dating, can it reinvent dating, drive down the associated stigma and expand the market?
While the primary hurdle for Facebook may be privacy, there are other challenges, too. Just because someone’s profile indicates they are single does not mean they are ready for dating or want to be contacted by a stranger. On Facebook, receiving messages from strangers feels creepy (paid or not).
Facebook’s profiles are shallow and not representative of a user’s current interests or romantic preferences. Facebook’s structured data for things like movies, books, restaurants and sports is not as good as Netflix, Yelp, Amazon, etc. If Facebook becomes more competitive in these areas, will they maintain access to structured third-party feeds?
The real question may be how important is the dating market to Facebook? It will be a challenge to run so many vertical solutions: dating, recruiting, ratings, reviews, etc. Will they pick a few ideas on which to focus, and will dating make the cut?
HOW CAN FACEBOOK DISRUPT ONLINE DATING?
First, Facebook can assure singles that dating can be a completely private experience, and that dating activities will not be published on a wall unless singles want it to be published. Facebook can create a pseudo-closed environment by offering a dedicated dating section in About Me and allowing singles to choose whether that section is public, private or only viewable by people with dating profiles.
Facebook can easily leverage their massive social graph to enable meaningful friend-of-friend introductions. They can create very detailed, self-updating profiles by displaying and structuring data from Pinterest, Spotify, Pandora, Yelp, Netflix, Amazon, ESPN, GoodReads and more.
They can dominate real-time communication: chat, check-ins, poke, texting and Skype video chat. To help singles feel more comfortable, they can even set up a “dating inbox” to isolate unsolicited messages. To improve both the quality and response rates of emails, they can allow anonymous ratings of senders, and reward those with good behavior and thoughtful emails.
If I am on a date and I know we share trail running, Bikram yoga, spiritual books, action movies and five mutual friends, I have a lot of topics I can discuss. Facebook Graph Search will allow singles to find that special someone and could be transformational to the industry.
But most importantly, by simply allowing consumers to share their user names from other dating sites, Facebook can maintain the existing industry’s niches while allowing search and free communication across all dating services. In doing so, Facebook can simultaneously dismantle the pay-to-communicate business model that underpins a majority of the revenue in the industry today, and reinvent online dating by creating a massive front door that allows consumers to have a compelling, high-quality experience for free.
Here’s the link to the original TechCrunch article: http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/25/facebook-can-disrupt-online-dating/
Here’s an excerpt from a San Francisco Business Times article that includes discussion of theComplete.me:
Pinterest pioneered a model that made it easier to connect with people that shared similar interests said Brian Bowman, CEO of thecomplete.me, “The Pinterest of dating.”
Emulating that model, Thecomplete.me’s Pinterest-like profiles offer “a much more visceral way to understand who a person is,” Bowman said.
You can read the complete article here.
A fun interview with Brian Bowman (Founder/CEO) The Problem with Women is Men! – Online Dating — Does It Produce Results?
You know how it goes: You sign-up for an online dating site, plunk down your credit card, and spend 90+ minutes filling out (what amounts to) a personality test. But those questions only gauge your wants and needs for that moment in time, and are often geared towards short-term relationships. Check out the radio interview with Brian Bowman, founder and CEO of TheComplete.Me — the first dating site that ties directly into Facebook to account for your interests, likes… and proves you’re who you say you are. Did reality just hit online dating? Find out in this episode.
Brian Bowman, CEO theComplete.me, to keynote on Social Discovery at iDate LA: The Mobile Dating Industry Conference0
New York, NY–Ticonderoga Ventures, Inc. announces that Brian Bowman will provide the keynote address at the 9th annual iDate West Coast Mobile Dating Conference. The event takes place on June 20-22, 2012 at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA.
Bowman is the CEO/Founder of theComplete.me (www.thecomplete.me), the Internet’s first social dating network. He is the former VP of Product Match.com, VP of Community Yahoo!, and CMO Reply.com. Bowman is a recognized authority on social networking, online dating and acquisition marketing.
Bowman’s ability to foresee the directional shifts of the dating industry, coupled with his deep understanding of product and community, uniquely qualifies him to keynote the event. In it, he will describe how the dating industry is broadening into social discovery, moving from PC to mobile, sharing implications to business models, user experience and acquisition marketing strategies.
If Facebook itself isn’t a covert dating site, then at least its social graph could be — a big group of startups have been going for this honeypot of user data and connections ever since the company launched its platform back in 2007. Few have really taken off, and incumbent dating sites like the not-so-social Match.com have continued to hold mindshare with date-seekers.
This is where theComplete.me sees the opportunity. The company quietly launched a Facebook app in March that pulls in and analyzes data from Facebook and other social sites to figure out who you might be a good fit with — and goes way beyond most rivals in its effort to undermine the incumbents.
Led by Brian Bowman, the former vice president of product at Match.com, it’s also announcing a large $1.22 million seed round from Intel Capital, psuedo-rival dating site PlentyofFish (a strategic investor in this case), the CrunchFund, and a list of prominent angels.
Here’s a closer look at what’s getting all these online dating pros so interested.
The app first has you sign on with your Facebook identity, then it shows you a list of people who may have interests in common in a Pinterest-style interface. Your own profile data is organized into a feature called “fraMEs,” — pinned frames that show categories such as Liked Facebook pages, that can be easily edited beyond the pre-populated Facebook data.
A top row of thumbnails shows other Facebook users in the app that theComplete.me has determined are potential matches for you. Clicking on them reveals the things you have in common, also Pinterest style — including the ability to comment on Page-based interests like Neil Young or the Outside Lands music festival.
But there’s a lot going on under the surface. Matches are based on a wide range of factors including people you view, who people like you view and correspond with, the number of messages you send and receive from people, and other behavioral data. The product also figures out generally shared interests, like if you and another person both like action movies, because you each have Liked the page for the movie The Matrix, for example.
The app goes further than Facebook, too. Once you’re logged in, you can also connect with LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Photobucket, Flickr, Foursquare, GoodReads, and Instagram. It then pulls in unique data about you from each service (who follows you on Twitter, the types of places you check in on Foursquare) to figure out even richer matches. In private beta testing so far, it has amassed some 1.5 million profiles of users and their friends, which is already helping to shape recommendations.
It also pulls off a very clever move to disrupt the utility dating sites, that I haven’t seen done by any of its rivals. Users can provide the IDs to their profiles on other sites, including Match.com, eHarmony, Zoosk and other big ones. You can see the results in aggregate if you click on the “Dating Sites” link of the top “Search People” tab in the app. You get direct, free access to other users of these dating sites because you can just message them through the app/Facebook. No need to pay the one-time or monthly fees that Match.com and others charge.
Read the rest of the TechCrunch article here
theComplete.me is a social dating network that lets people find one another through their interests, aspirations and friends.
theComplete.me Wants To Be The Pinterest Of Dating
At a time when people are increasingly expressing themselves through curation services like Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram and comfortable connecting via social networks, most dating sites still rely on anonymity. That’s opened up a big opportunity that start-up TheComplete.me is looking to exploit.
The service, formed by former Match.com executives, hopes to leverage social networking and hyper-personalization to create a social network that’s akin to the Pinterest of dating. It works to connect people through their interests using their real identity and encourages users to express themselves through Pinterest-like pinning of objects. The result is a Facebook app that looks very different from Match, which is exactly the point, said CEO and founder Brian Bowman, former VP of product at Match.com.
Brian Bowman used to be a VP of product development at Match. Now he’s taking them on with a new dating application called TheComplete.me. According to Bowman, the pay-to-communicate format established by Match in the mid 90′s resulted in a lack of innovation. Why? Because the business model Match spawned required anonymity. By limiting the amount of “real-world personal information” in profiles–i.e. Twitter handles, Facebook pages, etc.–a dating site can keep users on for longer. “Anonymity is a good thing when a person wants it,” Bowman said. “It’s not a good thing when it prevents someone who that person might like from understanding who that person really is.” Personhood can’t be captured in a simple database. You’re more interesting than that. You’re richer. You deserve better.
Rather than a static profile, TheComplete.me will “tap into the sites that consumers use every day”–such as Netflix and Amazon–to create “a more dynamic interest graph.” It’s one thing to say you “like comedies,” “love to read,” “live for travel.” It’s another to show potential mates that your Netflix queue is full of Chevy Chase films, that you just bought you and your father copies of the latest Stephen King novel, or that your Picasa album has been updated with pictures from Peru. In Bowman’s vision, as Internet use rises, and people define themselves increasingly by where they go and who they talk to and what they post and buy–online–their dating profile evolves with them. “The first version of the Internet,” recalls Bowman, “was based around ‘It’–an index of linked websites that were interesting to most people, like Yahoo directories. Web 2.0 was based around ‘We’–me and my human relationships, my social graph. Facebook won that round. The next iteration will be about ‘Me’–who I am, my interests at this time, based not on what I say but on what I do.” As daters navigate the date-o-sphere, they’ll take their identities with them.
It’s a big change from the days of Gary Kremen. And the sort of transparency that TheComplete.me contemplates (slogan: “It’s okay, be yourself.”) may make people uncomfortable. But that’s okay. Privacy, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said, is a social norm that evolves. It also bears mentioning that many of online-dating’s problems–such as deception, and the time that an honest dater wastes by chatting up someone who turns out to be married, or twenty years older than their photo–stem from the privacy norm.
VentureBeat (Rocky Agrwal Mar 9, 2012)
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