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WooMe to be absorbed into Zoosk, but will video dating site lose differentiation?
Online dating site Zoosk announced Friday its acquisition of Woo Media for an undisclosed sum. Woo Media, which had previously touted itself as a live interactive video platform, owned and operated online dating sites WooMe.com, Shufflepeople.com, and Monsterchat.com.
It's unclear what WooMe sold for, but the service did raise some $17 million in venture financing in the past, meaning investors would have only gotten a return if the pricetag was higher.
With the acquisition, WooMe's 10 million users (though some say that number is inflated) are now redirected to Zoosk, with the message "Good news! Woo Media is being sold and users across all our properties will soon have over 100 million new users to engage." Also listed at the bottom of the redirect screen is a help email and a toll-free helpline.
VatorNews contacted WooMe, and after inquiring whether Zoosk would fully appropriate WooMe's user database, a WooMe representative said that, yes, WooMe users would now have access to Zoosk, "though not automatically." The representative said that Woo Media's properties would not be able to use the WooMe login credentials on Zoosk.
We've been watching WooMe since it launched. WooMe, which started in 2006, launched in November of 2007 as a speed-dating site, where would-be socializers could quickly find "sessions" tagged with common interests and interact with potential connections via live video feeds. WooMe CEO and founder Stephen Stokols gave VatorNews a sneak preview, showing how the sessions were also in video and voice. There was already a business model behind the service. The idea was that if a person made a connection with another person, they'd pay $1 to get the other person's contact info. (Note: Watch the interview with Stokols. It's a fascinating interview, giving you insight into WooMe's orignal plans and goals.)
But as the recession cast a chill across Silicon Valley, WooMe was among the many startups that got hit hard, resulting in job cuts as well as a move toward experimental features, such as WooMeTV. In 2008, WooMe began producing "original content" in the form of WooMeTV, which allowed users to actually watch recorded video sessions between other users, given both relevant parties' consent. This reality-TV idea was considered "creepy" by our panel of experts back in 2008, on our show Vator Box, with guest hosts Marissa Mayer, then VP of Location and Local Services for Google, and Ezra Roizen of Ackrell Capital.
Interestingly enough, in that episode, Roizen raised concerns about WooMe's significant hurdle the startup team placed before themselves with the cash infusion, given their current user base size at the time. WooMe had already recieved $17.4 million in funding, from investors Atomico, Mangrove Capital Partners, and Klaus Hommels. One analyst estimated WooMe's valuation to be $41 million at the time it received funding. The site previously boasted 10 million users, though some say this number may be inflated.
Also in that episode, Mayer pointed out that "with social online elements, you want to see exponential growth...and comprehensiveness. The more users you have, the better the site is going to get. I like their idea of having these user-generated forums...
"The challenge is whether [dating site users] are authentic. How can you trust whether these people are who they say they are?"
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WooMe is an online speed dating platorm that leverages cutting edge in-browser voip and video technology to enable users to meet new people in a fast, fun and free fashion. Meet five people in five minutes in live topical speed sessions such as "Vator.tv lovers in Los Angeles."
WooMe brings the speed dating craze online and extends it to let users meet new people live in fast, fun and free speed sessions. There are no long forms or lengthy profile descriptions, simply find a session that interests you and meet 5 people in 5 minutes. Or, create your own sessions based on your interests, such as "TechCrunch Readers in San Fran". Invite friends or strangers to play with you and immediately decide if you are woo'd by someone. WooMe's in-browser video and voice capability delivers a live interactive experience where users play for fun, to hook up, or just meet new people around shared interests. There are no tedious profiles, no software to download, and best of all it's free.
Backed by Niklas Zennström's (Skype Founder) Atomico Investments, the original investors in Skype (Mangrove Capital), and Klaus Hommels (Europe's Investor of the Year, 2006), WooMe is catapulting the $1 billion+ speed dating market into the online world. With WooMe, meeting people online is transformed into a live interactive experience that makes sifting through contrived profiles a thing of the past.
Founded in 2006, WooMe's management team has experience in bringing innovative web applications to market for companies including: AltaVista, CMGI, BT, Accenture, Qwest, Shopzilla, Trilogy. Stephen Stokols, Co-Founder/CEO, successfully sold an internet start-up and went on to become BT's youngest VP, growing their eCommerce revenues over 300% to over $1bn in his first 12 months. George Berkowski, Co-Founder/Product Director, brings extensive technical and marketing experience in the online space and in outer space (he played a role in sending the first tourist to the Space Station).