Sramana: What is the competitive landscape like for you today? Has it changed a lot over the years?
Brandon Wade: Competition is getting tough. It is not that hard to create a website. You can buy software or outsource development. Launching a dating website is very easy. The key for us is to continue to innovate. We have actually filed three patents, and we will continue to innovate.
Sramana: What are some of the challenges your members face?
Brandon Wade: People meet on the website and they lie. They upload pictures that are 20 years old, or they lie about their incomes. We are creating solutions that solve those problems.
Sramana: What kind of solutions are those?
Brandon Wade: We are developing a product that is a service for our website that will verify that a person is exactly who they say they are from a physical perspective. This technology could ultimately be used for Facebook profiles as well. As you know, as many as 40% of Facebook profiles are fake profiles. There is no real person behind the profiles. Our technology can be used to verify that there is a real person behind the profile.
Sramana: Is that a technology that you are patenting?
Brandon Wade: It is one of the patents we have pending. We are also protecting the WhatsYourPrice.com concept which revolves around bidding for a first date. One of the things that I learned from MIT is that you need to create intellectual property. You protect yourself by filing for patents.
Sramana: The type of business you are in is not an area which has a lot of patented intellectual property. How do you protect yourself aside from patents?
Brandon Wade: The trademark is very important. Every single website that I have has trademarks associated with it. We have sued a huge company, Ashley Madison, in federal court for infringing on our trademark. The fact that we are building such a brand implies that we need to protect it. We were successful in stopping them from using a website that was too similar to ours.
Sramana: The real issue with these types of businesses is that they are very easy to copy and very difficult to prevent others from copying.
Brandon Wade: That might be true, but I have learned over the years that I can use the law to my advantage.
Sramana: There may be more interesting opportunities in potential proprietary matchmaking strategies that would be algorithmically driven. If people are looking for real matches, you could make meaningful matches for them.
Brandon Wade: I was at MIT and was originally a physics major. When I decided to write my economics degree thesis using stochastic methods and physics mathematics, my professor told me he could not accept it because economics was social science, and social science was not real science. I ended up switching my major to electrical engineering. The thing is that today I feel I am living in a world of social sciences. As much as eHarmony has done, I think there is a lot of proof out there that the matchmaking algorithms don’t work because, as my professor said, it is not real science.