OneStop Singles, Small but Profitable, Flirts for Attention in Crowded Online Dating Industry
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dating nightmares. Her first speed dating experience in New York coincidentally put her with a contact she turned down from Match.com. “The first guy I sat with mentioned, ‘I e-mailed you 10 times and you never responded. Now you have to talk to me.’ It was really kind of painful,” she said.
OneStop Singles uses themes, or “dating deal breakers,” as she put it—such as political affiliation, height, and career choice—to attract singles interested in those groups. “Initially it was selfishly about offering events where we would be interested in the singles attending,” she said.
In 2008, the company launched OnSpeedDating.com, which offers 75 different themed events for singles to choose from. The speed dating events draw 20 to 40 participants, Soletti said. She said the company then expanded with SingleAndTheCity.com, which lists themed mixer parties for singles that can draw upwards of 75 attendees, she said. “Our firemen singles party is a huge event for us,” Soletti said. “We usually average around 350 people for that.”
Other observers say coaxing New Yorkers for an evening out is increasingly difficult given their ever-growing options. Jeff Strank, founder of business and social events company NetParty in New York, said the dating industry must innovate to compete these days. With the rise of online networks that inspire homegrown social meetings, competition has increased for the public’s attention, he said. Furthermore, Internet dating services need to evolve with technology, Strank said. “A lot of major dating sites are not that much different than they were in 1998,” he said.
With the advent of location-based apps, Strank said, smartphones are the latest platforms the dating industry can leverage. “The most innovative thing happening in this space right now is mobile apps,” he said. Such apps include SingleSquare, which lets people use New York-based Foursquare’s check-in technology to alert others in the vicinity of their availability, and SinglesAroundMe, which locates other users via Google Maps. Strank said more of these apps may be in the works as the public becomes more receptive to using location-based services. “It hasn’t reached critical mass yet,” he said. “Some of the early tech adopters are aware of it.”
Meanwhile, Soletti said, OneStop is working on its own innovations. The company is developing another website that will offer deals targeted at singles akin to what Groupon and LivingSocial provide, but with more social networking. For example, a hypothetical offer might be a hot air balloon ride that includes a deal on a bottle of wine with dinner at a restaurant. “After you purchase the deal, we have a hookup blog where the singles post and find a date for the outing they just purchased,” Soletti said. She expects the deals site to launch within the next three to six months.
Soletti said OneStop wants to add staff and bring its concept to other metro areas such as Los Angeles and Chicago within the next three years. “The singles business seems to thrive in any type of economy,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to be in love or meet someone?”
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