Start Me Up – Andrey Andreev, The Man Behind Badoo
Against competition from all angles, social networking site Badoo has become one of the fastest growing tech start-ups of all time and is among the top 5 social networks in the world. Its combination of online dating and social discovery has shown traction in markets all over the western world, giving users the opportunity to hook up with real people, in real life, using an app that connects you with those around you. Unique functionality and international appeal combined with sensible, forward-thinking revenue streams should make Badoo the blueprint for all tech start-ups yet to come.
The Social Network For Adventurous Strangers
Launched from a tiny office in Soho in late 2006, the site first went live in Spain where entrepreneur and co-founder Andrey Andreev was living at the time. Taking influence from Hot Or Not and Facebook, the site started with simple photo-sharing but the traffic heated up when they allowed users the chance to meet one another in person. However, they weren’t interested in the online dating racket; the site is designed as a social network for adventurous strangers, with a relaxed atmosphere and no monthly subscription fees.
As I write this article, the user counter on the Badoo home page is reading 152,418,140 and counting, with an estimated 150,000 more joining every day, but they employ only 200 staff worldwide (that’s for 180 countries) and their headquarters is a modest 800 square metre loft in Central London. By maintaining a skeleton staff, they have avoided bloating and over-spending like the dotcom enterprises of the past and have foregone any trace of marketing until very recently, when a campaign was launched in the United States.
Bootstrapping and Investors
The company was kicked off with Andreev’s own money, off the back of his previous ventures; Spylog (a web-tracking business started in 1999), Begun (similar to Google AdWords, sold in 2003 for an undisclosed amount) and Mamba (an online dating service in Russia, launched in 2004 and sold for $20 million) but in 2008 when the site was at 12 million users, Russian firm Finam invested $30 million for a 10% stake. The investment company have bought nearly all of Andreev’s ventures so far, but he has consistently sold his stake and moved on to the next business; getting his startups to a certain point, them leaving them to flourish of their own accord.
Expansion and Mobile
With a healthy cash injection, Badoo saw fit to court the international market, in particular that of Russia and the surrounding territories. With a reported user base of 10million, Russia had a strong emerging social network market at the start of 2008, with healthy competition from Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte. However, their heavily localised Russian-language site coupled with Andreev’s knowledge of the online dating market in Russia set them on course for success, and now 5.2% of Badoo users (approximately 8million) are Russian, with their iPhone app beating Twoo to the top of the dating charts.
Mobile functionality is where the platform really started to find its legs. Access from smartphones accounts for a third of Facebook’s traffic, but due to the lack of ads it is not monetized and therefore proves a poor financial prospect in what appears to be a mobile-dominated future. Not so with Badoo, who don’t have the stumbling block of trying to squeeze ad space into the limited viewing area of a smartphone. Instead users pay to increase their visibility to others, especially when they are on the move, meaning that if you want to meet someone new and there is a user in the café next door you can find them and make contact. The more you pay the more popular you become, and the mobile app means you can feed that addiction anytime, anywhere!
For a new company who haven’t even seen six years in business, the revenues are impressive; the company is said to generate over $100 million dollars a year without charging for functionality and without any advertising. What’s more, they have been continuously in profit from year one, which cannot be said for most tech start-ups, especially social networks.
Growth is projected to continue, having already caught the wave of the emerging market in Africa (it’s the 7th most popular site in Cameroon) and in anticipation of further breaking the US and UK ‘Anglo-Saxon’ demographics. Whereas Twitter has kept its cool, retaining the title ‘King of the Underground’ despite support from the Daily Mail, Badoo has demonstrated that you can make a popular, profitable online business with just a good idea and word of mouth, and not an advert in sight. For new entrepreneurs, it should be a case of monkey see, monkey ba-doo.
This article was written by guest author, Barry Cooke. Barry has been working in search and social media for over 15 years with a number of well known household brands and currently is the production director for advanced digital marketing agency, QDOS Digital Media. Barry is managing Badoo’s digital marketing strategies and can be reached at barry [at] qdosdigitalmedia.co.uk
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