Launched in 2010 and turning over £2.5m, we find out from the founder how Lovestruck.com has resonated with Londoners
What is it about living in London that makes you feel like you have hot coals under your feet.
You rush about, never in one place for too long and no time for the list of a million things you have to do.
Meeting new people? Finding love? Sorry. We’ve got no time for that, we have Pilates, sprawling groups of friends to catch up with and a freelance project to do.
One entrepreneur that understands this whirlwind lifestyle is Lovestruck.com founder Brett Harding. Back in 2006 he was working as an account director at marketing agency The Forward Group, and using online dating when he saw a niche the dating scene that wasn’t being catered for.
“I was dabbling with online dating and realised that daters know within a few minutes of meeting people whether or not there was any chemistry,” he tells me.
“I started meeting people on my lunch break, that way if you’re not interested you have the excuse of getting back to the office.”
Harding also realised that there could be hundreds of suitable partners working in a small radius of where you work. “I was working with Barclay’s Wealth and looking around Canary Wharf I saw so many attractive people and thought wouldn’t it be amazing if you could connect them.”
With this in mind Harding set up LunchdateLondon.com, based on short dates over lunch with people in your working vacinity.
“We bombarded the underground with advertising for what seemed like an eternity, I thought I’d be a millionaire within a month. It didn’t quite work out that way,” says Harding.
“It is a brutal business model and you need a marketing machine behind you and it’s all about the branding,” he explains. “I realised I didn’t have the capital and so started to look for investment. I managed to get a team of experienced tech entrepreneurs and angels together to rebrand as Lovestuck.com.”
With $465,000 in Series A funding on-board – Lovestruck.com was born. Harding and his team ploughed lots of money into marketing, including a huge London Underground campaign.
“Low and behold the site started to really take off,” says Harding. “We didn’t have a particularly massive user base to start with but we had enough to prove the concept. We turned on the marketing tap and realised that the more we spent, the more people joined.”
Since then, Lovestruck.com has struck a healthy balance between growth and profitability. Despite having an impressive reach, Lovestruck.com only has four full-time employees and around 15 part-time, which gives it low employee overheads. Not a bad way to be when you’re pulling in a turnover of £2.5m a year.
Lovestruck.com has gone from strength to strength since launch with a swathe of awards under its belt and as Harding puts it, “general respect from the industry for what we have achieved with limited resources.”
In 2011 it fought off tough competition from the likes of Match.com and eHarmony to win “Best Marketing Campaign” at the iDate Conference in Miami. It is also regularly shortlisted for the finals of the National Business Awards.
Lovestruck.com has been rolled out to other cities across the world including Sydney, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.
“I’ve just flown back from a reconnaissance mission to Singapore,” says Harding. “We find cities like Sydney and New York are very competitive which is one of the reasons we’ve tried out Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s a lot easier to get off the ground there.”
With international expansion under way, I wonder what could possible next for Lovestruck.com.
“In the new year we’ll be launching Lovestruck 3.0,” Harding explains. “It will be a state-of-the-art dating site especially for tablets which will take in a bit more social discovery. As well as searching for people by profile you’ll be able to find people based on dates they’ve suggested.
“It’ll make the experience far more social.”
Interested? Harding is hoping to roll out this new tablet service in the first quarter of 2013 – watch this space and get dating.