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Auckland man makes love connection

Auckland-based entrepreneur Dylan Bland wants to inflict a Valentine's Day massacre on Trade Me's FindSomeone.

Bland is launching a new dating site, Twosome.

He's no stranger to the website launch game. Bland was behind failed Trade Me rival Zillion (his essay on its failure is a must-read for auction site start-ups; or a should-have-read in Wheedle's case); is a manager and minority shareholder in successful e-tailer Mighty Ape; and is the founder of NZ Flatmates.

Twosome is currently in a prelaunch phase, collecting member registrations. A full launch is promised by month's end. NBR asked Bland about his plans for the site.

NBR: I'm not immediately familiar with it, but from a distance I'd assumed the dating website scene was pretty crowded, with local contenders like FindSomeone and NZDating, plus Kiwis using global apps like Tinder. What's Twosome's point of difference?

Bland: Twosome was born out of frustration with the current sites and apps. For years now, people have been telling me over and over again that the current sites are no fun to use, make them feel embarrassed and, in most cases, just don't work for them.

NZDating hasn't been updated for years, and it feels like they've been resting on their laurels a little in the absence of fresh competition. Findsomeone is owned by Trade Me which has responsibility to shareholders, and is therefore expensive. It also feels like it was designed for older people and is pushing a more conservative agenda.

Tinder is an interesting app, but it's a case of the medium dictates the message. It's a mobile app, so therefore it's a purely visual experience and people are judged solely on how they look. That's not how relationships are formed in the real world.

To its credit, Tinder has gained a lot of momentum in a short amount of time, it's lots of fun, and has probably opened people's minds, especially younger people, to using technology to form new relationships.

The good news is for us, is that people are happy to use more than one site or app for their dating needs. Twosome is a fresh, modern approach to internet dating. It works on your desktop, tablet and mobile phone - and takes advantage of the strengths of each medium.

This means that you can create profiles that are visually interesting and tailored to your unique personality (custom backgrounds, lots of photos etc).

It also means you can write proper messages to people on your computer, not just short one-line messages from your mobile.

The site is attractive, well designed and fun to use. We built something that people will be proud to show their friends and proud to say they used to meet new people. We think the same cannot be said for most of the current players.

NBR: You've given Mighty Ape a 20% share in exchange for promotion on Mighty Ape?

Bland: Mighty Ape recognised the opportunity and wanted to be part of it, and this is the first deal Mighty Ape has done outside of its core business. Mighty Ape has a large, loyal and highly engaged customer-base that will help get the ball rolling, plus Twosome benefits from experience and expertise from key individuals.

NBR: How will you earn revenue?

Bland: I want to try really hard to keep Twosome free from advertising, because I believe advertising distracts from the user experience and from the content - i.e. the people on the site. The goal is to earn revenue from Twosome Plus, which is an optional upgrade [for $14.99/month] that lets people send a larger number of messages and see extra content such as who "liked" their profile and updates.

NBR: How much did the site cost to set up?

Bland: Twosome has been developed by a small team on a small budget. Less than the annual salary of a single decent developer in today's market

NBR: Have you ever used a dating site yourself?

Bland: I grew up with the internet and spend a huge amount of time online, so I've tried most of the dating sites in NZ and a one or two while I was overseas. The landscape in New Zealand really is quite bleak compared to what's available offshore, and my goal with Twosome is to close the gap. There's a big opportunity to do something great.

How do you get a decent number of people to sign on to get the all-important critical mass? 

We'll be working with Mighty Ape to ensure customers are aware of the new site and give it a try. We'll also be focused on ensuring the site actually works for people, because if it does, they'll keep using it, and they'll recommend it to their friends. We'll also be working hard to ensure we have mechanisms in place to keep people coming back as the site grows and becomes more useful.

We'll make good use of Facebook which makes sharing and engaging with customers, and potential customers, easier than ever. There are more options for growing new sites and building traffic than there were 5 years ago thanks to Facebook. 

NBR: Are you attached?

Bland: I have considerable experience being single.