As recently as five years ago, online dating was looked upon as slightly dangerous. Who knew who lurked behind the profile which stared out from your computer screen? Today, these worries have largely been overcome with strict database regulations and built in fine-tuning, to hone your choice. You can now search for the love of your life under almost any characteristic, lifestyle or hobby.
Jonathan Bird got involved in the online dating business after dipping his toe into a number of entrepreneurial projects, from the sale of products on eBay and Amazon, to running a chain of retail stores specialising in mobile phone accessories. He recalls: “I ended up at the age of 25 opening a store in Tottenham Court Road and I thought I’d achieved it all. Then the recession hit and it all began to crumble. I realised the time had come to try another line of business and I thought ‘online dating, that’ll be easy’. It wasn’t”
The first online dating site Jonathan set up was singleswarehouse.co.uk the design of which he admits was “horrific and cost me a fortune”.
He then realised the only way to make a difference in the competitive world of online dating was to approach it in a different way. “I needed to be able to empower people to make their own decisions, to have fun with dating. This was frowned on in the early days, although it is now the norm.”
His idea of something different was to create the world’s first dating agency devoted to fans of Star Trek, the TV sci-fi series.
“I built TrekDating.com on my birthday. It immediately hit a market and has continued to grow. It’s now the number one Trek dating site in the world and our aim is to connect all the biggest Trek fans. It’s even mentioned on the Nasa site, which makes me intensely proud!”
The home page of the site offers “someone who can speak Klingon with you and share your geeky fantasies”. Jonathan is living proof it works – he met the love of his life within three days of her joining the site and they’ve been married three years.
Jonathan admits Dawn doesn’t quite equal his passion for Star Trek matters, nor does she speak Klingon (as he claims to), but the basic principle of online dating worked for them. They found a common ground to meet and they had fun doing so.
Having fun is what it’s all about, says Jonathan, who runs other dating sites, including Guildforddating.com, which offers subscribers the chance to meet someone within five to 10 miles of the city. This is vital for busy working people, he says. “People looking for love have become much pickier over the years. Who wants a long-distance relationship, when you can find someone within a few miles of where you live? It’s the power of niche and it works.”
The site was set up at the end of 2016 and already has 67,000 people registered on it. Jonathan says that’s a great achievement, but his ethos is not who’s on the site, but how successful it is in matching couples.
“We tell people we’re happiest when they get off the site as quickly as possible, because that means we’ve achieved our aim and they’ve found their ‘forever partner’.
Having acted as Cupid to many, Jonathan is branching out into another business – providing online marketing for companies which do not have the time, nor the expertise to do so.
His website deliveredsocial.com was set up three months ago and already has 160 members. It offers to create a free website and to use social media to promote the company, only for hosting costs.
In his free time (when he’s not chatting in Klingon to a fellow Trek fan, presumably), Jonathan is eager to help start-up businesses. He believes every director of a company has responsibility to mentor someone on their way up the ladder
As Star Ship Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard would say as he sipped his glass of Earl Grey, hot from the vending machine: “Make it so…”