Photo: Brandon Wade
Brandon Wade has built a controversial online dating empire based around the concept that it’s perfectly OK for people — men, mostly — to pay women for dates and relationships.He’s also a master of PR and word-of-mouth marketing. Just look at his media clips: From The New York Times to Playboy, editors can’t resist his unapologetic mix of sex and money.
Skip to see Wade’s life in pictures >
This month, Wade launched a new site, MissTravel.com, for “generous” travellers willing to pay the airfares and hotel bills of “attractive” partners. It’s not prostitution, he insists. Rather, it’s an honest approach to dating that takes into account the shallow truth about both men and women: That, initially, men judge by looks and women by wallets.
Wade is a former software engineer who moved to New York to work as a consultant at Booz Allen. He later joined GE as a technology infrastructure manager.
And then he started his sex-for-cash empire, which includes MissTravel.com (for travel hookups), SeekingArrangement.com (for “Sugar Daddies”), Seekingmillionaire.com (for single Sugar Daddies) and WhatsYourPrice.com (where users bid on dates).
Wade told his story to Business Insider Advertising. The following gallery tells that story in pictures; Wade’s account is in text below each image, in his own words.
In the very beginning I was a very lonely, shy and perhaps socially inept child who grew up being really lonely. That was really me. I was very much a nerd. My mother saw me in a great deal of pain, so she told me to focus on my goal: To study very hard, because if I was successful later on in life and I had the financial means, and I could be generous, then dating would be easier for me. I followed that advice! It worked out well!
I got accepted to MIT. I studied physics. Eventually I graduated with that degree as well as an MBA from the Sloan school of management. That was in 1993, the MBA was in 1995.
So I decided to launch Seeking Arrangement, where men can be generous and women can be pampered. It led to a male/female ratio of one man to every 10 women.
On most dating sites there is in fact more men than women.
How many users do you have?
About 100,000 Sugar Daddies, 900,000 female Sugar Babies, and 200,000 male SugarBabies. Approximately 7 per cent of users are homosexuals, so the website is agnostic. And a tiny percentage are Sugar Mommies, but those are not easy to come by. There are perhaps 20,000 Sugar mummy accounts. Not many of those are real, they're not active accounts. I think people out of curiosity sign up just to check it out.
The difference is SeekingArrangement allows any sort of arrangement, even married men are allowed. We had quite a few users reaching out to us saying, 'The last thing I want is to be hit on by a married guy.' So it's more of a millionaire matchmaker where only single people are allowed and surprise, surprise, it is obviously not as popular as SeekingArrangement.
It has roughly 600,000 users, split approximately the same way, men to women. It's half the size of Seeking Arrangement.
On Seeking Arrangement, 40 per cent are married men. The average age is 39, he makes on average $200,000 and is worth roughly $5 million. And he spends approximately $3,000 a month on pampering the Sugar Babies.
I will say when I created Seeking Arrangement it really was for my own benefit. I was using the site for several years. I was very impressed with the people I have met. I have over and over again heard from members telling me the calibre of the women they've met is incredible.
MissTravel was launched April 9. It is very new. We just reached 20,000 signups this afternoon. The idea came about because of my love of travelling. That is really how a lot of people fall in love, by travelling. I traveled with my then-girlfriend and now wife.
I met her because she was interviewing for a job. She works with me now. We've been dating for two years and she's been helping out with the business. We tied the knot on Feb. 2, 2012.
I think all relationships start off in a very superficial manner. As humans we're controlled very much by our genes and hormones. For men it's a visual thing. That's why women upload photos that reveal their skin and show off their figures.
Women tend to look at men in terms of how successful they are, what sort of job they have, how much money they make. That's how men and women judge each other at a very superficial level. I think it's OK to use the elements to attract the opposite sex in the very beginning.
It's not very high. On average it's about $80 for a date. In a big city like New York, having to put your makeup on, taking a cab, it would probably cost a women about that much to go on a date. At the same time there's demand and supply going on. Some people are 10s whereas others are 5s.
That site has roughly 400,000 users, it's only been around for a year.
I have 12 employees and I have a team of six out in the Ukraine, partially doing some development work and helping with support staff. Every single photo has to be approved. That's how we catch escorts trying to use the web site.
Because it's a relationship. Just because money is exchanged in a relationship doesn't make it prostitution. My mother stayed at home and she got an allowance from my dad. Others pamper their girlfriends with gifts and shopping and spa treatments.
Have you ever had inquiries from prosecutors?
Never about that topic. We have had inquiries of other natures, though. For instance there was a Dupont heir who was blackmailed.
I think we have a situation where there's really a huge divide in this country. The older baby-boomers view this and take a much harsher view.
I heard a woman on television criticise the site and the next night she went to dinner with her daughter. The daughter said, mum, all my friends are doing this. You live in a different generation. As the baby-boomers fade away and the new generation grows up, this is going to become more acceptable.
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