The Meet Group
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The Meet Group

Twitch for Dating

How we came to power 7 of the top 50 social apps in the world with Video and Creator Economy

My company The Meet Group either owns, powers, or will soon power the Livestreaming Video & Creator Economy of 7 of the top 50 largest social apps by revenue in the world, according to App Annie data.

AppAnnie recently published a worthwhile report, which noted 3 out of every 4 dollars spent in the Top 25 Social Apps Worldwide are spent in Livestreaming.

Let that sink in.

This is not a trend that is coming … it’s a trend that is very much here. The fact so many people might think it’s still early is a testament to how big the Video & Creator Economy opportunity is.

We’ve been building out livestreaming video dating games and an integrated creator economy suite for 5 years. Chinese companies were doing that even longer.

If it feels early to you, it may be because you don’t personally spend any money at all on livestreaming, but maybe you have purchased a subscription to a dating app.

Except, the magic of livestreaming is that, even if there are more dating app subscribers, there is more revenue and more engagement in livestreaming video.

Livestreaming does not cap every member at a pre-set monthly subscription … it monetizes them up to the value they receive and their willingness to spend.

That’s how 3 out of 4 dollars in social can be from Livestreaming but how it can still feel early … because it is still early. Every year more and more people engage in livestreaming video and more and more Creators monetize them.

The Creator economy is estimated to be a $100+ Billion market today, roughly doubling in 2020 over 2019 as the pandemic has forever changed consumer behavior. Twitch, the livestreaming video game platform, said that people watched 1 trillion minutes of video in 2020 — and revenue leaped to new stratospheric highs.

The smart money says this will continue. Just since Oct 2020, $800 Million of VC money has poured into the Creator Economy … another $100 million was invested just this week. Why? Because the minutes and monetization are off the charts.

AppAnnie estimates that spending inside of social apps will more than double between now and 2025 to about $18 billion per year. What’s driving that growth … the pandemic for one.

The pandemic served to pull the future forward such that 3 years of video adoption happened in 3 months.

Within dating, people learned how little sense it makes to meet someone in person based on an interaction as shallow as a right swipe on a dating app to find out things that a 2–3 min video chat might have confirmed, like physical appearance (not based on a five-year-old profile photo), sense of humor, and personality.

Over the last 18 months, people learned that video has much to offer in filtering dates. It’s just fundamentally more efficient than swiping right and meeting in person with many different people.

Not to mention another driver … cord-cutting, people are increasingly demanding social entertainment, a lean-forward experience, instead of just Netflix-like lean back consumption.

Today we are meeting our spouses on dating apps, and the concept of socializing on mobile has never been more mainstream.

We see this firsthand. My company The Meet Group is the #1 livestreaming dating platform in North America and Europe.

We started out by building out livestreaming video for just 1 app, MeetMe, the app I founded, starting in 2016.

I had been spending some time in Beijing & Shanghai in 2015 and I saw YY and MOMO firsthand, even visiting MOMO’s offices, and eventually ByteDance’s in a later trip in 2018. At first, I didn’t get it, it took me about 6 months or until the spring of 2016 to realize this experience had to cross the Pacific.

Building livestreaming video & creator economy systems is expensive. We put the whole company on it in 2016. We figured if we were all-in, we mine as well double down, so we started acquiring competitors like LOVOO, Skout, Tagged, Growlr — all with the goal of adding our livestreaming video platform to it.

Eventually, we ran out of things we could acquire. The things we wanted to buy were bigger than us. So we built a way, that we call vPaasvideo Platform-as-a-Service ..to partner with those companies.

We put everything we learned into our vPaaS product … 100s of millions of dollars of product development expense over 5 years … into an SDK that could be integrated in a matter of weeks.

Today, 7 out of the top 50 largest social apps by revenue in the world rely on our platform. Our Owned-and-Operated platform reaches up to 14 million people a month, while our vPaaS platform reaches up to another 23+ million. And that’s growing … every time we sign a new partner.

It’s fashionable today to talk about the Metaverse. Facebook does it. They like to imagine a dystopian future in which you don Oculus VR goggles, sit on your couch, and go interact with other avatars inside the Facebook walled garden.

To me, the more inspiring, hopeful vision of the Metaverse is breaking down walled gardens … .allowing audiences to connect across brands and across companies.

And that’s the real value of our vPaaS system. It’s all in the network effects. One of our networks has 4 of the planet’s better-known dating apps on it, and soon to be 5. We have other networks focused on other verticals. The benefit of combining networks is dramatically better engagement and monetization on day one, because the talent and the audience already exist. Creators want to create for the widest possible audience … not for walled gardens.

The long arc of the Internet bends to breaking down walls not to raising them up.

Here’s a video so you have some sense of what I mean by Livestreaming Video & the Creator Economy.

The whole system monetizes by viewers giving virtual gifts to the streamers. In a busy stream, giving a virtual gift is a great way to stand out and get the attention of the streamer.

The product is gamified with levels, badges, leaderboards, and other ways to stand out. Viewers send vast quantities of virtual gifts a year. The broadcaster receives a portion of the gift value.

We paid out more than $100 million to our Creators over the last year alone. Our biggest talents make over $1 million a year individually.

Here you will see people — within dating apps no less — entertaining hundreds and even thousands of other people at a time, in social way.

We offer a number of formats of live video — from simple 1:many to 1:many with a guest.

Battles is another very popular format where streamers compete to receive the most support from their fans in the form of gifts — it accounts for about 25% of all our monetization in video.

NextDate is a livestreaming dating game we pioneered 3 years ago … it allows anyone to be the star of their own dating game. Think speeddating but with an audience of hundreds or thousands.

We see more than 100k+ NextDate games being played on our network a day — we even created a Blind Date version of this game where you only see the person you are chatting with at the end — it starts with a blurred video and over the course of the chat becomes less blurred. The host of the game can tap the Next button or the Date button on the contestant, hence the name of the game … NextDate

And we recently launched multiguest, which allows for any number of different types of shows.

In fact, we now run over 80 shows from fitness to talent to magic to themed streams to interview style talk shows and we are launching 3 new shows a week. And we’re soon launching the capacity for our top talent to schedule their own shows.

But aren’t dating apps for finding dates?

No — not just that, not anymore! The key insight behind why livestreaming video fits so perfectly within dating is to realize why people come to dating apps in the first place … they feel lonely ... they want connection!

But dating apps can feel like the loneliest place on earth, in those moments when you might be sending messages outbound but getting no replies, or not finding anyone willing to match with you.

Livestreaming video transforms those moments of loneliness into moments of connection

When you come into a Livestream, the streamer calls out your name “Hi Dear Reader!” and if you ask a question in the chat, they may answer it, and over time relationships form.

While many use video just for connection, at the high end, Creators become microinfluencers with very loyal fans who support them. Adding video is a way to engage dating app visitors for another 20 minutes a day, while turning on a new, lucrative monetization engine.

When a company decides to add our vPaaS solution, we power not only all of the video, but all of the Moderation and all of the Talent Management. But most interesting of all … we combine network effects across multiple properties.

Live platforms and Creator Economy generally benefit greatly from scale. Creators want maximum reach and dating app users want maximum people to match with … Breaking down walled gardens through vPaaS helps achieve this.

One of the more interesting things about entering the Creator Economy is needing to build a Talent business from scratch. We’ve seen large industry players launch livestreaming video and fail because they viewed it as 90% technology.

It’s probably more like 50% technology and 50% talent.

Building a talent organization to Find, Train, and Retain streamers is absolutely critical.

We have many dozens of people who do nothing but recruit from other networks, identify home-grown organic talent, up-skill potential talent, and then do everything we can to retain that talent, whether that’s creating a show around them or engaging them in other ways.

Of course, to run live video at scale, you must make safety a part of your DNA from the first day of launch. Today, we have 700+ people dedicated to safety and moderation.

We review 140 million images a day … screenshots of video … through a combination of ML algorithms and human review. The overwhelming majority of streams, 99%, are fine, but it’s critical to find that other 1% and to shut them down as quickly as possible.

We view safety as an ecosystem and we collaborate with a number of interesting companies in this space, including Spectrum Labs, who helps us on the algorithmic side as I wrote here, while also building our own tech when need to.

But you don’t have to take it from me. Just about a month ago the founder of Bumble said the same thing on an earnings call:

“The third major monetization opportunity is the creator economy. This is a really exciting opportunity, one that we know our audience is primed for.” — Whitney Wolfe Herd

Like this or hate it? Tell me in the comments. You can follow me on Twitter here and on Clubhouse here.

This is the speech given at Global Dating Insight’s London Conference 2021. Thank you to the amazing GDI team to whom I am always grateful! If you don’t attend their events or listen to their podcast, you probably should.

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Geoff Cook

Geoff Cook

1.2K Followers

Started and sold 3 companies in the last 20 years for $10 million, $100 million, and $500 million. Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winner (Philly).