flirtomatic.gifEarly last month I went to a MDA/KTN Monitising the Mobile Internet in Tough Times event. In my report , I mentioned that Mark Curtis from Flirtomatic had provided many insights that I would cover in a future post. Well, here it is.

I first came across Flirtomatic in 2006 at an early MoMo London event. They had just moved over from a Java ME to web front end for their service. Today, Flirtomatic has over 1.3 million users and over 1000 page views/user/month.

Users didn’t like pay per access models (per day, week, month). Instead, the service is now free with extras provided via a premium. This works a lot better. 15% of users now pay with $10 per spending customer per month. In 2008, Flirtomatic turned over $2.6 million from premium services (but isn’t profitable yet!).

The service itself has about 25 million messages per month and 2000 photos uploads/day. The service is also available on the web (from PCs). 130 million page views/month are mobile, 30 million are on the web. The key driver for Flirtomatic is that people are prepared to pay to meet people they don’t know (rather than people they do know).

This is where it gets interesting. Mark said that daily accurate statistics have been used to drive success. He collects a significant number of statistics such as how many people they market to, how many register, how many are active and how many purchase. This allows him to experiment with a range of services and work out what works and what doesn’t. He didn’t just create a service and sit back as many startups do. Instead he fine tunes it so that he maximises the maximum number of people registering, using and purchasing. He likened the marketing/register/active/purchase process to a big funnel. Widen the neck by fine tuning the various stages and you get the maximum number of people to purchase.

This isn’t the first time I have heard about a developer become successful through an obsession of statistics. My iPhone developer friend also obsessed about statistics and has become successful.

Back to Mark. He said that PayForIt is a key enabler. However, 10% of purchases still come via credit card so don’t write this off. His net income via PayForIt is about 70% due to operator fees and tax. Advertising is part of Flirtomatic’s revenue but it’s not that big. However, using mobile ads for acquisition of new customers is the cheapest way to get new users, by far.

Mark also said that he thought operators are currently wary of location due to Google’s recent problems (reported in the media) with Latitude. During the Q&A, someone asked Mark if he thought the main barrier to uptake was discoverability or price. Surprisingly, he said price. On May 1st, Vodafone had a ‘free mobile internet’ day when Flirtomatic gained 13 times the average number of new users – all because accessing the mobile Internet was free.

Finally, Mark gave a great tip how to get your mobile-social idea going if you are a startup. Start up by advertising on an operator portal. Flirtomatic gained 3500 people in just 3 hours when it advertised on operator 3’s decks. This was a turning point for Flirtomatic.