Content provided by Ehren Seeland from Inside Vancouver
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
How long have been a Vancouverite? 13 years and counting
What is your occupation?
COO for PlentyOfFish. I oversee several functions of the business including HR, Finance, Legal, PR/Communications, and Administrative and Support.
The dating world has evolved with the modern times, with many people turning to the internet to broaden their social circles and increase their odds of meeting interesting people. Can you contrast and compare how PlentyOfFish operates in relation to many of the other dating websites?
PlentyOfFish is uniquely placed in the online dating landscape for three reasons: it’s a free service, it offers unlimited selection of potential matches, and it works.
PlentyOfFish started as a free site and 12 years later, users can still use the service, now also available on iPhone, iPad, Android and tablet, for free. As PlentyOfFish grew and matured, we realized that we aimed to offer our users an optional premium membership, for those who want an enhanced user experience. Our upgraded membership allows users to see if someone read or deleted their message, see a user’s extended profile, upload more images and several other value-adds.
Secondly, with 100 million users worldwide, and 4 million daily active users, we’re able to offer singles a tremendous amount of selection when it comes to finding that connection (which is often so hard to find). No matter where you live (unless we’re talking Antarctica), or how old you are, you will always have a lot of selection of matches on PlentyOfFish in comparison to other sites.
Lastly, POF works. Over the past 12 years we’ve perfected our matching algorithms, resulting in 1 million relationships being created through POF every year. This number is only growing.
In your position, can you tell us a bit about how the collaborative process works in your Vancouver office?
At PlentyOfFish we’ve created a collaborative culture that encourages communication and transparency above all else. One of the best examples of this culture is during our monthly Hackathons. Almost every member of the organization is put into groups over a 2-day period to collaborate, conceptualize, and execute on ideas for new products, features or services related to the business.
Hackathons are a way for opposite ends of the business to come together, think outside of the box, and to build products quickly and efficiently. At the end of the Hackathon, the entire company is reunited in our open space and each team presents their project. Questions, discussions, and sometimes even debates ensue. Whether it’s at a Hackathon or an off-the-cuff conversation at someone’s desk, we encourage feedback on all ideas, particularly during the conceptualization stage. This is done to ensure the idea undergoes a sanity check before too many resources are allocated towards it. Feedback also helps clarify, and consider the impact and value the product or feature will offer the business.
On a more informal basis, we hold regular “beer n’ learn” events at PlentyOfFish where departments take turns updating the company on what they’re working on, interesting findings they’ve discovered or valuable products they’re developed. These casual events eliminate silos in the organization, and often result in new and innovative approaches to problem-solving.
The tech industry is a growing field in the city. Can you speak to the pros and cons of working in this area in the city, and provide insight for those looking to move into this realm in Vancouver?
What gets me up every morning is the never-ending challenge. I’ve been with PlentyOfFish for seven years, but every day there is something new, every week we evolve in some capacity, and every year we experience tremendous growth. This means that I’ll never quite figure everything out entirely, but that’s the beauty of working in a rapid, ever changing industry.
Aside from the challenge, it’s the type of person who works in tech that continues to inspire me. They are incredibly smart, entrepreneurial, ambitious and excited to build cool products and make an impact on our community and beyond. In Vancouver specifically, the industry is evolving quickly which means many interesting companies are springing up resulting in some fantastic opportunities for quick growth.
Of course there are drawbacks to working in any industry. For startups relying on investors or bootstrapping the company, the work and hours can be extremely demanding, and there is often little to no job security. That said, there are no great rewards without great risks.
Are there any local groups, events or networking opportunities in Vancouver for those with an interest in the tech industry?
I always recommend both BCTIA and DigiBC events as a starting point for anyone looking to make a move into tech. I have also enjoyed events by VEF (Vancouver Enterpise Forum) and the Minerva Foundation.
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