How I started A Dating Empire by Plenty of Fish CEO

JohnnyRabbit

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How I started A Dating Empire

Adapt or die - by Markus Frind CEO of Plentyoffish.com

Back in 2001 after my birthday someone in the office introduced me to online dating sites. I went back to my desk and checked out udate.com and kiss.com and lavalife/web personals. I was bored and I wanted to chat with people. I was really annoyed when I found out you had to pay for everything, I ended up telling the girl who introduced me to the sites that I could do better and make them for free, so I went and registered Plentyoffish.com. All I ever ended up doing was creating an index page and forgot about it.

Fast forward to 2003, I had been jumping jobs every couple of months from one sinking ship to another. I had just joined a new company with 30 employees on Dec 1st of 2002, by the time Feb rolled around 15 people had already been laid off and I started to worry. I started thinking about finishing my site and learning asp.net at the same time and I wondered why people didn't come rushing to join. I quickly started building my site and actually made it somewhat functional although most pages where in asp, others in asp.net. Somehow I ran across this site http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/, once there I was introduced to the concept of SEO, boy did that open my eyes. I started exchanging links with everyone and anyone and finally got a bit of traffic. Then I sat back and waited for the famous google dance, the once a month update. At the start of March google updated and I got pagerank, but still not much traffic and I made my first post here http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1326&hl=plentyoffish.

At the start of March I had ~40 members my site was running off my home machine, people where complaining I didn't allow image uploading so by mid march I had added image uploading. You can see how absolutely horrible the site http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.plentyoffish.com. By the end of March my site went viral and started growing 2 to 5% a day and it was off to the races from there. I was still developing on the live site/home machine and I always prayed nothing would crash.

Then at the end of June Adsense came out up until then I had no real way of monetizing my site. I had a single affiliate program but it didn't even make $40/month. I went and added Adsense pretty quick, I made a whole $5.63 cents my first month, but that was more then enough for me to realize that I wouldn't go broke running the site and I could make a business out of this with enough traffic. In my evenings I started working really hard on my site learning asp.net trying to convert my hastily put together asp pages to asp.net and trying to add more pages/functionality. I was doing the Beta thing before it was cool. I was updating/building the live site every couple of minutes, if the site crashed I didn't really care, only took a few seconds to fix it.

I once again complained in http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1326&hl=plentyoffish about my sites lack of SEO results it was September of 2003, I had 10k signups now and only a ~100 visitors a day from google and other 2,000 unique visitors a day from who knows where. By the time October rolled around my site was rolling, I quit my job at the start of the month and FINALLY went and bought a little server and moved my site to a hosting provider at the end of October. Still can't believe I ran my site off my home computer for the first http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/graph?mode_u=on&site=www.plentyoffish.com&mode_w=off&avg_days=360&submit=Redisplay+Graph.

My short description leaves a lot out, but basically I spent every waking minute when I wasn't at my day job reading, studying, and learning. I picked out "enemies" and did everything I could to defeat them which ment being bigger then them. I refused to accept defeat of any kind, and I constantly forced myself to test new things. I never tried to perfect anything it didn't matter if things didn't work 100% as long as it was good enough I would move onto the next thing. In 2003 the dating market was growing 80% a year unlike the -10% in 2006 so growth was a LOT easier. When 2004 rolled around and word of mouth REALLY kicked in and as they say the rest is history.

I look back now at how ill prepared I was, I didn't know anything about SEO, Advertising, community and I didn't even know what Venture Capital was. Just goes to show you anyone can do anything.
Beautiful motivation.

Continual hard work delivers results.
 

dtang4

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Wow. I just took a look at 2003 snapshot on wayback machine. Site looks horrendous, lol. I think he downplays how he had the foresight to discover a goldmine years ahead.
 

virtualgeorge

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I can remember seeing him in forums or his blog years ago and he was getting some huge monthly adsense checks.

Actually a cool service too, met a lot of "cool" chicks on that site.
 

Autumn

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He also downplays the fact that he's basically a genius programmer who custom built this incredibly scalable backend that runs on like 1/10th the hardware of his competition. So not only was he blessed with getting the right idea at the right time, but he was already basically an amazing programmer who could build this amazing system with no outside help. Cool story, but it isn't really applicable to the common person on the street.
 
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