Sramana: How long did it take you to get 4,000 users signed up to enable the launch of the site, and what were the demographics?
Brandon Wade: It took me three weeks. At that point we had five women signing up for every single man.
Sramana: So, you successfully turned the equation around from the very beginning?
Brandon Wade: I did. I also differed in another key area. A lot of entrepreneurs think when they start up a business, they need to offer their services free. I don’t. Once I had those 4,000 people signed up, we turned on the revenue engine and the guys started paying. The website started generating revenue almost immediately.
Sramana: I agree with you completely. I don’t like spending time with free services. What happened after you launched?
Brandon Wade: Once the money started coming in, it was easy to see that my revenue engine was working. All I had to do was go out and get customers. The more people you acquire, the more revenue you will generate. My focus was pure customer acquisition.
Sramana: What was your primary customer acquisition method?
Brandon Wade: At that point Craigslist was, but I also used search engines and banner advertising.
Sramana: What search terms drive people to your site?
Brandon Wade: There are a few. In the beginning everything was cheap because there was not a lot of competition. With terms like “sugar daddy,” ‘sugar baby,” “successful men,” or “millionaire bachelors,” you would probably see my ads. I could buy those terms for 10 cents to 20 cents per click. Today they are all running more than a dollar per click.
Sramana: How did you attract the men?
Brandon Wade: When you start to have beautiful women, the men just start showing up. About 40% of the members come via word of mouth. In the beginning we did have to focus on keyword advertising like “beautiful girls.” We had to buy words that guys would typically look for.
Sramana: What happened in 2007 and 2008? What are some of the other major inflection points?
Brandon Wade: In 2007 we hit $500,000 in revenue. I also found that it was more difficult to acquire customers. Keywords were getting too expensive, and I realized I needed to focus on publicity. I spent a lot of time focused on the PR aspect of the business. We were lucky. In 2007 we got The New York Times to write an article about the website, and we found members who were willing to speak up and share their experiences. That led to a lot of new members. The New York Times piece was followed by 20/20, which did a 16-minute segment on us. Ever since, we have desired to get as much publicity as possible.
Sramana: This is interesting because the segment you are trying to reach is, essentially, full of geeks. You are trying to find successful geeks with lots of money. Your MIT friends are probably great candidates for this!
Brandon Wade: Exactly! Once you are covered by The New York Times and other major news outlets like NPR, you are able to appeal directly to the target audience.