Group dating site Ignighter has raised $3 million in Series A funding from a group of high profile investors including Indian angels Rajan Anandan, Sasha Mirchandani, one of the founding members of Mumbai Angels and Managing Director, BRV India and Sunjay Guleria, CEO of Exclusively.in.
Anandan's interest in the company is in his capacity as an angel investor; he is also the head of Google India.
Ignighter is using the funds to invest further in India as a market and is looking to set up a centre here. It has been available to Indian users since April 2009 and has 2 million registered users from India.
"Our momentum shows that we've hit upon one of those rare product-market fit opportunities and we look forward to continuing to capitalize on it. Our goal is to better serve our customers so we'd like to get as close to them as possible. India is an important market for us," said Adam Sachs, CEO, Ignighter.
The company will hire a GM to head its India operations, and will shortly follow with a development team.
Founded in 2008, Ignighter is a group dating site that fits into the niche between matrimonial sites and social networking, offering young Internet users an online platform for organizing informal meets in the real world, where they can decide whom to date. With the number of registered users from Asia rising fast (it is adding 7000 Indian users on average on a daily basis), the company decided to shift its focus from USA to Asia.
"The Ignighter team really impressed me with their ability to study the data, assess an opportunity, and make a commitment to a significant strategic pivot that is really starting to pay off," said Sean Marsh, Co-founder, Point Judith Capital. “The US Internet market continues to be very attractive but the accelerating growth of the web in Asia is a huge and growing opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors, alike,” he added.
However, there are various challenges facing Ignighter in India - from the language barrier to offline partnerships, and logistical issues such as payment processes.
Ignighter has 2 business models - globally, it charges a yearly subscription fee that varies between $10 to $45. In India, the website depends on its virtual-goods marketplace, wherein users can sell virtual gifts such as cricket balls and naan (Indian bread) to be sent to other users as a way to flirt, Sachs told VCCircle. The company is selling 10,000 gifts a month. The company is looking at other ways of monetising the site but did not share details.
Discussing the competitive landscape, Sachs said, "The online segment is getting well defined verticals. Facebook and Orkut are social networking sites, which are more about friends. You have the matrimonial sites that cater to prospective brides and grooms. Ours is a dating site and works on a different platform."
On synergies with matrimonial sites in India, Sachs said, "They are fantastic for the role they are filling. They've been very successful and rightfully so. We will co-exist peacefully for we are filling a different role. Our goal is to allow young people to go out and meet other young people without the pressure of feeling like it has to immediately turn into marriage," he said.
The round of financing was led by Point Judith Capital and joined by GSA Venture Partners, GTI Capital Group, Founder Collective and existing investor Hugo Enterprises, the investment vehicle for Joe Ricketts. Other angel investors who have invested in Ignighter include David Cohen, Dave Tisch, Kal Vepuri, Peter Lehrman, Doug Feirstein.
Sean Marsh, General Partner of Point Judith Capital and Somak Chattopadhyay, Principal of GSA Venture Partners have joined the board of the company. “I was really excited about the growth story at Ignighter and the chance to back this team. I have a lot of family, friends, and professional colleagues in India and Ignighter’s model is perfectly suited to the cultural norms in that part of the world.” said Somak Chattopadhyay, Principal of GSA Venture Partners.