Rocket Internet’s eDarling, eHarmony share plans, say Asia is “a different elephant”

Christian Vollmann, Jeremy Verba, Lukas Brosseder
Christian Vollmann, Jeremy Verba, Lukas Brosseder

Berlin-based online matchmaker eDarling and US shareholder eHarmony shed some light on how they plan to grow together internationally yesterday – though are yet to decide when or whether eHarmony will close a full acquisition of the company it inspired.

Christian Vollmann, Jeremy Verba, Lukas BrossederChristian Vollmann (eDarling), Jeremy Verba (eHarmony) and Lukas Brosseder (eDarling)

Just hours after going live with spin-off company Better Date in Russia, eDarling co-founders Christian Vollmann and Lukas Brosseder shared their expectations for 2012: revenue up 30 per cent to about €50 million with “slightly positive EBITDA”. That will be the first profit, if all goes to plan, since the company started up in 2009. They’ll chase that growth in two ways. First, by attracting users away from competitors in “saturated” market Germany; second, and more importantly, through further expansion in Europe. So far, eDarling claims 12 million members in 12 countries.

Better Date, eDarling’s “photo personals” platform, will also enter new markets and is gearing up to release major new features in about eight weeks

eDarling 2012

Meetic is still secure as Europe’s largest dating company, with turnover of about €180 million. In 2012, eDarling expects to be in the number two spot (for more insight into eDarling’s inner workings, check out the company’s full third-year anniversary infographic).

How far can eDarling go?

Shareholder eHarmony (30 per cent) is active in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Brazil so those markets are probably off the cards. In turn, eHarmony views eDarling as central to its plans in continental Europe plus Turkey.

If eDarling does venture outside Europe, it’ll be to Asia or South America. But don’t expect that to happen soon. With plenty still ahead in Europe, Brosseder says it might be something they’ll come back to after two years or so. “The big blank spot on both our maps is Asia but it’s just an entirely different elephant,” he said. For a start, since eDarling currently runs all of its customer care out of Berlin, too big a time difference will start creating problems.

Then there are cultural factors. For example, in India it’s apparently popular for mothers to register a profile on a dating site and then subregister for her children. “From a systems IT standpoint, that’s completely different to anything we’re currently offering so it’d be a huge effort for us,” Vollmann said, especially with plenty of growth potential left in Europe.

The pair declined to break down revenue but did provide some info on other differences in the countries they’re currently in. “We started in Russia with eDarling and we had 75 per cent women,” Brosseder said. “We had a really tough time getting enough men on the platform to get to a balance, which we have now. Then we started in Turkey and we had the exact same problem in reverse.”

Poland is the most successful of the eDarling group in terms of national market share.

Will eHarmony commit?

There’s been plenty of speculation recently about eHarmony’s plans (or lack thereof) for a full acquisition of eDarling. Verba yesterday confirmed no such talks are currently taking place. He’s “very happy” with eDarling’s success so far but adds that has little to do with the decision to invest further.

“Our desire to wait or our desire to keep that option open has nothing to do right now with the success of the company,” Verba said. “We’ll make a decision when it’s right for us.”

eDarling’s other shareholders, as of April 2011, are the Samwer brothers’ Rocket Internet (33 per cent); Holtzbrinck VenturesMediengruppe Pressedruck and IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft at eight per cent each; Vollmann at nine per cent; and Brosseder and fellow eDarling co-founder David Khalil at less than one per cent each.

Related reading:

Samwer brothers’ eDarling – reports of failed exit “completely wrong”

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