Markus Frind, founder of the dating website PlentyofFish Media Inc., is moving from matchmaker to dealmaker after selling his firm for $575 million to Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp.
Frind, who built his website from scratch from his home computer in Vancouver, wants to parlay the proceeds from the sale to help fund other technology startups.
“There’s a huge lack of senior managers and leaders in technology in Canada just in general, let alone people who exited a company and have money that they can spend,” Frind said by phone on Wednesday.
Canada’s technology scene is gaining traction as investors clamor for non-resource stocks amid a rout in oil prices and companies like Hootsuite Media Inc. and Vision Critical Communications Inc. attract millions in venture capital funding. Ottawa-based software provider Shopify Inc. has soared 73 percent to $29.34 since its initial public offering in May.
The absence of experienced tech leaders is still an issue, said Frind. He’s already invested in online furniture seller Cymax and peer-to-peer lender Grouplend and said he’s interested in setting up a family office to invest more.
Frind started PlentyofFish in 2003 to work on his computer coding skills. By 2006 the site’s growing popularity meant he was making millions in ad revenue. He waited until 2009 to hire his first employee, he wrote last year on his blog.
Frind said he never took any venture capital money, though he definitely had the chance.
“They were like ‘here’s a blank check, put a number on it,’” he said. “There was one time I had three phone calls before lunch and I was like, ’how did you guys even get my phone number?’”
Millions of Users
PlentyofFish has 100 million registered users, three to four million of which visit the site daily, Frind said. It’s free, though users can pay extra for added features like seeing when a potential match reads your message. In most countries, 85 percent of users are on mobile devices.
“We’re really good at telling all the people you won’t date,” Frind said. “So what we do is we just exclude those people from your search results, and I think that’s probably a major differentiator from what everyone else is doing,” Frind said.
Revenue for 2015 will be C$100 million ($77 million), the company said in March. The actual number will be much higher, Frind said, declining to give a specific figure or say how much profit PlentyofFish makes.
New York-based IAC will combine PlentyofFish with Match Group and spin 20 percent of the unit off in an IPO. Before the acquisition, IAC already controlled 20 percent of the online dating market, expected to total $2.4 billion this year, according to researcher IBISWorld.
IAC had been approaching him for over a decade, Frind said. Why sell now?
“There isn’t really one thing I can point to, it’s just I’ve been doing this for long enough,” Frind said. He’s got a 10-month-old daughter and a wife, who he met off line. “Once you start having kids you start measuring time in different intervals,” he said. “I think it was about time.”