Nice to see someone (other than me) paying some attention to Markus Frind and what he has been able to accomplish with his dating site, Plenty of Fish. The New York Times has a story about him — which I found via a Twitter post from my friend Mark Evans — and it highlights the main things you need to know about Markus and Plenty of Fish:
1. The site looks like crap, and Markus doesn’t care (and neither do users).
2. Markus works 10 hours a week and makes $10-million a year.
3. Plenty of Fish gets about 1.2 billion pageviews a month.
The Times’ story mentions Craigslist, and I think the comparison is apt: like Craig, Markus has also focused on keeping the site free and on only doing those things that users want, not what others think he should do. And true to the old rule of thumb that Canada is one-tenth the size of the U.S., Craigslist has 25 people and has 12 billion pageviews a month, and Plenty of Fish has two people and does 1.2 billion.
A couple of little-known facts that aren’t in the Times’ story: Markus once helped to nab a suspected killer for the U.S. Marshal, and his research in mathematics was cited in a paper that won the Fields Medal, the math equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Markus also says there are some major announcements coming about Plenty of Fish.
Kevin Burton of Tailrank isn’t buying it. If Markus is so successful, he says, why doesn’t he just shut up and run the site and pocket those $10-million instead of bragging about it? Burton says Frind is either a liar or a fool. Any comment on that, Markus?
Richard MacManus of Read/Write Web has a post up today in which he talks about PlentyofFish.com, the Vancouver-based dating site, and the mind-boggling pageviews, unique visitors and revenue it is generating. Although founder Markus Frind can no longer claim to be a one-man shop (he recently hired his first employee), to be doing $30,000 a day in revenue and over 1 billion pageviews a month is still incredible.
Although Markus and Plenty of Fish have gotten some notice here and there — particularly in the SEO/AdSense community — it’s surprising how little attention they get for a site that is number one in its market in Canada and the United Kingdom, and second in the United States according to Hitwise. Not bad for one guy (okay, two now, plus Markus’s girlfriend) and a roomful of servers.
To me, Markus is a little like Craig Newmark. He started a service because it seemed like a good idea — although I think he had more of a sense that it could be a moneymaker than Craig did — and he hasn’t spent more than a dime or two on site design, as you can see if you go there. All he has done is to make things easier and more convenient for his user base (mostly by making membership free).
Markus may not be doing eight billion pageviews a month the way Craigslist is, but then they have 200 servers and 25 employees. Compared to Markus, Craig might as well be Microsoft 🙂 Is Plenty of Fish worth $1-billion, as Richard speculates? I have no idea — but it is definitely worth a ton of money to someone, and Markus deserves all the credit.
(cross-posted from my Globe and Mail blog)
Vancouver resident Markus Frind is a bit of a 21st-century superhero. After all, he helped to catch a suspected murderer who was featured on the TV show America’s Most Wanted. But instead of using superhuman strength or the ability to see through solid metal, Markus used his abilities as a programmer and Webmaster who runs one of the world’s most popular dating websites, PlentyofFish.com.
According to news reports, Mr. Frind got an e-mail on Saturday night from the U.S. Marshal Service, saying someone had seen a picture of the suspected killer, 26-year-old Calvin Bennett, on the dating website. Bennett had a warrant out for his arrest in the murder of an elderly couple in Nashville on October 30. Pierce Odell and his wife Mary were shot in the head and their bodies dragged into the woods after being robbed (more details on the America’s Most Wanted site here).
Provided with the user name that Bennett used on his site, Mr. Frind went through his logs and found several conversations the suspected murderer had had with women online, and eventually determined that he was staying with one of those women in Wisconsin (since messages from both Bennett and the woman came from the same IP address). Armed with this information, the U.S. Marshals Service was able to track down and arrest the man on Sunday. Parked outside the house was a truck matching the description of the one belonging to the elderly couple from Nashville.
“There are millions of people who use the site and I feel like I am responsible for them,” said Mr. Frind in an e-mail interview. “It felt really good to capture him. Unlike the other dating sites, who I’m told take days to get ahold of, I was able to do this all within 10 minutes on a Saturday. But all in all it feels surreal — this is what you hear about in the movies but you never actually expect to happen.”
Although it is one of the most popular dating sites on the Internet, with more than a million users a day and advertising revenue estimated at almost $1-million a month, Mr. Frind runs the entire website himself on three computers. And nabbing a suspected killer isn’t his only claim to fame: A research paper on high-level mathematics that Mr. Frind co-authored was recently used as supporting research for another academic paper that helped to win its author the Fields Medal, also known as the Nobel Prize for math.
How many CEOs of online dating networks can you name who have done advanced math research that led to someone getting the Field’s Medal — often called the Nobel Prize of mathematics? I can think of one: my friend Markus Frind, the guy behind PlentyofFish.com, one of the top dating sites in the world.
Markus recently posted a description of how he came up with an algorithm that isolated 23 prime numbers in succession for the first time, and how that research was in turn cited by Terence Tao in a paper he did on prime numbers, a paper that helped contribute to him winning the Fields Medal.
Nice work, Markus. It’s bad enough that you’re making $500,000 a month or whatever it is on your dating site (for which you are the only employee). Now you have to be a math genius as well. Next you will tell me that you have a platinum-selling CD and are hanging out with Paris Hilton and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.