According to Mashable 43,869,800 people changed their Facebook status to single last year and these newly made relationship-explorers are in the need for some serious matchmaking. Alex Paninder and his co-founder Filip Syta have made it their mission to help Facebook’s singles to find the love of their life with the new startup company – the Facebook Dating App WikiFlirt.
Paninder, the finance student turned tech-entrepreneur, is almost two weeks into his live launch of WikiFlirt when I ask him how he got started in dating business?
He says, “Choosing a business idea was actually one of the hardest things because it really has to be unique, have a big market and be doable.” He went through about a hundred different ideas before finally settling for the Facebook Dating app.
Paninder always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, being inspired by his dad who runs his own industrial food processing company he tested his entrepreneurial ability at age 16 by setting up his own ice-cream kiosk on the beaches of south Sweden during the summers. To accompany his early kiosk venture he studied the Entrepreneurship Master’s degree at Lund University and it was during this year the embryo of WikiFlirt was created.
The choice to use Facebook’s platform instead of a standard website came quite natural because of WikiFlirt’s target audience, which is a younger demographic, uses Facebook so frequently that it just made sense to put the dating app inside of Faceook. The rather immodest goal of WikiFlirt is that it shall become a naturally integrated part of Facebook, another feature that you check after you’ve looked at the newsfeed. “And it’s math,” Paninder emphasizes, – “there are only two big dating apps on Facebook, on the ‘old’ internet there are hundreds of dating websites. So it’s still very much a growing market and we feel that we can make a difference there”.
“But being on Facebook is not enough, you really have to stand out from the crowd and be unique. In our case we got two things going for us. First we don’t charge a hefty monthly fee as most dating sites do – instead you pay one time for each new person that you want to talk to and after that one payment you can talk as much as you like with each other. The second thing is that the people who are using WikiFlirt can set their own prices of how much it would cost to contact you. This is unheard of and it’s really the business model we’re innovating here. So if a person gets so many messages that he or she (most likely she) doesn’t have enough time to read them all then they can raise the price so they get less messages. Simple. We’re bringing market economics into the dating world.”
In one week they’ve gotten over 250 members and it’s growing steadily, they’ve experimented with Facebook Ads and seen a positive return of investment.
Filip Syta is chief of marketing operations and based in San Diego and is really positive how the ad targeting can be done through Facebook. “you can really specify the exact customer that you want to target, everything from gender, age, relationship status (that’s a big one for us!) and location down to what interests they have. It works beautifully but you still have to get the people to click on the ad though. That’s the tough part.”
I ask what their member projections are for the end of the year – but Paninder can’t answer. Anything can happen with internet companies. But he’s really pleased with the growth so far.
Instead I would like to know what has been the hardest challenge with putting together the app before launching it. “No-one in the founding team is a particularly skilled programmer so we’ve had to rely on external competence which can be a hassle. You have to find the right person that you can communicate with and understands your vision and has the talent to execute and it took some shopping around before we found a programmer that we clicked with”.
At an ending note I’m interested in what this short but intense months leading up the launch and the actual launch has surprised or caught WikiFlirt off guard?
“Marketing for sure. I sort of had this utopian picture painted in my mind that as soon as we launch people will flock to our service and we won’t have to do much to get the customer. Wrong. Marketing is almost as important as the application in some sense. It’s not until now that I’ve really come to understand this. And that’s also where I think a lot of people fail, because you work so hard to get your product done and make it as good as you can and when it’s finally is done – then it doesn’t stop, you have to get people to use it and that require a whole different type of skillset as opposed to making it. And then there are people like us that just underestimated how much work that actually goes in to marketing and customer acquisition.”
The Facebook App: apps.facebook.com/wikiflirt