Flirting With The Boss

Flirtomatic has been one of mobile’s biggest success stories, not only attracting users in huge numbers – 3m last time they shouted about it, and that was almost a year ago – but also monetising them through advertising – ad revenues have tripled in the last six months – and virtual goods, including gifts and ‘Flirt Points’.

CEO and founder Mark Curtis stepped down recently, and today I was invited to meet his replacement, Neil Goldberg. In fact, Goldberg is actually CEO, not of Flirtomatic, but of the brand’s parent company, Handmade Mobile Entertainment. This is a distinction whose significance will be obvious when you hear what he had to say.

Goldberg’s background is interesting, particularly in the context of his new job. After starting out on the contractual side of things in movie and TV production, he ended up writing scripts, having failed to be impressed by some of those that landed on his desk. From there, he moved into movie acquisition with Warner Bros. and most recently, he was at SayNow, a celebrity/fan-based mobile social network that was recently acquired by Google.

One of the things SayNow developed was a ‘Call’ button that could be placed on a user’s profile on a social network. If another user clicked on it, if they were on a PC, they would be connected via Voice over IP. If on a mobile, they would be connected via a call. It sounds neat, and Goldberg told me the technology has already been integrated into Google’s social network, Google+.

He told me also that Flirtomatic recognises that its website has been somewhat neglected with the focus on mobile and promised a revamp in the next couple of months to present a more holistic offering to Flirtomatic users.

The most interesting news though, is that, having spent the last several years learning lessons and building Flirtomatic, Handmade, the company behind the brand, now wants to leverage its knowledge by reskinning Flirtomatic and rolling out more social networks targeting specific demographics, such as retired people; or specific sectors, such as entertainment.

“We know how to build social networks, monetise them through advertising and virtual goods, and how to bill customers,” Goldberg told me. “We have 20,000 people a day buying virtual goods so we want to use those learnings and those skills to the best effect.”

He added that the first such network should be live by the end of the year, and that by the end of 2012, he hope to have three such networks up and running, in addition to Flirtomatic. He also hinted that the ‘Call’ functionality would be making an appearance on Flirtomatic before too long, most likely as a premium service.

Goldberg’s predecessor, Mark Curtis is undoubtedly both a maverick and a very clever guy, whose efforts helped Flirtomatic to, as Goldberg puts it, “rise above the noise”. But it seems as if, as far as Goldberg is concerned, Flirtomatic is just the beginning of the adventure.

David Murphy