Russian entrepreneur Andrey Andreev will soon find out if he's hot or not -- at least in the U.S.
His London-based social media company, Badoo, is relaunching Hot or Not, a service that you'll recall began more than a decade ago as a desktop site that allowed users to vote on the attractiveness of others. The site, which Badoo bought the rights to in 2012, is now a mobile dating app geared toward an American audience, which his company hasn't been able to tap.
Globally, Badoo is among the top 170 by traffic, though only 3.2 percent of its visitors are from the U.S., according to Alexa Internet.
"We're trying to crack the U.S. markets," Andreev said in an interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York. "With Hot or Not, we could buy a fast track into them. We're trying to position it differently than Badoo."
Andreev's push into the social lives of Americans comes amid an increasingly crowded dating industry, which is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.9 percent to $2.7 billion in the next five years, fueled by the addition of mobile functions, according to researcher IBISWorld.
Dominating the dating business is IAC/InterActiveCorp, which has a 28 percent share of the market. It owns Tinder, one of the most popular mobile dating apps, which matches 10 million love/lust-seekers daily with a similar picture swipe-rating model. The company just added a disappearing photo feature akin to the annotated pictures sent via Snapchat.
Also owned by IAC are free service OKCupid and subscription dating site Match.com, which has nearly doubled sales to $788 million in three years. Match redesigned its mobile app in April and added a Tinder-like feature that lets users flip through pictures.
Like every other industry, the dating business has had to adapt to the always-on smartphone crowd.
"You don’t want to lose a customer to a competitor because their dating app is better," said Jason Helfstein, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co.
Of course, a longtime challenge of the dating business is that once users find a match, they no longer need the service. Hot or Not is trying to get around that by providing additional features, such as being able to rank celebrity profiles to create lists around events like the Oscars or the World Cup.
"It's more about the ranking," Andreev said. "The hottest people will want to be on the platform to check out their popularity."