INTERVIEW: iMatchBox aims to improve online dating experience

iMatchBox, an online social networking Web site offering users a platform to look for soul mates, has attracted more than 40,000 members in less than one year since its establishment. Company co-founder Sam Lin, the 32-year-old second son of Quanta Computer Inc chairman Barry Lam, shared the company's development plan during an interview with 'Taipei Times' staff reporter Helen Ku yesterday on the sidelines of the firm's first appearance in front of media.

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - Page 5

Taipei Times (TT): Taiwan’s online social networking industry is becoming more competitive, with more players entering the market.How do you position iMatchBox in the market? What is iMatchBox’s niche that can lead the company to conquer the major players’ dominance?

Sam Lin (林宇輝): iMatchBox is a platform developed to provide a space for office workers to date with peers online after busy days at work.

The difference between our social networking Web site and others is that iMatchBox is an online dating Web site, rather than a social networking Web site.

We seek to build an environment that is easy for people to access and most importantly, “safe and daily” enough to make Internet users feel secure dating online.

By hash-tagging his or her favorite leisure activity, people looking for mates on iMatchBox can meet those who have mutual interests. It is easier to find ideal mates this way.

Our market analysis tells us that a large number of people prefer this way of dating because it helps them find topics to talk about when they begin a relationship.

iMatchBox is like a combinition of Facebook and Twitter. Users can share their daily life by writing stories on their wall and hashtag activities they enjoy doing. This way, people are able to know each other not just seeing their pictures, but by understanding their interests.

TT: Has the company made a profit yet?

Lin: No. We have not yet begun mass marketing, which is our major task this year.

Since we opened the Web site in January last year, more than 40,000 netizens have registered as members of iMatchBox.

As the membership volume increased, we detected that there were some bugs on our Web site, so we spent lots of time fixing and revising the site’s code and structure.

As the Web site is now running stably and there are more communities created by users, we think it is time for us to begin marketing and increase our visibility.

TT: What is the company’s goal for the coming year? Are you planning to make iMatchBox a listed company in the Over-the-Counter Market in the near future?

Lin: Our goal is to increase the number of our members to more than 100,000.

Though iMatchBox has more than 40,000 people signed up for memberships, only 4,000 of them are active members who log in their accounts on a regular basis. Because we are a startup company, growth potential is considerably high, and we believe we can achieve our goal.

As for when iMatchBox can become a public company, I can only say that is not in the company’s plan for the near future.

We want to enhance our Web site’s quality first before making a profit.

Getting listed in the stock market may be every startup’s ultimate goal, but we really want to make sure our customers enjoy a nice dating experience. Anything other than that is not important to us at the moment.

TT: Did your father help you expand your business or provide you with financial aid?

Lin: No, I refused to accept any outside financial source, except for founders’ funds.

My father asked if he could offer funds and become a shareholder of iMatchBox. I rejected it because that would only make my business plan harder to realize because he would insist on running the company as he wanted once he became a major shareholder.

For me, I just want to create a safe place for people to date online. That is my dream.

TT: What made you leave your father’s company and start your own business?

Lin: I left Quanta [Computer Inc, 廣達] after having a discussion over dinner with my then-coworkers at Citigroup, [who became co-founder of iMatchBox.]

At that time, we saw that the online social networking industry was still in its developing stage and Internet users were horrified by the number of Internet fraud and crime cases.

Having lived overseas for more than 10 years, my friends and I believed there was room for the new industry to grow in Taiwan, so we quit our jobs and began new careers.

From another point of view, given that I am not a tech degree graduate, I don’t think I’m competent to manage my father’s company or inherit it. We talked about this several times, but I just want to run my own business.

TT: How are you planning to change Taiwanese Internet users’ sentiment toward the Internet with your Web site? What makes you think it is important or worth a try?

Lin: Nearly everything can be carried out with an app now. The Internet is a new market and it is booming. We saw huge probability on the Web, and that’s why we decided to enter that market.

Because people feel unsafe when using the Internet, we forecast that there would be lots of interest and growth potential for iMatchBox to reap profits and fix the image of online dating.

TT: Did you see your father’s success as an advantage of your business or a hindrance?

Lin: There are advantages as well as disadvantages.

My father’s image in the market and in society helped me get a “free entry ticket” into the market and gave me many opportunities to meet with big shots in the market.

My connection to my father helps my business, though I tried not to rely on him.

However, several times, some clients have cast doubts on my abilities to expand my business and did not trust the feasibility of my business plans, which really hurt me and my company’s founders.

However, we will try our best to prove our ability.

TT: Any expectations for yourself in the new year?

Lin: When I started my business last year, I was too busy to pay much attention to my ex-girlfriend. This year, I would like to be 100 percent devoted to my business. After the company has gone on the track, I would like to pursue for a relationship, though it is not the most urgent task for now.

If I can use my own happiness to exchange for more happiness for others, isn’t that pretty worthy?