With ‘social discovery’ all the rage with apps like Highlight, Banjo and Glancee attracting attention during this year’s SXSW it’s easy to forget there are players out there which have been doing this a tad longer. Badoo de-cloaked as a social network in London a few years ago with ‘discovery’ very much at its core, but with a twist – it encouraged people to promote themselves, sometimes with payment. Where Facebook concentrated on linking up with existing friends and friends of friends, Badoo was literally oriented towards you meeting new people all the time, and for others to push themselves out there. That gave it an obvious flirtatious feel, making it a quasi-dating site which happens to use a different method for getting people to pay. But it’s appealed to a lot of people. And I mean a lot. Currently on 149.8 million users, some time today that will tick over to hit 150 million, given it clocks around 150,000 a day.
That makes it one of the top five social networking sites globally according to comScore, and its growth is being significantly powered by mobile (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and WAP worldwide). In the U.S. market it’s seeing more new registrations on mobile than on Web, with 68% of new users coming to the site via mobile over the past six months. A health check to these figures is that while mobile is starting to surpass web in the U.S., the global averages would be much lower of course.
Mobile usage has grown by 100% since November 2011, and Badoo says is it more than doubling mobile revenues. The fact that it is monetizing mobile may be of interest to Facebook, which seems to have a terrible time on this front – a third of Facebook’s traffic is mobile but it’s not monetised. Then again, it is over five times bigger.
Badoo’s iPhone app which comes with in-app payments designed to boost your popularity with packs of credits. You literally pay to become more popular and get more visibility in the network. In-app payments are a gift to Badoo, which in the early days used premium SMS as a way for users to supercharge their visibility on the network.
U.S. growth is also being powered by mobile and according to app tracker Distimo Badoo’s Android app is now one of the top 10 most popular apps (No. 7) for social networking, up from 35 in November 2011, while its iPhone app is now a top 25 social networking app, up from No. 60 late last year. AppAnnie says Badoo is regularly a top 5 grossing iPhone app.
Badoo says it is growing in New York (where Badoo just launched its first advertising campaign), Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and other cities.
This is helped by a marketing campaign that they are running in the U.S. right now – the first time they’ve ever done anything proactive like that.
The company has released some further numbers to us exclusively, verified by comScore.
These indicate that Badoo has seen over 60% growth year on year with 35 million active users per month worldwide, adding 150,000 new users a day. While Southern Europe and Latin America continue to show strong growth, the U.S., UK, Germany and Russia are growing fast. Badoo was usually strong in Russia and Latin America, but the addition of these developed markets shows Facebook isn’t satisfying everyone’s needs by any stretch.
Badoo is still in profit and has an annual run rate of $150 million. It’s also winning big hitters such as former Google executive Benjamin Ling who was recently appointed Chief Operating Officer.
Andrey Andreev, founder of Badoo, has a different view on social networking to Zuckerberg, who obsesses over sharing. Badoo, says Andreev, is about making it “as easy as possible to bring people together, so they can chat, make friends, date and have fun. And there is a massive opportunity to do this on a global scale.”
And he has big supporters out there.
Shervin Pishevar, Menlo Ventures comments: “Badoo is proof there is a huge global opportunity, and appetite, for using social and mobile tools to connect with new people. And for those tools to work at scale. Importantly, they make the experience fun, easy and fast, so it’s incredibly compelling to a mainstream audience.”
Loïc Le Meur, CEO of LeWeb, says “Badoo’s viral spread from Europe to Latin America, and now to the US, shows the amazing potential of Europe’s tech scene.”
Badabing Badoo, huh.