Starting up a dating website might sound like a tired idea, but the founders of 7pm anywhere think they have come up with a new angle that the market will fall in love with.
7pm anywhere was founded this year by Vita Smid and Amir Nissen, founder of entrepreneurship group Student Entrepreneurs at the University of Melbourne.
“7pm anywhere aims to make the world a better place by helping people meet online,” the website says.
“We believe searching for people is not the same as searching for shoes. The only time people should be in catalogues is when they’re modeling clothes.”
“We’re trying to grow a community of people who are more than a generic list of likes and interests.”
Nissen talks to StartupSmart about daring to be different in the online dating scene.
What prompted you to launch 7pm anywhere? What niche did you identify?
Online dating being broken is hardly news to anyone who’s tried their hand at it or anyone in the start-up scene.
Girls get flooded with messages, guys barely ever hear back from the messages they send. Because of this, there are 101 entrepreneurs trying to come up with a solution.
For sure it can be better, but nobody quite knows how yet.
The idea for 7pm anywhere came to me over summer, strangely enough whilst watching old episodes of The West Wing on the lounge room couch.
I was thinking about various start-up ideas, mostly unrelated, when all of a sudden this idea showed itself in something of an “Aha!” moment – a lot of separate ideas combining together to make something interesting.
That being said, this happens to me with some regularity and, normally in a day or two, once the initial excitement has faded, I see some fatal flaw and don’t push it further.
This one is different. I believed pretty early on that it has legs, and the more work we put into it the more excited I am by its potential.
There are a lot of online dating services out there. How do you differentiate yourself?
Our approach is pretty novel. It’s closer in experience to the old school TV dating shows than it is to most other online dating services. In a nutshell:
- Everything takes place in real time, from 7pm onwards.
- There’s a fixed question-and-answer format for meeting new people, with girls deciding the questions.
- And most importantly, no search, no boring profiles, no winks, flirts, nudges, or pokes. It’s about the people.
Online dating at the moment works like online shopping, but we don’t think people can be broken down into categories.
Our approach is more like the unraveling of a mystery as opposed to ticking something off your grocery list.
How did you fund the business?
Self-funded to date. We’ve been resourceful and kept cost very low.
Having a strong network in the start-up community has helped immensely, particularly regarding start-up advice and service providers.
The graphic design and branding was done by a friend, but all up we’re talking thousands of dollars, not tens of thousands.
How do you promote the business?
Customer acquisition is one of the biggest challenges we face. The market is so crowded with competitors that pay per click ads will leave you bankrupt by the week’s end.
We’re relying more on social media and word-of-mouth to promote the business. The benefit to having a time-sensitive product is that it focuses what might work for marketing and what won’t.
I noticed you have an interesting blog – it’s very funny. How does this help the business?
We’re learning every day about start-ups and online dating. The blog is a good outlet for us to share some of the learnings and funny things that pop up along the way.
One of the most common attributes amongst our target market is time spent online – not in a strange, no social skills, hides behind his computer kind of way – but relative to the greater public who may only spend a handful of hours a week online.
Therefore, the more avenues we have to tell our story, the easier it is for people to find us.
How many staff do you have?
No staff, just Vita and I. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to work alongside Vita, who is an immensely skilled programmer and mathematician.
He has done the work of a team of engineers, covering front end, back end, hosting, testing, plus a bunch of things I wouldn’t even know about.
I started in January with the idea of teaching myself code and building a version 1.0.
Vita came along in mid-March and within two weeks had something up that would have taken me all of 2012 to get to, if not longer.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
It’s too early for us to start thinking about revenue. The online dating market is driven by network effects, so the most important thing for us to focus on is gaining traction/user adoption.
We have a number of business models in mind, and do intend to make money at some stage, but it’s too early to get sidetracked from making something awesome.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
The biggest risk is that we can’t get 7pmanywhere into the hands of enough people. It’s likely to be an ongoing struggle but one we’re looking forward to.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
The site you see was designed professionally by a close friend, and I think it looks amazing, but I grossly underestimated how long the process would take.
In hindsight, we could have had the blog and social media going a month earlier, and probably twice the database to spread our message to.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t jump on the first semi-feasible opportunity that pops up in front of you.
Come up with lots of ideas, hundreds even. Combine ideas, and focus on solving problems you have or are aware of.
Too many first-time founders are working on “me too” start-ups because they were keen to get started. Something that you’re passionate about is a good start. Solve your own problem.