EasyDate: taking online dating to the next level

EasyDate, Polyakov’s business, boasts over seven million members across a range of websites, and it’s growing fast – 1.5 million new members signed up in the second half of 2009 alone.

The company is profitable too. According to Bill Dobbie, the company’s chairman, the company recorded £2.8m in profit on a £12m turnover in its last accounts, and expects turnover to near £20m this year.

“A year ago, we realised that the UK was a little small for us, so our plan has been to expand into other English-speaking countries,” explains Polyakov. “The potential is enormous.”

He certainly hasn’t held back. EasyDate – under its various brand names of DateTheUK.com, BeNaughty.com, Cupid.com, Canoodle.com. and SpeedDater events – is now present and growing in Australia, India, Ireland, South America, and the US.

“We’re also looking to move into France, Germany and Spain, and to really grow our American business significantly,” adds Polyakov.

How can he grow so quickly?

“We understand the way people interact and meet, how they build relationships,” he explains. “It’s the same trends of behaviour across all countries, and we rely on this.”

He adds that in some regions internet dating is still in its infancy, so EasyDate can get a really good position.

Polyakov’s background is fascinating. Although he trained as a gynaecologist in Ukraine – “so I know women quite well!” – he found himself working as a computer programmer because of the political climate after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“I realised that the internet was the future. Bill [Dobbie] was one of my clients, and he suggested that we go into business together,” he explains.

After relocating to Edinburgh in 2002, Polyakov and Dobbie launched EasyDate, funded entirely by themselves.

“We wanted a model which would have a minimal capital cost, and which worked via credit card subscriptions, which would be easy to scale-up. Online dating was very fragmented in the UK – there were already a good number of medium-players, but we wanted to grow the business into something big.”

It’s safe to say they’ve managed to achieve this. The company is listed at number 30 in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 UK, and Polyakov was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Scotland 2009.

The next step is for the company to raise more capital, which will help them expand their operations.

“We’re investigating taking the company to AIM, as well as the private equity route,” says Dobbie. “I’m handling this in the background, something will happen this year.”

Polyakov and Dobbie are certainly onto something good. With an increasing number of people turning to online dating to find their partners, EasyDate is a good company to watch in the next few years.

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