He hasn't gone to MIT, Stanford, or any other four-year college for that matter, yet he is deceptively brilliant. He is good, too: Frind's parents, German farmers who emigrated just before his fourth birthday, bought a 1,acre plot 10 miles from town and initially lived in a trailer without electricity, phones, or running water. Frind approaches business in much the same way. Frind's online dating company, Plenty of Fish, is newly located on the 26th floor of a downtown skyscraper with a revolving restaurant on the roof. A young man starts a website in his spare time. The family's closest neighbors were a mile and a half away, and, apart from a younger brother, Frind had few friends. Frind would log on at night, spend a minute or two making sure there were no serious error messages, and then go back to sipping expensive wine. Unlike many online dating entrepreneurs, Frind didn't start Plenty of Fish to meet women -- or even because he had some vision of business glory. Not only has Frind managed to run his company with almost no staff, but he has also been able to run a massive database with almost no computer hardware. Right now, users are compelled to click on people's profiles in order to get to the next screen and view proper headshots. Those who know Frind describe him as introverted, smart, and a little awkward. Online dating was an inspired choice. When his parents want to see him, they make the hour drive southward. A search-engine-optimization blogger, Jeremy Schoemaker, wrote that Frind was a liar. Frind created his own game and wrote his own rules.
In March of that year, Frind mentioned these facts to Robert Scoble, a popular tech blogger whom he met at a conference in Vancouver. If nothing else, it's impossible to argue with his success. Frind used his home computer as a Web server -- an unusual but cost-effective choice -- and spent his time trying to game Google with the tricks he picked up on the forums. From March to November , his site expanded from 40 members to 10, Web analytic services that used to cost thousands of dollars a year are now free. By , Plenty of Fish was serving million pages each month, putting it in fifth place in the United States and first in Canada among dating sites. But the stunt worked. Frind created his own game and wrote his own rules. In most stories, this is where the hard work begins -- the long hours, sleepless nights, and near-death business experiences. A search-engine-optimization blogger, Jeremy Schoemaker, wrote that Frind was a liar. Frind knew little about search-engine optimization or online advertising, but he was a quick study. He builds his company by himself and from his apartment. And second, on a site this big and this complex, it is impossible to predict how even the smallest changes might affect the bottom line. Plenty of Fish is a designer's nightmare; at once minimalist and inelegant, it looks like something your nephew could have made in an afternoon. Today, he employs just three customer service workers, who check for spam and delete nude images from the Plenty of Fish website while Frind handles everything else. He rented a 3,square-foot suite in Vancouver's Harbour Center, announced he was going to hire 30 employees, and bought a BlackBerry. He always says exactly what he thinks. In a way, he's thinking about the company all the time. He assumes he will one day need more employees, but he hasn't figured out what he would do with them. The family's closest neighbors were a mile and a half away, and, apart from a younger brother, Frind had few friends. Most websites with as much traffic as Plenty of Fish would have by this point raised millions of dollars from venture capitalists, hired dozens of engineers and business-development types, and figured out a way to keep someone as unconventional as Markus Frind from making any major decisions. When I ask him to talk about what he does with the 23 hours a day in which he doesn't work, Frind struggles to answer and then looks helplessly at Kanciar. Though his mouth was on fire, Frind calmly planted a kiss on Kanciar's lips and feigned ignorance as she went scrambling for water. And he is in no hurry. Quiet, soft-featured, and ordinary looking, he is the kind of person who can get lost in a roomful of people and who seems to take up less space than his large frame would suggest.
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