Here’s to new beginnings

Today marks an important milestone at Zoosk. My cofounder, Alex, and I couldn’t be more excited to announce that we are handing the company we have poured the past 7 years of our lives into to the capable hands of Kelly to take it to even higher successes. Congratulations to Kelly Steckelberg, our new CEO. I can’t think of anybody more well suited for this job.

And a huge thanks to everybody who has supported us in this journey, from our investors to our family & friends, but specially to anybody who has worked at this great company.

Here it is to the next 7 years…

Zoosk – The #1 Dating App

Zoosk #1 Social Networking App on App StoreYesterday, I went on Bloomberg to discuss what has helped Zoosk become the number one dating application on mobile.

The number of monthly active users on Zoosk mobile products increased more than 200% over the last 12 months. Zoosk has consistently been ranked as the No. 1 dating app in the iTunes App Store over the last 6 months. In the Google Play store, singles have downloaded the Zoosk app more than 5 million times.

We attribute this success to our unique approach to online dating based on our Behavioral Matchmaking engine and a company-wide focus on mobile. Stay tuned for even more exciting news from Zoosk.

You can see the segment on Bloomberg here.

Surprisingly low adoption of Native Facebook login on iOS6

When Apple announced integration of Facebook into the OS layer with release of iOS6, I was very excited about the opportunities this integration might bring to developers in terms of lowering friction for their product adoption. The only question was whether millions of Facebook users on iPhone/iPad would opt into connecting their account at the operating system layer.

Well, today I learned that at least among millions of Zoosk users on iOS, the answer is No! In a recent analysis, we found out that only a little over 6% of Zoosk users on iOS have native FB auth enabled at the OS level. Further more, that adoption level doesn’t seem to be getting better at any meaningful speed.

What has been your experience? do you find more of your users having enabled the native login? Please comment and I will update the post with more info.


Zoosk participates in the internship program

This summer, Zoosk participated in the inaugural San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation ( internship program. As part of that, we let a San Francisco high school student intern with us for 6 weeks. The organization assigned us Haitao Zhang (pictured above, shaking hands with SF Police Chief Greg Suhr, at his internship graduation ceremony), and we couldn’t have been happier with the arrangement.

In the month and a half Haitao interned at Zoosk, he proved himself to be a mature, intelligent, and hardworking young man. He helped out on a videoshoot for ZooskTV called Love Lessons with a Make Up Artist, wrote a piece for the ZooskBlog about his behind-the-scenes experience, helped design some online banners with our Marketing team that got put into use, and even snapped some of these photos for our official 989 Market Street move-in photoshoot. (We are obviously biased, but we think, of all the interns, Haitao had the most fun on the job hands down). We enjoyed having Haitao as an intern and wish him all the best in the future. Congrats on graduating the summer internship, Haitao!

For more about the program, and Zoosk’s role in it, check out this press release.

Zoosk is finally moving offices!

Zoosk is moving on up! In the last year, we’ve more than doubled the size of our team – from around 50 to over 110. As a result, we’ve more than outgrown our office in the Financial District. Getting a meeting room, or even a cup of coffee, has become a real challenge.

We’ve also gotten a bit underwhelmed with our typically-corporate high-rise building. Zoosk thrives on its funky, fun and free culture (check out our recruitment video below) and that means we – and all our office dogs – stand out like sore thumbs amongst all the suits in the building.

That’s why we’re so excited about our new digs at Market and 6th Street. Across the street from the rocking Warfield and surrounded by theaters, museums and clubs – not to mention amazing food – this is a much better fit for Zoosk’s unique team and culture. We’re even thinking of building a yoga studio in the new place! The building is gorgeous and full of character. It’s one of the few survivors of the 1906 earthquake (check out the photo) and has loads of old-timey charm!

There’s also a broader trend here. As pointed out by Patrick Hoge, in a recent San Francisco Business Times article entitled ‘This is San Francisco’s Time’:

“Tech companies have signed 14 leases of more than 100,000 square feet in San Francisco since Jan. 1, 2011, the busiest such 15 months ever. More than 1 million square feet was signed by tech tenants this year alone, the fastest quarterly take-up of space in more than a decade. Seventy-five percent of first-quarter leasing was to tech companies, and the frenzy is unlikely to slow down soon.”

So why is San Francisco such a magnet for tech companies like Zoosk and others? It’s the city’s culture and spirit of freedom, adventure and choice. Every food, sport, type of music and social scene is readily available to San Francisco residents and this infinite freedom to do your own thing seems to attract the most clever, creative and ambitious people from around the world. Couple that with fairly mild weather (just cold and rainy enough to write code indoors) and some of the best transport in the country, and it seems to be the perfect recipe for innovation!

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we’re also taking advantage of the slews of tax incentives introduced by Mayor Ed Lee for pre-IPO startups to move to the Mid-Market district. Twitter is just down the street and we’ll also share the building with our old friends at Zendesk. Plus, we feel it’s appropriate that the Blick Art Supplies store is just downstairs, since Zoosk thrives on creativity – even if it’s not with paints and brushes.

We’re more than doubling the size of our office too – to 52,000 square feet – which means we can keep up our tireless recruitment drive and keep on growing!

How G+ can use Facebook’s OpenGraph to win

It’s no secret that Google wants some of that social data that Facebook is keeping away from them in their data centers, so they can utilize it for ad targeting in addition to creating engagement with consumers on G+. It has actually (in my opinion correctly) been argued that Google doesn’t really even care if users engage and spend time on G+ as long as they give Google their information and browse the web while logged into their Google identity.

Google is able to get consumers to create G+ accounts with no problem given the reach of its other products like search, Android, etc. And the company has been doing a great job at that. Where it has fallen short is enticing people to give it data beyond the basics, which Facebook has done at an astronomically fast rate by virtue of status updates and like actions.

Google has failed here because the consumer doesn’t spend time on the G+ property. I believe Google can solve this problem by using the developer community as a proxy in its battle with Facebook. If I was running Google, I would leverage my assets (search and Gmail) to drive developer behavior that would open the floodgates of social data into my platform.

User OpenGraph tags in search crawler

Facebook is pushing all developers to get on the bandwagon of OpenGraph where developers have to add semantic context to their pages and submit that info to Facebook as part of user engagement. Developers are happily doing this because, in return, Facebook is adding this information to users’ timelines, which results in more distribution for developers.

Google should take a page out of Facebook’s book and leverage this open set of information in its search crawler to give pages with Open Graph data some weight in search algorithm. I know we are all frustrated when Google changes search algorithms for corporate objectives, but there is a good case to be made for use of semantic data at scale to provide a better search experience.

It just happens to be Facebook’s recommended semantic data, but when you are behind in a game, you have to play with some of the rules set by the front runner.

Ask Developers to submit their OpenGraph objects/actions

The next step would be to reach out to developers and ask them to submit their open graph objects and actions just like they do with Facebook. The developer incentive would be the SEO juice they can get through giving Google more semantic information. Google would also benefit from having full context around the meta tags we talked about in step 1.

Give Developers ability to submit actions to G+

This is where it gets interesting. Give developers a very easy way to get opt-in from their users to publish their actions to their G+ accounts. This only requires mashing up some of the technology Google already has (OAuth, etc) with the addition of APIs for publishing actions on behalf of the user from properties outside of Google. They could even go ahead and copy how Facebook does it. There is no need to innovate here just for the sake of being different. Developers would not mind doing less work.

Expose actions in G+ stream

To bring it all together, expose these published actions on G+ feed and give them a decent weight. Make sure you give developers more love than Facebook. Believe me, the favor will pay off.

All of a sudden, all developers on Facebook platform have an incentive to push G+ integration in their products, because they get more distribution: through SEO juice and exposure on G+ feed. Just imagine all the vertical social networks such as Pinterest, Path, Foursquare, Zoosk, Foodspotting, etc. pushing your platform and driving social content into Google’s data centers.

Your move, Facebook.