In early 2007, Sam Yagan was convinced that OkCupid.com, the free dating site he and a partner founded in 2004, wasn't getting enough traffic. The company didn't want to fork over the cash for a large ad campaign, but after a guerrilla marketing stunt flopped, Yagan and his team decided to try something completely different. They launched CrazyBlindDate.com, a site that set up same-day blind dates for users. The hope was that the wacky idea would, at the least, spark press coverage of the parent site. At first, CrazyBlindDate created virtually no buzz. But after it launched in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco, the site began to garner attention from the press. In turn, by early 2008, OkCupid had doubled its monthly users to about two million, with 550,000 active daters.
Sam Ewen, CEO of New York City—based Interference, liked the idea of CrazyBlindDate but suggested organizing a public event or using social media to publicize the site rather than relying on media reports. Match.com founder Gary Kremen said the only way to succeed was to stop catering only to men and do a much better job of targeting women. Theresia Gouw Ranzetta, a general partner at Accel Partners, advised OkCupid to view CrazyBlindDate as a potential new business model, not just a PR stunt.
CrazyBlindDate hasn't exactly exploded in popularity, but it's still hanging on, and nightly dates have doubled to 100, owing mainly to its launch in three new markets. OkCupid fell short of its revenue goal of $2 million in 2008, but Yagan says the number of active daters on the site has nearly doubled, to about one million, and monthly unique visitors have increased more than 50 percent, to 3.2 million. Though Yagan acknowledges that OkCupid's growth has had many causes, including the boost in traffic that all free sites are benefiting from amid recessionary frugality, he believes CrazyBlindDate has played a substantial role. "I'm very confident that it more than paid for itself in terms of the media exposure we've gotten," he says.
Yagan says he will continue to expand the CrazyBlindDate network as he identifies large media outlets with which to partner on new launches. There are also tentative plans to integrate the two sites so users can access the CrazyBlindDate platform from OkCupid. Additional spinoffs are also likely. "I suspect we'll be putting out a new site," says Yagan. "That's the nature of the work we do."