ParshipMeet Group: becoming a leading global player in the dating segment
by Domink Muehl
· From Parship to ParshipMeet Group: a success story of how a German business grew to become a global category leader in the dating market
· NuCom bought Parship as majority investor in 2016 when the company was mainly active in German speaking markets and valued at EUR 300 million
· Now ParshipMeet Group is its own segment of the ProSiebenSat.1 Group (P7S1) and preparing for an IPO in 2022 with ProSiebenSat.1 Group remaining the majority owner
· Since 2016 the company has made two significant US acquisitions — eharmony and The Meet Group (TMG) — and has successfully grown revenues and adjusted EBITDA with a CAGR (20016–2020 pro forma full year) of ca. 45% and 43%
· Success has been driven by an excellent management team, a strong integrated tech platform and unique marketing expertise, strongly benefiting from synergies with NuCom Group and its shareholders P7S1 and General Atlantic
· Throughout this journey NuCom has partnered with financial investors such as General Atlantic and Oakley Capital
With around 2 bn monthly connections (across PMG properties, based on August 2020 usage) ParshipMeet Group is a global success story in the dating industry. Within four years, the company has gone from a pure online matchmaker, primarily focused on the German speaking markets, to become a global player with a uniquely diverse portfolio. With its newly added meeting and dating brands, that feature live-streaming video feature as core element, the group covers the full spectrum of the dating market like no one else. We look at the steps it took to get here.
Why did we invest?
Our Parship story goes back to the year 2012 when we closed the first media for equity deal with the company. Back then, the German dating market was in a difficult situation due to an intense marketing battle between various incumbents. We knew that Parship had major strengths in a number of different areas: an experienced management, high performance tech platform, a best-in-class product and a great customer experience. Until 2016, before we decided to take a majority stake, we worked together with the company in various media collaborations. In the meantime, Parship acquired its long-time competitor ElitePartner. We took a majority stake in 2016 and with our acquisition, we were able to increase the marketing power of the combined entity substantially. During the period of 2016 to 2020, Parship and ElitePartner invested approx. half a billion EUR gross media (TV, Outdoor) to extend their brands’ market leadership in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A substantial part of this media investment was made on P7S1 channels due to the high relevance of their target group for dating thus highlighting the great synergy potential within the group.
Acquisition of eharmony: Successful integration and turnaround
Based on the continuing success in its home markets, Parship went looking for international growth opportunities. Through the successful integration of ElitePartner in 2016, the Parship team had built a scalable tech platform that could serve as a backbone for an international expansion. Furthermore, with the well-known “Alle 11 Minuten” (“every 11 minutes”) Parship ad campaign, the team had created an iconic marketing message which resonated very well with people looking for serious relationships, and which could potentially also be transferred abroad.
In early 2018, through our industry network, we learned that the US matchmaking veteran eharmony was looking for a partner. eharmony was one of the first dating brands in the US. But its brand and its tech platform had been undermanaged for a number of years, resulting in declining revenues. Yet, it still commanded a >80% brand awareness in North America and a high degree of trust. It turned out to be a perfect match. Parship acquired eharmony in the second half of 2018. In little over a year, the team migrated the service to the Parship platform and completely revamped its product and brand communication. The company management and its team were able to bring eharmony back to growth and profitability. Since late 2019, eharmony has continuously ranked among the fastest growing dating brands in the US and Canada. And while its business is already substantial, looking at the size of the North American market, we have just started to untap the enormous growth potential.
Parship is one of the very few examples where a European business has successfully taken over its US counterpart. What seems like a logical step in hindsight, was quite a bold endeavour in the beginning: acquiring a semi-successful, somewhat outdated brand on the other side of the planet in order to restructure it, replace its technology, completely makeover its marketing, stop its cash drain and start growing it again in little over a year. We at NuCom shared the vision of the Parship management team and believed in the size of the opportunity. We are proud to have supported the team every step of the way.
Acquisition of The Meet Group: Building strategic opportunities for the future
After the successful acquisition and integration of eharmony, we wanted to continue contributing to the successful growth of the Parship Group and the consolidation of the market through further investments. Our Parship Group CEO Tim Schiffers introduced us to Geoff Cook, the CEO and founder of The Meet Group. As early as 2016, Geoff presented us the video innovations they had made in their apps. Tim and Geoff kept in touch over the years. By 2019, we sensed that the market for live video in dating was finally about to see a breakthrough. So, we engaged in closer talks with Geoff and his team which lead to a public takeover bid by the end of 2019. In a hectic first quarter 2020, and amid the rise of a global pandemic, we worked out the final deal terms to acquire The Meet Group. The deal was announced in early March and, although the public markets crashed just a week later, the timing could not have been more fortunate. Due to the world locking down to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading, video was no longer just a trend; it became a necessity in the dating world. Usage skyrocketed to more than 1 billion streaming minutes per months across all TMG apps. Parship was fast to introduce 1:1 video functionality as well, based on the same tech stack.
From local matchmaker to German unicorn
ParshipMeet Group recognizes that human connection is the most fundamental need, at both an individual and societal level. The Group accompanies individuals at every step of the way in their search for this connection: be it meeting, dating or falling in love.
The future for ParshipMeet Group is bright: clear growth potential, diversified revenues of EUR 522 million in 2020 (FY, proforma) including subscriptions, in-app purchases and advertising, a broadened user base and an extended geographical footprint ranging from Europe to North America. The live video feature — a key market differentiator of ParshipMeet Group — shows that the company is committed to innovation. As the broader dating sector continues to boom the Group, with its unique positioning, operates in a very attractive market segment.
Supported by NuCom Group as investor, Parship has managed to leave behind its competitors to become a global category leader and next German unicorn in a large consumer segment, quadrupling its revenues within four years. While we screened many potential targets in the sector, we decided to only make very few strategic acquisitions to empower Parship and form today’s ParshipMeet Group, a leader in the global dating market. The integration of well-matched brands, combination of diverse revenue streams and the creation of integrated technology platforms open up many new opportunities for the business in the future. It demonstrates that not all digital innovations originate in the US and then come to Germany. With the right strategy and support, German companies are in a strong position to grow and conquer the market as leading global players.