So you wanna run an online dating site?

Online dating is a lucrative business. You want in? Whitelabeldating wants to help you get started.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to entry in the online dating business is "inventory" - a supply of eligible warm bodies you can put on display so that the store looks full right from the start. No one will join if no one is there. It's a chicken and egg problem - and one reason why newcomers need at least $10 million to start their own online dating business and compete against the big guns today, according to Mark Brooks, editor in chief of (Whitelabeldating is a client of his consultancy, Courtland Brooks).

But don't despair: Prospective online dating entrepreneurs can buy a plug-and-play online dating site, complete with inventory, through, a hosted service provider. "You put your brand onto it, and you market it. We do everything else," says Ross Williams, CEO of the UK-based company, which claims to host 2,500 participating sites and 1 million registered users worldwide.

Whitelabeldating's service accomodates users of those 2,500 sites by way of ten front-end Web servers. Behind that, the data associated with those 1 million (about 20 Gbytes of data) resides on two mirrored MySQL master databases and with four slave database servers. The entire infrastructure is hosted and managed at a Rackspace facility.

For its troubles, Whitelabeldating takes a cut of the action. But it also runs online dating sites for the UK versions of Maxim and FHM magazines. "We are [also] developing services to go live in the US for those magazines," Williams says, so you'll be in good company. Certainly the model has been good for Whitelabeldating, which says it earned 18 million British pounds last year (A nice chunk of change, but still a piddling amount compared to industry giants like and eHarmony, which take in hundreds of millions each year).

Once you have your inventory you need an angle. The key is to differentiate yourself, to find your niche. Whitelabeldating sites include businesses that focus on gay, Christian, Jewish and other market segments. Some, like Marital Affair, push the moral envelope. The client sites range from mom and pop operations to what Williams calls "super affiliates." Marital Affair is a success story. "They will do over 180,000 pounds per month in revenue," he says.

Whitelabeldating's pitch is based on the contention that marketing is the key differentiator for online dating sites. Its customers' sites may look different cosmetically, but each is functionally the same under the hood and pulls potential matches from the same pool. But technology can change quickly. Budding entrepreneurs will need to rely on Whitelabeldating to keep up with the latest and greatest. If they can do that, perhaps all you'll need is love - and good marketing - to succeed.

For more about the in and outs of the business, read Online dating: The technology behind the attraction.

Online dating articles

Rob Mitchell's online dating blog

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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