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DatingDirect.com

Darren hit on the idea of setting up a dating service while idly surfing the web one evening at home. Having recently come out of a long-term relationship, he realised that the net could be the perfect way of meeting other singletons in his area. But when he searched for an online dating service to join, he could only find companies based in the US. Even worse, none of the sites seemed to take the idea of meeting a new partner online seriously, encouraging members to use "nicknames" such as 'Sexy Babe' and 'Hotpants'.

 

Darren drew up a blueprint of what he thought an online dating service should be like and spent the next three months thoroughly researching the market, conducting straw polls in the street and asking friends and relatives for their views. Encouraged by their response, he bought some software and a couple of website magazines and then built a simple site where people could post their details. "It was a very basic service and didn't work that well. But it was getting a lot of hits and it proved to me there were a lot of people out there who wanted to use it." Inspired by the response, Darren decided to create a fully-fledged dating website through which members could contact each other directly.

 

The first version of the site was launched in January 1999 at a cost of £2,500. Within three months it had 40,000 members.

 

Darren still had a big problem. To start making money he needed to get people to pay for his service online by credit card. Barclaycard, however, wasn't interested. "It was a nightmare. I knew the company wouldn't survive unless we could take credit-card payments. But we were turned down three times by Barclaycard, back then, meeting people online was unheard of, and they felt a dating service was a high-risk area in the same category as gambling and pornography." Refusing to take no for an answer, Darren went to see the man in charge of applications and gave him a demonstration of the website. He was so impressed he agreed to grant Darren credit-card facilities on the spot.

 

That changed everything. Darren started charging £15 a month for members wanting to contact potential partners through the site. The concept worked. Several years later in January 2007 and with over 5 million members, Darren sold the company to Meetic PLC (now part of the Match.com group) for £30 million.


www.datingdirect.com

Property Investments

Darren has invested some of the proceeds of the DatingDirect.com sale in to property. Unlike a lot of the get-rich-quick and amateur property investors we've seen over the last decade of property boom and bust, Darren invested wisely for the long term. He now has a property portfolio in excess of £10 million. Shunning property hotspots such as Dubai, Eastern Europe and the Spanish mainland - which he saw as over-inflated and a bubble which did indeed burst, Darren has redeveloped many properties in the UK for long term rentals.

 

On a more personal note, Darren has also built up a small commercial empire in his favourite destination of the Canary Islands - buying up several bars and restaurants in the Playa de las Americas region of Tenerife. He also owns a multi-million Euro villa on the island.

EstatesDirect.com

As a professional property developer, Darren has gained a lot of experience in the property sector, particularly in the UK where he has a multi-million-pound property portfolio. Having made dozens of property transactions over the years since selling DatingDirect.com, Darren began to question the costs involved in buying, selling and letting property.

 

Traditional high street estate agents charge large commission fees for selling your property, usually between 1% and 2% of the asking price. It seemed unfair that the higher the valuation, the more it costs to sell or let your property, even though the service is basically the same regardless of the property value. And when you consider the record highs in house prices over the past decade, a commission based model begins to sound unfeasible for the future.

 

Looking for a fairer alternative - a fixed fee - Darren looked into the many, so-called online estate agents that had sprung up over recent years. However, although these estate agents offered the fixed fees Darren was looking for, he found that the service was hit and miss. Online estate agents save costs by operating online instead of from a high street branch, but this also means they don't have the local expertise or man power.

 

A conversation with industry expert Ben Grove, led Darren to set up EstatesDirect.com - a national estate agent with 0% commission. By employing local experts in every area of the UK, EstatesDirect.com offered the same level of service as the traditional estate agent, but by charging a low fixed fee like online estate agents, EstatesDirect.com being without doubt much fairer and simpler for the customer. The best of both worlds.

 

Launched in January 2011 EstatesDirect.com became one of the largest leading online estate agents in the UK, long before other sites such as PurpleBricks, YOPA, and easyProperty etc adopted the same business model. EstatesDirect.com was acquired in 2017 and merged with a larger similar business.


Meetchu Dating

With extensive knowledge of the online dating industry from founding and growing DatingDirect.com in to what was the UK’s largest dating service, Darren has always kept a keen eye on the latest dating trends. The rise of "dating apps" such as Tinder has prompted him, along with another industry professional, to develop and launch Meetchu, an innovative new dating app with integrated Voice & Video Calling, allowing you to "Meet before you meet"! By engaging with potential dates & evaluating the level of "Chemistry" before actually meeting means NO MORE disappointing first dates.


www.meetchu.com

Forex Trading

Darren’s latest venture is automated Forex (Foreign Exchange) trading software which is proving very popular with investors and traders alike. Already successfully trading the Forex market himself, Darren has now automated the process to allow anyone to join in the success.

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