Sramana: Your hypothesis about the dating scene, and your solution to it, are definitely unique.
Brandon Wade: It changed the equation, but at the same time it created controversy. A lot of people found the concept to be shallow or superficial. Controversy turned out to be very good for business. I certainly leverage controversy into publicity.
Sramana: In 2006 you launched the website by focusing on successful men and women who wanted to find successful men. What was the business model?
Brandon Wade: The business model was to make it free for women to use the website. We only charged the successful people who used the site, so the attractive men and women who used the site did not necessarily have to pay. The entire model was based on a monthly subscription fee.
Sramana: How much were you charging men to list themselves on this site?
Brandon Wade: Back then I was charging $30 a month. Over the years, the price has gone up and now we charge $60 a month.
Sramana: Is your assumption that successful men are not necessarily looking for successful women? Are you assuming they are simply looking for attractive women?
Brandon Wade: I think men tend to be superficial as well. People are superficial in nature before they get to know each other. That is the premise of any website. People judge first impressions, they honestly do. Now, that is not the be all and end all. Men want to meet women who have substance as well as beauty. Clearly, attractiveness goes beyond a physical attractiveness. Once two people get to know each other, all the other aspects such as shared interests come into play.
I am solving a problem of supply and demand. If you join a normal dating website you will, unfortunately, be competing against so many people that you will have a hard time rising above the noise. Our website simply changes the first impression that you are judged on as a man.
Sramana: When men are listing themselves as successful do you validate them?
Brandon Wade: We give men the option to validate themselves. They have to send us a tax return or bank statement, at which time we certify the profile. They can also submit themselves to a background check and get a verified profile. All of this is option, but we make the features available.
Sramana: When you started this company, what was your strategy to attract the two sides of the equation? How did you attract the men and women?
Brandon Wade: In the beginning it was very simple. With any dating website, there is no value unless you have members using it. A lot of entrepreneurs are faced with that problem. In the very beginning, I made it so that users could only use the site once they had an approved profile and photo. I went out and bought Google AdWords. Back then I also successfully hosted ads on Craigslist in all the major cities. Essentially, I did not allow anyone to communicate with anyone else until I had achieved around 4,000 users. Once I had 4,000 users signed up, I approved everybody’s profiles and photos and a new website was born.