July 15, 2015

Dating app PlentyOfFish is bought by the Match Group

If there are plenty of fish in the sea, there are also plenty of apps for singles to find dates and significant others.

If there are plenty of fish in the sea, there are also plenty of apps for singles to find dates and significant others.

In fact, technology users looking for love might feel overwhelmed by the options they have to hunt for their soul mates. Due to market saturation, it may be challenging for an online dating startup to reach a critical mass of users in order to provide their members with sufficient variety. 

Since it's so difficult to become the next Match.com or the next Tinder, online dating is a tech space where mergers and acquisitions aren't uncommon. This week, it was announced that Match bought PlentyOfFish for $575 million. 

"The acquisition looks squarely focused on snagging a fresh pool of digitally active singles to feed into its portfolio of digital services," writes Natasha Lomas of TechCrunch. "With dating apps' free-at-the-point-of-use model superseding desktop era subscription-for-access online dating there's greater need for businesses in the space to ramp up their volume of users to boost conversions to paid services."

Some of the most visible names in online dating already belong to the same corporate family. The Match Group, which acquired PlentyOfFish, is owned by IAC, which also owns popular platforms like Tinder and OkCupid. 

One of the ways dating app startups can stand out is technology. A few years ago, the swipe-left, swipe-right model for sorting singles wasn't as ubiquitous as it is today. When a platform establishes itself as an innovator, that tech and intellectual property can be appealing to large sites seeking to do more. 

The other way is through membership. Sheer popularity, as in the case of PlentyOfFish, can help make a company more appealing for acquisition. The platform boasts 3 million daily active users, and this helps to grow the market's dependency on IAC services and gives the corporation another avenue for cross-promotion. 

"As more people than ever use more dating apps than ever with more frequency than ever, PlentyOfFish's addition both brings new members into our family of products and deepens the lifetime relationship we have with our users across our portfolio," said Sam Yagan, CEO of The Match Group, commenting on the POF acquisition in a statement. "I look forward to working closely with [PlentyOfFish leadership] and extending the company's impressive growth trajectory."

For many of these sites, the "growth trajectory" is headed in the direction of monetization. In the last year, Tinder has launched its paid service which allows users to "undo" regrettable swipes, feeding the fear of missing out. 

Despite the multitude of options for online dating, mergers and company acquisitions have ensured that many of them live under the same corporate umbrella.