With over 137 million worldwide registered users, Badoo is one of the hottest social networks on the planet. But, with its reputation as a massive hook-up network, Badoo is also one of the most controversial. So my first question to Badoo president Amit Shafrir, when we met recently in San Francisco, was about sex. Are all those 137 million users using Badoo, I asked Shafrir, simply to hook up with each other?
Badoo is where you go to have “fun”, Shafrir told me. That may, of course, involve sex – but it also involves friendship, tourism and just, to quote Sean Parker, “eliminating loneliness”. In fact, in Western Europe and Latin America where Badoo is particularly popular, Shafrir explained, most of its users aren’t using the service for hooking-up. Indeed, it’s only in the English speaking world, he noted, that Badoo is mostly used as a hook-up network.
Whatever the reasons for its remarkable popularity, Badoo is a great business story. According to the London-based Shafrir, the company has realized $150 million in gross sales, mainly off its freemium membership model. So there’s clearly money to be made out of loneliness. But the really interesting question is whether Badoo can lock things up before rival real-time people networks, like Sean Parker’s Airtime, get into this lucrative market.