Monday, August 28, 2006
Interview with Ray Doustdar, TeamDating
This morning, our interview is with Ray Doustar, Co-founder of TeamDating (www.teamdating.com), a startup based in Mission Viejo, which is developing a service centered around online dating. Ray's been up at some of the Bay Area technology conferences pitching his company, and we thought it would be interesting to let him tell his story here in Southern California.
Ben Kuo: Tell me about your service and site?
Ray Doustdar: TeamDating is basically a group-based approach to online dating. You do everything else with your friends--this lets you use the Internet to meet people in a group environment with your friends, too. Instead writing algorithms to match people up, we are going to give you a big pond of people that you can take advantage of to meet other people on a Friday or Saturday night. Lots of people now stop trying in their normal social life once they become an online dater. Instead of the Internet taking over your social life, this allows you to utilize the Internet as an extension of your social life. The biggest benefit of team dating is that we bring natural safety in numbers to meeting strangers over the Internet.
Ben Kuo: Where did the idea come from?
Ray Doustdar: The business was born out of my business partners and my personal life. We were literally out a year and a half ago, and just starting talking about the there needs to be a way instead of going to the bar to use Internet and technology to meet some people. Instead of waiting until 1am to make your move, to set up a get together at 8pm. The idea literally was born out of the fact that we were two guys in our early thirties and thought that if there was a web site we could utilize to meet a group of women in a more social atmosphere, we would be all over it. We figured if there's not one, let's create one.
Ben Kuo: What's your background?
Ray Doustdar: My background is I worked for Proctor and Gamble in sales and marketing in Cincinnati and Detroit, Michigan. I moved out to California in 1997 with P&G, and ended up leaving there to work for Universal Studios for four years in licensing on feature films and characters. I left in 2000, and was a co-founder of a brand marketing and entertainment agency. We represented lots of music artists as their marketing agent. I then took some time off, and in November 2004, we came up with the idea of TeamDating, and it's been nonstop since. My business partner, Kipp Gillian was a project manager and executive recruiter in the real estate development industry.
Ben Kuo: So I see you've been out at the conferences, looking for some funding?
Ray Doustdar: We've been self-financed up until now, which we were able to do because we did well in our previous careers. The situation now is we've been getting traction in the media, including NBC, The Today Show, and we were recently on a segment of the TV show Extra. We've had articles in USA Today, and all kinds of newspapers. Because of that, we are looking to raise a Series A round of funding. At Digital Hollywood (Editor's note: Digital Hollywood Building Blocks, which was held in San Jose earlier this month), we met some people, and one guy on the panels said that we were exactly what he's looking for. We're looking for smart money--people who share the vision we have, and who share the passion for bringing a new and different and safer way for people to meet each other over the Internet.
Ben Kuo: I find it interesting that you were up North looking for funding, lots of the venture capitalists I talk to often complain about how startups often go North first instead of talking to local VCs.
Ray Doustdar: To be honest, we've just started the process talking to venture capitalists. We looked north first because of personal relationships--we know some folks in San Francisco. We're just at the beginning of going out to conferences and starting to talk to folks, and we're definitely interested in talking with Southern California venture capitalists and money partners, because it's better to be closer to people in terms of distance. We're very open to the location and want to try to talk to Southern California firms as well.
Ben Kuo: How far along is the company--have you launched yet?
Ray Doustdar: We launched in March of 2006. We have approximately 10,000 members right now, and we're growing on a daily basis. Everyone who has been exposed to site loves the concept and idea. They also love the features we've added, for example, we've embedded Skype into the accounts, as we're trying to give members full blown experience--to let them find each other on the site, send emails, and send quick hellos. We're also embedding several other pieces, like AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Instant Messenger. We want to use what people are using, so they can take advantage of the technology they already have. At the end of the day, we want to help people get together in real life. That's what's missing right now in the world of social networking and online dating. Our goal is not to improve people's cyber-lies, but to improve your social life. The team based approach to meeting in real life is what can make that happen. One other thing we're trying to do, is we're looking to partner with lots of organizations, and not to recreate the wheel for what our members have to do. I'll give you an example. We're implementing a blog feature for all of our members, but instead of making them write out a complete and separate blog, we work with LiveJournal, and work with Blogger. Our goal is to streamline what people need to do on our site--our main mission, which is to provide and online environment to meet others, and get together offline. We want the experience online to translate to a benefit to our members offline.
Ben Kuo: Thanks, and good luck.