IceBreaker social mobile software: Crush or Flush CEO exclusive interview

EXCLUSIVE CEO INTERVIEW: IceBreaker social mobile software:, Crush or Flush
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor
Did you ever want an ice breaker, a mobile one? 

Crush or Flush to the rescue, a new social mobile service from IceBreaker, Inc., a mobile software company that “helps people stay connected through mobile software that is engaging and easy to use.” 

What is Crushin’ and Flushin’?

Tag a hottie and they’re crushed, Find a not so hottie and they’re flushed, tell a friend and share the love! 

The Crush or Flush interactive mobile dating platform:

Crush or Flush lets you flirt, chat, and meet new people while you are on the go. You can chat people up, or just check people out and hook up your friends using your mobile phone or your computer (PC or Mac).

“Shut the Flush Up and Crush Me”

IceBreaker was co-founded last year by Michael Robinson, CEO. Prior to IceBreaker, Robinson ran the Wireless product unit for the Windows group at Microsoft and was the CEO and co-founder of renren Media, a publicly traded consumer Internet company in Hong Kong.

What inspired Robinson to develop Crush or Flush? What does he envisage for IceBreaker? I spoke with Robinson to find out.

I started by asking Robinson how a team of not-so-young Microsoft “guys” found themselves developing a business around young “hotties” hooking up?

Robinson told me his experiences running a consumer Internet portal in Hong Kong provided him with insights on how people tend to meet online. Robinson’s work with renren Media also reinforced the importance of usability in consumer facing applications, Robinson underscored.

IceBreaker CTO Eric Hennings is an experience design expert. A Microsoft veteran, he helped create products such as Internet Explorer, MSN Money, Microsoft Appointment Manager, Microsoft CRM…

Crush and Flush launched last month, the first of IceBreaker’s planned development of a series of social mobile services for consumers. Robinson indicated to me that the team’s knowledge and experience in the social applications arena along with unique perspectives on user experience are key competitive differentiators. Robinson also underscored IceBreaker’s understanding of the interaction between mobile and the PC.

Robinson told me IceBreaker solutions do not simply “shove the PC experience into the phone.” Crush and Flush translates Web based social experiences into unique, mobile centric ones.

IceBreaker on Crush or Flush:

"Crush or Flush allows users to sign up using any cell phone or computer. You create a profile, upload a face picture, and choose or create some tags that describe you (e.g. UCLA, yoga, chocolate, travel). Once registered, users can browse picture profiles based on age range, city, and interests, all for free. Every word, link, and graphic has been engineered to be simple and intuitive on even the smallest cell phone. For example, all Crush or Flush profiles are optimized for mobile viewing with face pictures and browseable tags. Unlike other “search-oriented” mobile dating applications, our community authored tag library makes it fun and easy to browse profiles by interests.

The mobile software features “Tell a Friend” technology which allows users to send profiles via text message directly to a friend’s cell phone, with no download necessary. Users can pass along those irresistible profiles with one click - because sometimes no words are needed."

Hennings on safety and privacy:

Unlike traditional dating sites where members can hide behind multiple profiles, on Crush or Flush you can only have one profile that is tied to your cell phone number. If someone causes a problem we will block his or her number and that person will disappear from Crush or Flush. The only time a user is notified is when a mutual crush has been made, at which time the users can be connected to chat anonymously within the application and without having to swap phone numbers. This eliminates the problem of users being solicited by people they are not into. Finally, if a profile has been flushed, there is no notification, so the rejection factor is taken away, ensuring a good experience for everyone.

How much Crushin’ and Flushin’ is goin’ on? Robinson told me uptake and traction since launch about a month ago has been swift. Crush and Flush counts 50,000 member profiles created and growing, with many members logging 50 pages views or more at a time.

I asked Robinson about competition in the online and mobile dating spaces and about vying for member attention.

Robinson told me people in the dating market typically join multiple services, likening the meet-up quest to using “multiple slot machines at casinos.” Robinson also underscored Crush and Flush is a “highly addictive social networking application” and “WAP has greater penetration than Java.”

Crush or Flush is currently free to consumers, but IceBreaker is exploring diverse revenue models including subscription plans, transaction based, advertising supported…

Crush or Flush has “links on carrier decks” Virgin, Cricket and AllTell. Robinson told me IceBreaker provides partners with “strong income opportunities, a large and growing market, and an experienced support team.”

Revenues for the online dating category are estimated at nearly $600M in 2006 and the mobile niche is projected to grow at 62% per year through 2009, according to statistics cited by Robinson.

Initial funding for Icebreaker’s Crush or Flush was provided through a combination of angel investors and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Jake Seid, General Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners:

Based on extensive user testing, and partner feedback, we believe Crush or Flush has the most appealing user experience and feature set for our target demographic, who are heavy cell phone users. As the first dating application designed explicitly for the cell phone, Crush or Flush completely rethinks one of the most compelling services on the Internet for the dynamic and fast growing mobile web.

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