Interview: Once CEO Jean Meyer Discusses Portfolio Expansion

Once CEO Jean Meyer has built his company into one of the biggest dating platforms in mainland Europe. He is now looking to expand his outreach and venture into new niches.

Partly inspired by his own mother’s struggles with online dating, Meyer has launched Once Again in France – a dating app for singles over the age of 50. With several new market entries already planned for the coming weeks, he also wants to develop new brands within his portfolio.

GDI spoke to Meyer to find out how he is running his ever-growing business, and what he thinks the future of the industry looks like.

Read the full interview below:

How has Once developed over the past few months, and how are you looking to expand in the future?

JM: “We are still spending heavily on marketing for Once because we think it is a good product and is working well. We had an amazing subway campaign in Paris in January and February of 2019. For two months straight the whole subway in Paris was Once.

Once is a nice product and it has about 600,000 monthly active users. We want to maintain that. It’s still the moneymaker, but at the same time we also need to grow and develop new brands.

We want to do the same thing with Once Again, which we just launched in France recently. We’re going to launch during April in seven markets in Europe and we hope to get to 300,000 – 500,000 monthly active users by August.

“We still want to build other brands, and have a group that accumulates 1.5 million monthly active users altogether this year. From there, we should be in good shape to keep growing while being EBITDA positive.”

How did the idea for Once Again come about, and why do you think there is an opportunity in the over-50 demographic?

JM: “So the thing with Once Again, besides the name being really cool, is that serving the senior demographic is something that we have wanted to do right from the beginning. When you look at the landscape of the industry in France you will realise we have one competitor, Ourtime, which has been launched by Match Group to serve the French market.

“It is super small. They spent a lot of money marketing and yet they have 300,000 users. The mistake they are making is that it’s a desktop only app because they think senior people don’t own a smartphone. This is so wrong! In France, I believe 70% of people from 50 to 70 years old have a smartphone.

“We wanted to create a mobile app-only platform for this very specific demographic for three reasons. Number one, because it is a growing demographic, and that’s a very opportunistic approach. Number two, there is no competition and we are the first ones which is great! And number three, my Mum is 67, she is single and she has kept complaining for the past two years about Once. She was like ‘Thank you for Once but there is nobody my age on your app!’.

“There is nobody doing it right now, there is no app, only this old website with the same model as Match.com – a subscription and paywall. You have no nice freemium app that looks like Tinder for this demographic, so we just did it.”

Now you are looking to run multiple brands, what does the management of each individual platform look like?

JM: “We try to keep all of our brands behind the same management and have the same product team to keep them consistent and to create synergies among our different brands. I have the same Chief Product Officer who will manage all brands in parallel, so he can say ‘I have found this great B2B service for scam detection and it’s working well so we can use it across all brands’.

We can use the same technological stack for all of our apps and it’s easier to manage, it’s faster and when we make one modification on one app it does it on all the others at the same time.

It seems like it’s a lot of work but because it’s the same technological stack and the same team working on it, it’s actually only 10% more work to add one app to the portfolio for our tech team.

For our marketing team, in the same manner, they try to allocate the work per channel and per vertical. So we are going to take the person responsible for performance marketing, now instead of just managing Once you have to do it for Once Again. For them, yes they need to be a bit more organised and they need to be a bit more rigorous, but once you have the structure in place it’s not that much work to actually spend the marketing budget on different brands.”

Where do you think the online dating industry is headed, and what trends do you expect to see emerging before the end of the year?

JM: “The thing is I spend most of my time trying to understand how can we develop new brands and a new network of apps, and probably less time about what is going to be the next big thing. But any new disruption in the dating industry will come from new hardware or a new device.

If you look at previous disruption, first it was the internet and you had Match.com, that was the first disruption in the dating world. Then came the mobile and few years after you had Tinder, a new disruption in the dating world. If we stay with this current device in terms of user experience, we’re probably going to get something that leans towards more like what mobile does best, which is videos and geo-location.

I’m thinking about apps that localise you everywhere you go, something probably like happn but with video interaction. An enhanced experience of what we have right today. More localised so you can hookup with your neighbour if you’re on a hookup app, or a better experience of what a profile can be. Basically something that goes a bit further than what Tinder is doing with the Loop videos. That’s if we stay with the current state-of-the-art device and we still use mobile.

What you can see right now is that we are going towards something else. We see more and more new disruption in terms of technology. So you have Snapchat that created the glasses and Huawei also launched some glasses recently at their conference. We know we’re going towards more virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). I think the future, maybe not next year but in a matter of one to five years, is going to lean between AR and VR, and it will go along with a new device. As soon as you have AR glasses, or something like that, you will see dating apps evolving or maybe a new startup that is going to offer you an AR future and experience.

The whole idea here is to be a little bit like happn again. It will most probably be along the lines of looking at a place and using automatic face recognition to tell you that these girls are single and are actively looking for something using these platforms. There will probably be a problem with privacy but that’s another subject.

We are becoming more about instant gratification and this is why I’m talking about hyper-localisation. The trend is definitely going in this direction and we will talk less about browsing a catalogue of pictures to identify someone.”

Visit the Once website here.

Dominic Whitlock

Dominic is the Editor for Global Dating Insights. Originally from Devon, England he achieved a BA in English Language & Linguistics from The University of Reading. He enjoys a variety of sports and has a further passion for film and music.

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