This article was originally published on Linkedin on 10/20/16 here:https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-survive-death-your-industry-bigdata-seo-systems-dan-gudema?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish
Pre-Dating Speed Dating is now the only US national speed dating company left in the US, running events in up to 100 US and Canadian cities. Speed Dating, where 12 to 20 men meet 12 to 20 women at a bar, restaurant or club was introduced to daters around the year 2000. I was one of the founders of the startup. We have survived a long road and we are the last speed dating company left standing.
In November 2001 I was working as a web developer for a large catalog company in North Miami called abc distributing. That’s when I was approached by the founder of Pre-Dating, who asked if I could build the website technology. We built it, and by May 2002 we were in 20 US cities and by the end of the year 40 US cities. The next year in 2003 we grew to 75 cities and by 2004 events were being run in 120 US and Canadian cities. In early 2005, Cupid.com acquired Pre-Dating.com. We reacquired Pre-Dating in 2011. Since then we have grown back to being large and national and now we are the only national speed dating game left in town (the US). Put in “Speed Dating Seattle” into Google. We are number 1 organic. Try most major cities. We are established and we are not going anywhere.
There were competitors. In fact, we calculated as many as 100. But only 2 other startups went national including 8MinuteDating and HurryDate. One other competitor FastLife from Australia became the largest globally and were acquired by Plenty Of Fish (POF), but they were summarily shut down right before the Match.com acquisition. That leaves us alone finally.
What happened to the 97 other speed dating companies?
The founders of all these local speed dating companies found that you can’t grow unless you have technology, organizational staff and processes in place. And not just technology but the right technology and know-how. And behind that technology is information in databases. Just throwing up a simple website that displayed the event information was good enough to get started. But to get to city number 2, 3 or 4 required programming and working website, a recruiting process and a process to train the people. Back then, getting ranked page 1 on Altavista, Yahoo and MSN was pretty easy. Notice I don’t even mention Google. When Google became THE search engine in 2005, the game changed and Pre-Dating was positioned well with SEO, Search Engine Optimization and we shifted our focus.
We use technology and not brute force advertising to run our business. And once again behind that technology is data. That data is used by us to get a competitive edge. Don’t underestimate the value of data.
In the end, like in many businesses, you need to take certain actions at certain points to grow, to survive and to prosper. To survive in this business early we needed systems in place to allow event planners to run their own events, which they do. We needed to make strategic changes to get higher in the search engines and stay there. We play by the rules. There are those who have been shut down because of black-hat.
Respect and Get To Know Competitors
In the past couple years new challenges have come to us that we have overcome and some we are battling right now. Eventbrite and Meetup became a major way competitors got started. Some regional and national competitors felt the pain of these easy to get started systems. We used Meetup and Eventbrite ourselves. Our choice has always been to adopt and adapt with technology and business changes. Then Meetup decided to exit and shut down most dating event related companies this past year, which ended many businesses, and that has lead us to being the dominant speed dating company.
We don’t disparage competitors. We respect them and miss their camaraderie. Some became our best friends. In fact, we are feeling the heat of not having them, because they educate and increase the overall market size.
Management of the Information Was Key
But as I indicated in the beginning of this article, one of the biggest factors of why we survived is that we collect and manage our information. Information is the core part of our business that allows for us to automate. From the outside we appear to be simple and easy to use. In fact I have had many people tell us that we are stupid simple without any bells and whistles. That’s what customers need and expect right now. It is a ruse. Behind the scenes there is sophistication.
The Game of Monopoly
And now 15 years into the business, we are seeing new answers in our data for our future. We are well positioned to enter new businesses. We own a hill that the oligopoly of dating businesses can’t take away without writing a big check or spending millions. Remember, Match.com owns almost the entire industry including Plenty of Fish, Tinder, OKCupid, SpeedDates.com, OurTime and Chemistry to name a few. Along with eHarmony, this is 90% of the dating industry in the US. So, dating is a controlled industry with no impetus for innovation at this point since they control pretty much everything. If anything, change is dangerous to them. Don’t bother creating a dating site or dating app. The dating business in the US for now has no entry points.
But as I was saying, data is the key to Pre-Dating’s past and our future. We use some modern solutions to accomplish a lot of this and are open-minded to new tech. The key to everything is getting that information from customers in a database and using it effectively. I can’t get into everything we do, but I may in future articles.
If you are located in South Florida, we are running the 16th StartupPOP Tech Startup Pitch Event with Networking and Demos on Tuesday Nov 1, 2016, starting at 5pm at The Greenhouse in Boca Raton, FL. This is the beautiful garden atrium building that we originally ran our events in. We are expecting between 70 and 90 attendees. The event is sponsored by The Greenhouse, CardConnect and other sponsors. If you are remotely interested in tech startups or have a startup you want to pitch and are looking for capital, mentors, customers or feedback or just want to network, then please click the link below and meet us at this event. If you want to sponsor the event, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and have a great weekend. I am going camping!