Forget Spiderman or GI Joe or any other superhero you can name. Markus Frind should be your hero. He's a web entrepreneur from Canada who's managed to get a website up and going --online dating site Plenty of Fish -- that more or less operates itself. He says that on average he works ten hours a week. The pay's good, though; around ten million dollars a year.
No one heads to Plenty of Fish for the customer service, which is all but nonexistent. The company does not need a support structure to handle members’ subscription and billing issues because the service is entirely advertising-based. Its tagline is: “100 percent free. Put away your credit card.” For hand-holding, users must rely on fellow members, whose advice is found in online forums. The Dating & Love Advice category lists more than 320,000 posts, making up in sheer quantity what it lacks in a soothing live presence available by phone.
The principal customer service that Plenty of Fish provides is responses to complaints about possibly fraudulent identities and to subpoenas and search-warrant requests. Last year, Mr. Frind hired his first, and still only, employee to handle these requests, freeing him to attend to adding new servers when required and tweaking code. “Most of the time, I don’t need to do anything,” he said.
Started in 2003 as an exercise to teach himself the ASP.NET programming language, Frind's site has grown to 1.4 million unique visitors from the United States alone, just in the month of November of 2007. He estimated that the site had 1.2 billion page views in December. As the Beatles once said: Ah, Look at All the Lonely People. It was a simple idea to make a fortune from them. That, and ten hours a week. He should sell the site, and try to get some rest.