How A Russian Is Taking Over The (Online Dating) World

Badoo
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This is a truly international take on online dating.

A Russian man, Andrey Andreev, who established the London-based online dating service Badoo, has found his site winning over users in France, Spain, and Italy. "The seven-year-old company says it has signed up some 200 million people worldwide, 25 million of them active users," reports Bloomberg, "making it the biggest dating service, according to ComScore."

Andreev's ambition is to make Badoo "a social network for meeting new people," rather than a service for connecting users with people they already know. So far, his ambition has paid off: Badoo has been profitable since 2009, with last year's sales expanding about a third to $200 million. The company now has its headquarters in a loft in London's trendy SoHo district, has hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as an advisor, and may have an IPO in its future.

The challenge Andreev now faces is to keep US rivals like Tinder and OkCupid at bay, while expanding Badoo beyond its current strongholds in southern Europe and Latin America.

The key to doing so might be Badoo's business model. Unlike services like Match.com, Badoo doesn't charge a monthly fee. Instead, users are invited to pay 1 euro to highlight their profile on the site and increase their chances of being noticed. Because the advantage only lasts for a minute or two - until other people pay to raise their profiles as well - Badoo says that some dedicated users have paid for as many as 20 boosts per day.

Competitors' responses to Badoo's success have been mixed. Jessica Delpirou, director of Meetic France, told Bloomberg that Badoo is no threat to her service, saying that users prefer her more traditional dating site (a sister to Match.com in the US) despite its higher price, because it creates better matches. "People seeking serious relations need confidentiality and tend to pay for a subscription," Delpirou said.

OkCupid founder Sam Yagan told Bloomberg that he, too, believes his service is superior to Badoo and is rated higher by users. Officials from other competitors, like Tinder, did not return Bloomberg's requests for comment.

Right now, Badoo far outstrips Jiayuan, the largest dating service in China, which registered 19 million active users as of September 2013, according to ComScore. Badoo's userbase is also larger than Meetic's 16 million, Match.com's 8 million, and OkCupid's 2 million. And that's all before further expansion into Asia, Britain, and America, which Andreev is currently eyeing. If things continue on the same path, these other dating sites might soon be changing their tunes.