Dana Kanze and Mason Sexton are two of the three co-founders of Moonit Labs, which has created a social discovery and meet-up app based on astrology that serves over 1 million registered users worldwide and has climbed to the #1 position in iTunes for flirting. I recently got together with the Moonit Labs team to ask how they plan to compete in the frothy social discovery space.
In your own words, what does Moonit do and what needs does it address?
Moonit is a social discovery tool that allows users to flirt and form friendships based on common interests, including astrology. Moonit is addressing an unmet market need among teens, college students and young professionals who are too young to gravitate towards traditional dating sites but are eager to socialize, meet new people and exchange experiences with their counterparts all over the world.
Why did you decide to focus on astrology?
Astrology is one of the only universally appealing concepts that can connect users across all continents, transcending geographic, economic, societal and generational barriers. Meanwhile, it’s a “mainstay” category in publishing, with belief rates of 30-40% in the US, 70-90% in Western Europe and 90%+ in areas of AsiaPac. If you think about it, one of the first things that people ask when they meet you is your sign or birthday, along with your name and where you’re from. We’re able to provide an icebreaker in the form of a compatibility reading that enables users to connect immediately upon registration. Then we contextualize the experience by progressively profiling users.
You’re playing in a red-hot, competitive arena of players tackling the “meet new people” problem. What sets Moonit apart from the other players out there?
We’re seeing other social discovery applications compromise quality on their path to scale. Interestingly enough, we are higher ranked and better rated in the app store than many of our larger competitors with bigger teams and several rounds of funding under their belts.
Moonit’s differentiation lies in the following:
- We have built a highly social, “mobile first” product 100% in-house—we don’t outsource any part of the user experience, from strategy through development and community management
- We place a great deal of emphasis on a simple, intuitive and visually appealing UI that is, above all else, fun to use every day
- We’ve grown our user base organically, meaning the majority of our users find us by actively searching for the content and experience we offer
- We have the elusive “female factor,” where we’re able to attract and retain females on our platform through our unique astrology content
- We crowd-source quality by applying an eBay-style rating system that allows users to rate and review their experiences with others on the platform
- We see double the engagement of the social networking apps we benchmark against in terms of daily app sessions due to our addictive experience
- We have a much lower customer acquisition cost than our competitors because our users invite at least 6 of their friends into our app, on average
- Our proprietary algorithm is robust and captures over 20 different data attributes to curate the people you meet on Moonit
- We have a lower rate of churn than our competitors because our users stay active regardless of whether or not they’re in a serious relationship.
What has been the genesis of your product?
We launched with a Web prototype as a semi-finalist at TechCrunch San Francisco. We used the feedback from our early adopters to inform product development. Our users were telling us that they not only wanted to get their compatibility with the people they knew but they wanted to meet new people as well. Our heaviest users—those 13-30—were asking for us to make a mobile version available. So we set out to build a platform that allowed users to meet new people and bring in their friends. Our team launched what you see today in the iTunes store last fall: a mobile-first social discovery application with Web support. The gamble paid off as we have seen our numbers—both in terms of sign ups and activity—grow exponentially since then.
What does engagement look like among the power users for your mobile app?
We look at app sessions as a key performance indicator, so we were really happy to celebrate our 10 millionth app session last month, a major milestone for us to have achieved in less than a year since the app went live in the store. Our power users are in the app 5 times a day, they’ve got at least 100 connections…have uploaded 50 photos and exchange hundreds of daily messages and photos on Moonit.
How are you growing out your base of users?
As a top-rated, 4.5/5 star app, we have gotten featured by Apple in various iTunes stores throughout the world, and we have also been featured by app discovery tools, which has helped us climb the rankings to #1 for flirting and #4 for meeting new people. So these features have had a snowball effect where we’re now seeing our daily organic installs from people searching for flirting, meeting new people, chatting and astrology-related keywords steadily grow. Another positive side effect has been that we’ve attracted the attention of certain carriers looking to onboard hot apps and content.
We just signed a distribution agreement with a major overseas wireless carrier to serve their subscriber base of tens of millions of users on Android in their markets outside the US. And, in the US, we just signed a content distribution agreement with a major out-of-home media provider that operates content on digital flat screens at 6,000 venues in 130+ markets. That’s how we were able to grow our base of users from the very start, by cutting content-for-traffic type of deals with major lifestyle & entertainment media providers.
If the app is free to download, how do you make money?
The app is totally free to download and monetized via in-app purchases that users complete to meet more people and unlock premium content. Since we launched our “Star Membership” in mid September 2012, we have seen 1% of our active users converting to 1, 3 and 6-month premium subscribers, with $30 being the most popular price point. With our latest version, we are also rolling out micro-transactions, which let you refill your “star powers” to send more daily requests.
Who builds Moonit’s products?
We consider Moonit to be a mobile-first app laboratory. Our team is the asset we’ve built that we’re the most proud of—Moonit’s first-class, back and front-end developers craft all of our user experiences 100% in-house on-site here in our NYC office, including branding, creative, development, testing and customer service. Ultimately, we recognise the need to get our content to users when, where and how they choose to consume it. Fortunately, our lean team is agile enough to execute on any platform…and we can do it quickly, efficiently and elegantly.
So what keeps the team up at night?
We concern ourselves with placing the best offering into the hands of as many users as humanly possible. We look at Moonit as a unique product that we need to get onto as many virtual shelves around the world as quickly as we can. We want to be the product that someone uses when they’re meeting new people in New York Barcelona and Tokyo. Right now we’re resource constrained. We’ve got a major distribution agreement to develop on a new platform, translate and localise our content for these additional markets, but all available hands on deck here are working on the iOS platform. So we’ll be growing the team very soon!
What’s up next for Moonit in 2013?
Well we just finished building Version 2.0 of the Moonit iOS app, which we consider to be “feature complete” now. This version will allow us to monetise a larger cross-section of our active user base. As far as our iOS goals, we’re focused on maximizing daily engagement and ramping up monetization. We’ll also be launching several Facebook applications that promise to be really fun and viral. And lastly, we need to turn our attention to customising the mobile app so it performs on every major device around the world (no small feat!), satisfying our signed distribution agreements.
Download the App: https://itunes.apple.com/app/moonit/id469944437