It's been a long time since our last talk, and it's definitely time to revisit the dating industry, where it's going, and how SkaDate fits.
Tinder democratized the way we meet, but it also introduced the opposite problem. It's fantastic that creating a dating profile no longer feels like filling a tax form, but when people don't invest much effort, the average quality of interactions predictably degrades. Just looking and swiping creates no commitment. In this sense, it’s no wonder that any general-purpose swiping app has become a place where people looking for any real and serious dating have to specify that they are "not looking for hookups" in their profiles.
Also, the pandemic years really boosted the process of replacing real-life activities with online ones. Most common interactions, like work, education, recreation - everything is on the net now. And naturally, the hubs where people gather for these interactions also become organic spots for dating. That can be an issue for businesses that specialize in setting themselves apart as dating-specific.
So what's the solution? Can online dating survive as an industry, i.e., continue gathering meaningful consumer numbers for a single purpose of romantic communication? How do we create commitment in a world where people are now used to low-friction transactional interactions in everything?
We believe the solution is creating the right environment. Like with food - people behave differently at a diner and a high-end restaurant, even though they are there seemingly for the same purpose - eating. Thus, showing up is an intent, stigma is lifted, smart quality enforcement is possible. And that is why niche dating is the answer. Time and again, large dating sites proved that quantity enables, but quality wins.
Even more than before, it means that experimenting with untapped opportunities is the key. Trying out an idea fast and cheap, then iterating on a potentially promising discovery — this is what SkaDate is all about.
We have always positioned our product for niche dating startups, and in the new market conditions, it's become even more apparent how that is the only way forward.
The final figure may fluctuate depending on the number of projects we are handling at the moment, but the core team is about 20 people. Believe it or not, it's been that magic number since our first years. And yet we have become more distributed in recent years. We have people all over Asia, Europe, and North America, which definitely helps us be more accommodating to customers' needs.
In some way, being remote creates a sense of urgency and responsibility because of isolation. You get a more concise scope of tasks than you would in the chaotic all-hands-on-deck environment. On the other hand, we have fewer people in the HQ office now, which is unfortunate but a sign of the times, I guess. There's a price to pay for unlocking the global talent. However, this global spread is also affecting our diversity, which is good, though I guess we never had a problem in this area. We were a multinational and multicultural group from the get-go.
In some sense, we are larger than our market. It's rare for a wide-purpose matchmaking software product of this scale to be applied to a relatively small niche. There's a need to be flexible to appeal to the mass market, yet ready to customize the product for any given customer. That’s a delicate balance that is hard to maintain for a product built specifically for the niche. SkaDate is based on the open-source Oxwall platform, hence our ability to do service work without sacrificing quality.
We've seen competitors come and go, and those were people who correctly assessed the market opportunity. We overshot; thus becoming nearly the only matchmaking software company serving retail customers on almost enterprise level. But we do not regret anything, since this enabled us to regularly dab in other niches because people often want to customize SkaDate for things completely unrelated to dating.
It depends on their needs and how precise their plan is.
The Basic package is the entry point, which we only sell because some people demand to have a bare-bone setup. Sometimes, it makes sense to see immediate results if there's an audience ready to jump in head-first. However, If they are any serious, they invariably upgrade later.
The Complete package has everything you need (apps included) if you are not intimidated by going the DIY route. It's for those entrepreneurs who know their way around servers, app stores, databases, and configuration. It's a way to take everything we have and say goodbye if that's your plan.
The Premium package adds all kinds of assistance you might need to set up a high-load system, have your apps submitted to stores, 1-year assistance with anything, and credits for any services we offer. That's the easiest way to start while making sure you take advantage of everything we have to offer.
The Bespoke package is for enterprise-grade projects with business plans, budgets, and many variables figured out. Less experimenting, highest long-term assurance. Typically, those who buy the Bespoke package want to see a strategic partner in us for multi-year projects. By its very nature, we have the strongest bonds with Bespoke clients - our Project Managers and development team leads are often integrated into customers’ teams. So in this sense, my advice will be to go with Bespoke - doing everything together from start to finish eliminates so much hassle and accidental errors.
Ahh, the right question at the wrong time! We are right in the middle of major development work related to our platform. It’s very exciting, and at a scale that we haven’t done in a while. I am very happy with the current progress and I know the clients will be happy too when we are done.
I’m afraid I can’t disclose more details at the moment. Maybe when we talk next? Otherwise, we just released the new version of our mobile applications, and we are also doing some modernization of our products to help us maintain customized deploys much simpler (read: faster and cheaper).
Also, as I already mentioned, we get more involved in non-dating projects. And this allows us to offer an overqualified product for dating while exploring new opportunities.
As everyone in this business knows, your favorite testimonial is the one you can’t publish, of course. It’s funny how big enterprise clients initially hire companies like ours to cut corners and then become long-term partners because they are happy with the way we work and the progress we show. But they just can’t bring themselves to publicly say that their “educational/employment/consumer match-making platform” is created and maintained by a small online dating software company! It’s frustrating for marketing, but it’s OK. Otherwise, you can look us up at GoodFirms or browse through our portfolio/testimonials on our website.
We serve entrepreneurs. That's why SkaDate is all about trying out ideas. Making it smoother, faster, cheaper has been our focus for years. Whatever we introduce has to serve these objectives. Since we are entrepreneurs ourselves, we understand the pain of uncertainty and embrace creativity in solving background tasks. Expect crazy ideas from us this year!
I want to say a few words of encouragement to those brave enough to try their own thing. Those who show up no matter what. Who forgot what a comfort zone looks like. Who understand the risks of doing but even more — the risks of not doing.
It often feels like the world around us is getting less certain by the day. Entrepreneurship is a creative way to attack this problem for both creating a better future for yourself and making the world a better place. This is the highest calling I can think of. I salute those who agree! Chase your dream! That's the only thing worth chasing.