The Biggest Startup You've Never Heard Of Is About To Hit 108 Million Members

Badoo people nearbyBadoo’s iPhone app is just one way to use the service. Click here to see how it works →

Photo: Screenshot

If you’re in the United States, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Badoo, a U.K.-based online flirting/dating startup.But you should know the name.

Badoo is about to pass 108 million registered users. And the company has the third-most popular app on Facebook — behind Zynga’s massive hits CityVille and FarmVille — with 45 million monthly active users.

We sat down with Badoo executives this week in London, and learned:

  • The company was founded in 2006 by four Russian entrepreneurs. It’s now run by COO Bart Swanson, who has worked at GSI Commerce, EMI, and Amazon in Europe. And it has over 200 employees.
  • Badoo is all about meeting people you don’t know. Online, nearby, and in person.
  • Badoo has more than 107 million registered users, up from about 60 million last summer. It’s adding about 100,000 users per day. And it has about 24 million active users, per comScore.
  • A company survey showed that the average user has 8 chats per month through the service and meets up with 4 people offline (!).
  • It’s big in emerging markets and is in 24 languages. Big in Brazil, Spanish speaking countries, etc. (Do a Twitter search for “Badoo.” Few of the tweets are in English.)
  • It generates revenue through virtual credits, gifts, and freemium “super powers.” Lots of money comes in through micropayments, including via SMS. It also recently started selling ads on some of its 7+ billion pageviews per month.
  • It was on a $100 million revenue run rate just before Christmas. As the site continues to grow, that number should expand as well.
  • It’s backed by Russian investment group Finam.

Badoo is definitely not the most savory site on the web, but it’s huge.

This is the gist of Badoo's service: Surfing through nearby people so you can flirt online and then meet up in person.

Here, you decide whether you want to meet someone or not. Then they can see if they like you, respond, etc.

Not cheap!

Now we're on Badoo's website. Same idea: Meet people nearby. (For some reason, our iPhone told it we're in Hoboken, which is not true.)

Freemium features on the web, like promoting your profile at the top of the site.

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