(The Lucrative Lunacies of Virtual Dating Apps & Sites)
Dating As We Know It Has Changed — It’s a Multi Billion Dollar Business
In 2009, I became overly interested in the world of dating websites when I read an Inc.com story about the site Plenty of Fish, and its founder Markus Frind. However, unlike most who visit the page— my interest wasn’t one of romance — it was financial, social and cultural.
The Financials and Numbers
At the time, founder Markus Frind estimated the site was making a net profit of $10 million a year — and that he worked ten hours a week. He had my attention. This is a man who built the site with the sole intention of adding an independent tech venture to his resume’. He never intended on the site becoming what it has. He is quoted as saying “He doesn’t like reading books, so he just created the site in two weeks” on his own. Frind started Plentyoffish in 2003, as an intended side project. He sold it to the parent company of www.match.com( Match Group) on July 14th, 2015 — for $575 million. In cash.
The site was making millions in revenue before its founder knew what the term venture capitalist meant. Though he did graduate from a 2 year college with a degree in computer programming, he spent most of 2002 unemployed before starting the site a year later, from his apartment. Before that he “bounced from failed startup to failed startup”. He never started the site with the intent of finding love. He describes himself as “Introverted and awkward”.
There was a time, dating sites and apps themselves would have been described in the same fashion. Today though, POF is estimated to have had well over 150 million users, since conception.
Though Frind and POF maintained the lion’s share of the market for years, even above it’s titan rival and eventual acquirer www.match.com, one can’t help but think he also sold at the perfect time — as the popular dating app Tinder was created in 2012 and was an obvious game changer out of the gate. It’s previously unheard of “swipe” feature took users by storm, allowing them to dismiss or let other users know they were interested at a rapid pace. No more complex profiles, no more tell me a bit more about yourself, just straight to the meat and potatoes of it. Five of your best pictures, your social media profiles and a paragraph about yourself, at most.
Both Tinder and Plenty of Fish are now owned by Match Group, a subsidiary of IAC. Tinder is estimated to have 50 million users worldwide and was just recently valued at $3 Billion, bringing IAC’s total valuation to around $4.68 billion. There’s nothing awkward or introverted about those kind of numbers.
Tinder now makes up 60% of IAC’s market share, proving Frind did sell at precisely the right time. Frind himself admittedly, is not fond of making changes to the site, doesn’t listen to its users and likes to keep it simple. Three things you won’t often hear one who founded a company worth half a billion say.
Which brings us to the hot new dating app known as Bumble. One started by an early Tinder employee named Whitney Wolfe Herd and that strongly resembles Tinder itself, mainly thanks to the swipe feature.
Back in August of 2017, the billion dollar dating empire that is Match Group tried to once again swallow the competition and acquire Bumble for a reported $450 million — an offer Bumble declined.
Two days ago, the Match Group filed a lawsuit in Texas against Bumble, citing patent infringement as grounds for doing so. Match Group claims Bumble is competing against it with its own inventions and trade secrets and information they claim Bumble’s founder learned of in her time at Tinder. Whitney Wolfe Herd herself is cited as leaving Tinder due to sexual harassment and discrimination. Claims one can’t help think about as they use Bumble — an app where women are required to make the first move and has since been publicly commended for “empowering women” in a post Me Too America.
My Experience and Perspective
As fascinated as I was by POF in 2009, I didn’t sign up. Online dating was still pretty taboo back then. Plenty of people did it, they just didn’t talk about it openly. I’d see those Match.com commercials come on and just cringe. Ugh, no thanks.
Then along came Tinder, much more my speed. I’ll admit, I was intrigued. I signed up and started swiping. I was shocked there were actually good looking women on there. My inner dialogue went something like this “Is this the new norm? Can I tell my friends I downloaded it? Wait, are these women real? Oh shit, I know her, these women are real. Fuck, she knows I’m on Tinder now. But wait — so is she”.
Then came the matches and messages. Women on Tinder found “Hi” to be too boring of a first message, yet didn’t want to feel like they had just swiped right on the likes of Harvey Weinstein either — you had to find a common middle ground to get a message back if you reached out first, as a male.
I’ve met a total of three women on Tinder in real life. Two of who were very normal people, one of whom I still talk to here and there — and one who I briefly but honestly considered filing an order of protection against.
We met at a Starbucks, I bought us each a coffee. I don’t recall what she ordered — I just remember her throwing it up moments later. I asked her if she had been drinking or was on any medications, which she insisted she hadn’t and was not. I hesitantly brought her back to my place, at her suggestion. She attacked me like a rabid animal the moment we got in the door— before quickly saying we “had to slow things down” — to which I fully agreed and complied. Thankfully, I quickly realized how insane she was before we got any further. I made something up and called her an Uber home. As a courtesy, I told her to text me when she got home, so I knew she made it safely. She called me when she got home. Three times, none of which I answered. She left three voicemails. None were shorter than three minutes long. She mentioned telling her Mom “all about our date” when she got home in one of them. I did text her back the next day to apologize for missing her call — big mistake. The amount of texts I received over the next week from this woman began to worry me, mainly because I had stopped answering them shortly after they started. Eventually, she thankfully gave up. I’m sure she found a nice guy who can afford to have their significant other throw up a $5 cup of coffee on the reg.
As convenient as I found Tinder to be at first, my last experience kind of just left a bad taste in my mouth — quite literally actually. That and the fact it appeared to becoming more spam infested by the moment. I know of more than a few women (who I believe) that have claimed they never signed up for or downloaded the app, whose profile pictures have been found on Tinder under different names. Could they be lying and just trying to avoid being caught actively cheating on their spouse? Absolutely. I just think it’s more likely these accounts were fraudulently created with the hopes of padding the stats and attracting more male users to the app.
Which brings us back to Bumble. An app I literally never heard of before two weeks ago. I’m over 30 now, dating apps just have a funny feel to them. Though when I heard women have to make the first move — I downloaded it and began swiping — if only out of curiosity. I’ve used it for maybe ten minutes total since downloading it. As I stated above, it’s Tinder with a Me Too spin on it. To my knowledge, I haven’t gotten a message yet and have no real plans on frequenting the app to see if that changes.
Dating apps and sites are becoming the new places to meet people of the opposite sex. POF was cited as being responsible for “the birth of a million babies” in its existence, back in 2012. That is absolutely bonkers to me. Though I must say, Tinder was a nice alternative to trying to meet women in my local bar. For crying out loud, have you been to your local bar lately? You can acquire a lot of things there — a wife or husband just probably isn’t one of them.
In closing, I’d like to mention dating apps are becoming the only way men even feel safe or comfortable approaching women, in this day and age. It used to be just fear of rejection we had to worry about — approaching a woman didn’t automatically make you sexually aggressive. Now, we live in a world where men have apparently even managed to lose the privilege of being able to approach a woman first, via those dating apps. As a man, I don’t really know what’s expected of me. Society will tell me to be a gentleman, while women openly dislike the guy who’s too nice and not assertive enough. Feminists will tell me “just treat us like human beings and we’ll respond” while “Hey, how are you?” messages sent by guys across the globe get cold shouldered. I know less about women and dating then I did when I was thirteen apparently, so I’ll just be happily single over here by myself if anyone needs me.