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This article was taken from the May issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired's articles in print before they're posted online, and get your hands on lo of additional content by subscribing online. It's a million-member social network that's adding overusers a day, with more than 4. It has Facebook 's fastest-growing app, withnew daily users, making it the third-biggest app of all after FarmVille and CityVille.
Hugely profitable, it's forecast to generate hundreds of millions of dollars this year, and is being aggressively courted by venture-capital firms valuing it in the billions. And it's run from London by a secretive Russian serial entrepreneur who has steadfastly refused to be interviewed or photographed. Until now. Badoo is the world's largest social network that you probably haven't yet heard of.
Run from square-metre loft-style offices in Soho, it is brilliantly effective at providing one simple and universally compelling service: hooking up members according to their profile pictures and location. in, and a message declares that ", girls [or guys] near you are looking to meet a guy your age! Explain your intentions the pull-down menu's suggestions include "to talk about sex", "to get a massage", "to flirt" and Tatyana, Oshrit or Gary might just give you access to their stash of private photos.
Still barely registering in Britain or the US, the free-to-use network -- on the web and via smartphones -- is a mass phenomenon in Brazil Relying on word-of-mouth rather than any marketing spend, it has cracked the internet's eternal conundrum: how to persuade users to pay hard cash in a world drowning in free digital services and content, by charging members each time they want to boost their visibility to others searching for a date. Today, A-list investors such as Sequoia and Accel are courting the business and there is talk of an initial public share offering.
The basic mechanism of what Andrey has developed is genius -- just like Google with its AdWords, it's people paying for self-promotion. And it works. Andrey is Andrey Andreev, originally from Moscow but based in London for the past six years, who founded Badoo on a string of other highly profitable Russian internet businesses: Mamba, SpyLog, Begun. Andreev, a youthful 37 with a cherubic smile below a floppy fringe, has so far eluded media attention: Russian Forbes last year called him "one of the most mysterious businessmen in the West" it also reported his original name as Andrey Ogandzhanyants, under which the SpyLog.
Vardi has no stake in Badoo. And then in mid-February, alone in an office belonging to Freud Communications, Andreev agreed to share his story. It has been a busy few days. Andreev explains that Michael Moritz, the legendary Sequoia investor who took early stakes in Google and Applehas just flown in from Palo Alto to meet him; he has also been meeting Kevin Comolli of Accel's London office.
Moritz declined to speak to Wired, but Comolli -- whose investments include Playfish, Kayak and Getjar -- calls Andreev a "genius" with whom he would like to work. The secret sauces in companies like this are so nuanced, and the difference between getting it wrong and right lies only with these special people like Andrey. He's created something very powerful. And now? Because it works, it grows like crazy. And people love it. The business is printing money: revenues and profit are growing by "double-digit percentages" each month, he says. We are like celebrities. Badoo launched in late in Spain, where Andreev was then living, as a conventional photo-sharing website.
The site wasn't generating revenue, but s were growing sharply: the Google Zeitgeist list of fastest-rising search terms listed "Badoo" second, just below " iPhone ". InAndreev decided to test his assumptions of Spanish women and as an experiment refocused the site on meeting new people. At that time, France was growing fast, Italy was. What happened?
Was it a hacker attack or scammers? No, someone wrote an article about us. It's as if all the users jumped on the bus and went there. Bang -- in two months, suddenly we have a Turkish market with a million members. Andreev introduced some simple premium services. You could pay a dollar or a euro to "rise up" the searchand so attract greater attention.
You could pay again to have your profile photo more widely visible across the site. He introduced virtual gifts to buy for your prospective date. If you want something to go faster, you pay. And some people pay tens of times every day to rise up. Badoo mobile "Then we had the idea of mobile -- how to meet people nearby,". Andreev says. Or you can just walk past a nightclub and see who you can pick up before you get in. It's another opportunity to hook up random people for adventure.
We're talking about real life, real time. We know this girl is metres from here now. Within weeks, with barely any marketing, the iPhone app was the -one social-networking app in France; after eight months, it had been downloaded 1. Andreev sees proximity as key to the business's future. Even desktop computer users can share their location by downloading an app that accesses Wi-Fi networks, IP addresses and other data points. We can also show the iPhone user that you're nearby. Before Badoo there was Mamba, a Russian online-dating business that Andreev launched in as "an interface for offline relationships, for all type of adventures".
It was, he says, profitable in month two. He offered it as a white-label service to existing dating sites, letting them keep their ad revenue and deepening their subscribers' pool of prospective dates. Once it had a million members, a similar model emerged: a free site, it let users pay via premium SMS to be more easily discovered.
Andreev explains. When you lose attention, like a Google search result, no one finds you. But people love advertising themselves. Lots of people use this function several times a day.
They become addicted. A few weeks later, the site added the opportunity to be briefly visible on everyfor a fee. Some people spent hundred of dollars every day. Revenues climbed ever more steeply. You could send a gift, make a virtual phone call at 50 cents per minute. It was Mamba time. You can't imagine how cool it is to run things that are growing fast, getting revenue, watching the charts as the money grows -- it's a sport. After 18 months, Andreev had sold a fast-growing and highly profitable business, retaining no equity for himself.
And he knew that the limited Russian market would not keep him excited for long. It was time to go global. It's 8. Andreev slips unobtrusively into chefs' whites in this and other London kitchens as "sometimes you need a different type of adventure". He adds with a grin: "And I'm not talking about using Badoo. If you try to learn something, you just get it.
But with around 65 of its staff, including its management and executive teams, based in Soho, this is effectively a British business. I feel at home here. No time. Marriage could happen one day, he says, "but I'm afraid to build a family now. I'm not sure I am able to give enough time.
But I do play with Badoo, yeah. He pauses, then smiles. I think most of the guys and girls in the office are using it, they all have good experiences. And it helps them improve the features. And, yes, he is thinking about his next project. But it will be internet. The mobile internet is the biggest opportunity in the world.
Smartphones outsold PCs last quarter. The opportunities will include meeting new people. Hook-up on mobile is a multibillion business. And on tablets. Andreev grew up in Moscow. He shows his identity card: born in February I'm old," he says.
They encouraged me to learn. It was not possible in Russia at that time to purchase anything from Europe, so it was a lot of fun to create something that could send 1kW of energy to the antenna on the roof.
I spent years on this. At 18 he began studying management at university in Moscow while holding down a job, but dropped out after 18 months and moved to Spain, where his parents had relocated. He had saved money through the job and had time to think about what to do next.
Inhe and some Russian friends -- "technical guys very into the internet" -- set up a web-tracking business, SpyLog, based in Moscow. It helped webmasters track not only visits to their sites, but users' habits on the wider internet. Most webmasters were very happy to pay for this information. The business grew quickly -- the main Russian portals used it -- but 18 months later, he became restless. I was dreaming about advertising money. I knew you could make a lot from -- and if the market wants something that no one provides, you move.
The ad business was Begun -- again, based in Moscow -- which launched in selling contextual advertising by auctioning keywords. Google launched AdWords in but began keyword auctions inSex chat Italy co
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