Name: Meir Strahlberg
Position & Company: CEO, Avalanche, LLC
Period of time in the role: 9 years
Twitter ID: @avalanchellc
Can you describe your role and what you do?
As CEO, my primary function is determining company direction. I spend a lot of time reading to learn what’s going on within the dating industry, and internet industry as a whole.To impact growth and profitability, I primarily focus on marketing and business development. I also spend a lot of time on acquisitions, and have successfully closed 20 deals.
Tell us a little about your company.
The name of the company, Avalanche, was chosen because I love snowboarding. My partner loves sci-fi, and Avalanche is one of the X-Men characters. We are a private company with no outside investment from VCs. The lack of investors gives us the ability to make decisions and act on them quickly.
We are best known for our first site, Date.com, which was launched in 1997. But these days we have more than 20 niche and general brands. Some of our most notable acquisitions were Matchmaker.com and Amor.com.
How did you get into the online dating industry?
In 1992, while still in university, I started a telephone dating service that became very successful. But I thought that the telephone was a dying medium, especially for introducing people, and creating romantic relationships. I transitioned the concept of matchmaking into an online business.
What is Avalanche focusing on at the moment?
Right now, we are focused on business development with other dating companies, which is extremely exciting. We’ve been buying, selling, and trading traffic with a number of our competitors, and I’m always looking to expand the number of strategic partnerships we have.
We have developed an API that allows a member to join our site by opting in via co-registration on our partner’s site. This API allows a partner to pass us profile data, which we then import into our system, and use to create a member. For the consumer, they are able to join more than one site, but not have to go through the hassle of filling out multiple registration forms. We’ve been putting in a lot of development time into building out more features and refinements to this API.
Sites looking to sell are constantly approaching us, and M&A is something that I enjoy. I’m primarily interested in acquiring dating sites that are in niche markets where we don’t have a presence.These days I’m extremely focused on mobile dating. We are currently in talks with several dating apps that are looking to sell.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing dating sites?
Innovation is something that is lacking in the industry. We are currently engaged in a redesign of our site, and I’m hoping to come out with some unique concepts in our new release. It’s too easy to get stuck in a rut of copying others, and this is prevalent throughout the industry.
What are the most exciting opportunities?
I’m excited by the prospect of working with other online dating companies.In the early years, most online dating CEOs wanted to keep their traffic to themselves. They thought that they would hurt their profits by exposing their members to other brands. Now, that attitude is shifting, and shifting rapidly. Dating site owners realize that their members are on 2-5 other sites, and they might as well profit from working with their competitors and trading traffic.
What are your most profitable brands and niches?
Our 3 religious-based sites do especially well for us: ChristianMatchmaker.com is our Christian site, CatholicSoulmates.com is our Catholic brand, and Jewcier.com is our Jewish site.
We also have a few other niche sites that do really well for us. Golfmates.com is a site for golf lovers. MilitarySingles.com is geared for those in the military and singles who would like to meet a military man or woman. PinkWink is our lesbian brand. All of these are very profitable, and work great for affiliates.
Where does most of your traffic come from, mobile or desktop?
We have a mix of both mobile and desktop. Right now the majority of our traffic is still coming from desktop, but that’s rapidly changing.
Where do you see the industry in five years?
I anticipate some of the existing companies going under, or not being relevant. I also foresee a number of new companies sprouting. I think the deciding factors will be innovation.I don’t think that desktop will die for a long time, but I see mobile becoming more and more important.
What sets your company apart from others in the industry?
We are very open to working with our competitors. Many companies only want to buy traffic, some only want to sell traffic, we do both.
What does the rest of 2014 hold for your company?
Innovation, hard work, and creativity. Hopefully a lot of fun too â˜º.