As a businessperson who manages for-profit companies, I spend much of my time evaluating the merits of future projects based on their capacity to generate return on investment.
A year ago I was invited — unrelated to my day job — to give a Jewish TED-style talk analyzing a company with which I have no professional relationship. It is a company that has generated tremendous return on investment, but I have always been more interested in an unintended consequence of that success. That company is JDate, and the unintended consequence included me meeting my future wife.
We all know that hundreds of millions of philanthropic dollars have been thrown at the problem of the Jewish community’s declining numbers. But looking back at the past decade, which endeavor has had the most significant, positive impact on the problem of helping Jews meet other Jews so that they marry and have children? Hillel? Birthright?
No and no.
JDate continues to have, by far, the best results when it comes to the dilemma of Jewish continuity. And the remarkable thing is that the company made money in the process. JDate boasts 750,000 active users per year around the world. Almost a third of them — a quarter of a million Jewish singles — pay about $30 a month for the premium service.
Consider these numbers relative to Taglit-Birthright Israel, which sends an average of 25,000 participants to Israel annually.
In the United States specifically, there are only about 1.8 million single Jewish adults. An estimated 20% of them are active on JDate in a given year.
JDate and Birthright were founded in 1997 and 1999, respectively. The former’s earnings are surprisingly close to the latter’s expenses over this period. JDate earns over $30 million a year, with a 90% contribution margin.
If you find yourself unconvinced by these numbers, consider surveying the couples you know who’ve married recently. Where did they meet? I often find that JDate is the clear winner by not one, but many orders of magnitude.
JDate began like any other business: Its founders identified an individual consumer need, which they addressed with a targeted consumer product. There were Jewish singles who wanted to find partners of similar background but couldn’t. JDate built a user-friendly product to address this problem. A product so amazing, its audience would pay for it.