Canadian company PlentyOfFish continues to reel in big numbers with the online dating site now surpassing 100 million users.
It’s been a steady ascent for the homegrown startup which CEO and founder Markus Frind launched from his Vancouver apartment in 2003.
While there are plenty of web-based services now available to help forge potential romantic connections, the online landscape was drastically different when Frind created PlentyOfFish — and not just with respect to dating.
“The web wasn’t very interactive, and it was a social network before there were social networks,” Frind recalled in a phone interview from Vancouver.
“It was dynamic. You could talk to someone, you could communicate with other people, you could upload photos and do stuff, whereas every other site at that time was all about ‘You’re just reading static content that never changes.'”
By 2008, Frind had 15 million signups, $10 million in revenue and doubled his workforce — to two.
“I hired my first employee.”
Ultimately, Frind said the site’s success is correlated to positive results found by users.
“At the end of the day, you’re only going to use a dating site if it works. So a large amount of effort was spent around making sure that the service actually works and that people find someone and then leave with someone from the site. That becomes our virality. Those become our brand ambassadors, so to speak.”
POF maintains Vancouver as its hub, with a downtown office employing more than 70 people. The company has doubled its revenue since 2012. Billed as the world’s largest online dating site, the company said there are four million users daily, and the service is available in five languages.
Frind said the site earns considerable revenue from ads and subscriptions.
The surge in smartphone use has mirrored the significant spike seen among users logging on to the site remotely.
“About two to three years ago, 10 per cent of our traffic was mobile, and now it’s something like 80, 90 per cent,” said Frind, noting that POF is among the top-ranked apps.
“We’re really just starting at the start of mobile taking over. And we see most of the innovation and most of our future is going to be tied to mobile in some shape or form.”
POF has also made a significant investment in offline services to bolster its business. In 2013, the company announced the acquisition of FastLife, the world’s largest speed dating and singles event company, and now hosts local events all over the world. Frind said there are also hundreds of user-organized events held each month.
Within the online dating realm, there has been an explosion of services in the decade-plus since POF launched, from niche sites to those like the much buzzed about mobile matchmaking app Tinder which allows users to connect with others in close proximity.
Frind isn’t concerned about competition affecting POF’s site traffic, but rather sees the influx as a net benefit.
“Those kinds of services are bringing more people to online dating,” he said.
“It’s a gateway drug. People try it and then they move on to more serious dating sites. As Tinder’s come along, as mobile has come along, we just have a lot more people that want to use online dating.”