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DatingBuzz: Dave Burnstein

Local Internet dating site becomes international matchmaking wonderland

Juliet Pitman

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Dave Burstein of Dating Buzz

“I met my spouse online” is a phrase SouthAfricans will become more and more used to hearing if Dave Burstein and DuncanForrest, co-founders of online dating website DatingBuzz, have anything to dowith it. Forrest, who met his wife Melinda through DatingBuzz, is one of agrowing number of people who have proved that Internet dating is more effective– and mainstream – than people might initially have believed.

Forrest and Burstein, both electronicengineers with experience in interactive design, launched DatingBuzz in 2002.“There were a couple of overseas dating companies that were starting to doreally well, particularly in the USand Australia.Although the numbers were initially quite small, they were definitely headingin the right direction,” explains Burstein. He talks about the considerationsin setting up the website: “Functionality was a key issue – we looked at whatwould work from a user perspective. And we never looked at whether we could dosomething as well as everyone else; we wanted to do what other dating sitesdid, only better.”As the biggest dating site in South Africa, with 45 million pages and fivemillion user sessions a month, as well as formidable presence in the UK, Irelandand Australia,Burstein and Forrest have achieved that goal. DatingBuzz is differentiated fromits competitors on a number of important points. It was the first professionaldating site to offer a uniquely local feel; billing is in rands, not dollars,and it’s clear that the designers understand local geography. But moreimportantly, its key differentiator has been its approach to matchmaking. Thesophisticated matching technology (created in-house along with everything else)allows users to be highly specific about what constitutes their “ideal match”.

Burstein explains: “Once people set uptheir own profile, they specify what they are looking for in an ideal partner accordingto a range of characteristics. But our software allows them to weight each ofthese characteristics according to how important they are to the user. So‘non-smoker’ might be a non-negotiable while age range may only be moderatelyimportant.” DatingBuzz calculates as a percentage how suitable other membersmay be for that user and cross-correlates how suitable the user is for thesepeople, according to their “ideal match” requirements. Members can sendanonymous messages to each other through the site and decide from there whetherthey want to take things further. DatingBuzz’s confidentiality policy means itnever reveals anyone’s identity or details to anyone else.Scalability is a challenge for any businessbut particularly one so reliant on technology. “We reached a point fairlyquickly in the early days where we needed to make some technological decisionsregarding scalability,” Burstein says. “The model we now have is virtuallyinfinitely scalable; if the need arises we simply drop in more servers for morecapacity.” The company leases all its technology.

The site’s success is also due in part tothe business’s value capture model. As Burstein explains, “One of the biggestchallenges is marketing a website. Unless you have really deep pockets, youfind yourself in a bit of a catch 22 situation; you need the traffic togenerate revenue but you need the revenue to generate the traffic.” To overcomethe marketing challenge, he and Forrest took a decision early on to “whitelabel” (re-brand) the site. This meant that South African (and laterinternational) media sites with an existing presence and user base could offera dating service; they brand the outer “skin” of the site but the content isthe same as users would find on the DatingBuzz-branded site. DatingBuzz paysthese media partners a percentage of the revenue generated from each of theirsites. The result is that virtually every media company in South Africa,and many online companies overseas, offer an internet dating service that usesDatingBuzz.

The company’s other income stream comes inthe form of membership fees. Users can sign up for free, remain a non-payinguser indefinitely and enjoy all the services offered by the site, but to send amessage to another user, they need to become a member. Subscriptions aretime-based and range from R89,95 for one month to R649,95 for 12 months. Themodel not only gives users a risk-free chance to determine how well the sitemight work, but it also offers a strong incentive to subscribe.Having overcome the start-up challenges ofestablishing a successful dating site in what was an initially scepticalmarket, Burstein and Forrest are mindful of the challenges that lie ahead. “Wealways have to be aware that we are researchable by others, so we arecontinually improving the functionality and user experience on the site. It’sall about staying ahead of the game,” says Burstein.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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