Sramana: What is your market segmentation?
Greg Tseng: We are available all over the world for all ages 13 and over. Our average age now is in the 30s.
Sramana: Let’s go back to 2007, when you made the pivot into social discovery. How many users did you have?
Greg Tseng: We had around 50 million social users.
Sramana: As you were making the pivot from social networking to social discovery, how did you handle the change from a product strategy point of view?
Greg Tseng: Part of what led us to make that pivot was a study of our users’ behavior. The majority of our users were already using tags for social discovery. Even though we had not done anything to really motivate that behavior, it was happening. We thought that they may be using Facebook for social media so they wanted to use us for something else. We also had a hypothesis that they used tags to make social connections simply because we did not inhibit it. You could browse all users on tags, whereas Facebook deliberately stops that behavior.
We then launched 10 different features around social discovery, and three of those features worked. Those three are core for us today. The first feature is a browse feature. You can browse all features by filters and characteristics. It is optimized to be very fast, so you can go through a lot of people.
The second feature is called Meet Me! where we will algorithmically generate one person at a time to you and ask you if you are interested in meeting them. If both people click yes, then there is a match. This is very much a dating feature. Even today it generates 2 million matches.
The last feature is Pets. It is a game-like feature based on a virtual economy. Every person has some cash and value. You can buy, sell, and own other users as your pets. Once you play it, you will find it very engaging. A lot of users really enjoy the game. The game is structure to require interaction, which causes a lot of people to meet each other.
Sramana: You are essentially creating occasions for people to meet one another.
Greg Tseng: Exactly.
Sramana: What happened after you made the pivot and found your three core features?
Greg Tseng: We launched them in 2008, and given that enough of them worked, we were able to hit profitability in May 2008 based on advertising alone. That is fortunate timing because three months later the economy crashed. We were able to stay profitable throughout the crash.
In 2009 we started to build more modernization features. We built a subscription product and a site-wide virtual currency called Gold. The subscription gives you a monthly allowance of gold as well as access to VIP-only features like user profile viewing and a VIP label on your profile.
Sramana: How much does a subscription cost?
Greg Tseng: It is $19.99 per month, for which you get four VIP features and $20 of our virtual currency.