When BusinessBecause rang Pets-dating.com founder Matthieu Mennessier, the man behind the self-proclaimed “world’s first social network for animals” was getting ready for a TV appearance on German network Arte.
The site’s 50,000 members certainly give Mennessier every reason to be confident.
Pets-dating.com was initially an online site for people in Paris to find owners of the same breed as their pets. But Mennessier, an MBA from IPAG in Paris, has now transformed it to something quite different.
“Think Facebook for animals and their owners,” he says of the site, currently only available in French language.
It was the popular online dating site Match.com that inspired the 25-year-old, at a post-MBA dinner in 2007. His friends brought the idea up and thought it was “funny”. But an observant Mennessier took it seriously.
“After the dinner I realized it could be a good business idea,” he says. Two months later, with his own money and a 7,000 Euros in funding, Pets-dating.com was born.
Mennessier introduces two donkeys to each other on their “date”
Registered users of Pets-dating.com can create profiles for their pets, upload pictures or video clips (normally with their pets present), and shop for over four thousand pet-related products.
According to Mennessier, shopping is the company’s primary source of income: “We have everything a pet owner needs. They can set dates for their pets through our site for free; and we want to use this platform to sell them products,” he says.
Users of Pets-dating.com can also look for their preferred animals by establishing contacts and negotiating with sellers.
Despite going live over two years ago, Pets-dating.com has yet to make any profits. Mennessier and his business partner Benjamin now have six staffs in their Paris-based office, and have injected about 200,000 Euros into the website.
Though the economic crunch has been tough, for Mennessier the animal owners’ market is fundamentally strong. “In countries like England, more than 20 per cent of people own pets,” he says.
But before making an English version of the site available Mennessier, who set up two businesses while he was at school, is staying focused on expanding sales in domestic market.
If he can do that, the next goal will be entering the US and Japanese markets: “The Japanese are very fond of animals. And there is no website in Japan like this,” he says.