Vice’s video featuring Brandon Wade immediately went viral right after it was released.
It was controversial to say the least, and reactions to it were mostly critical, with majority slamming the idea of a sugar daddy dating website and how it’s promoting materialism.
For those unfamiliar with the video, Brandon is actually the founder of SeekingArrangement, a popular sugar baby-daddy dating website that connects wealthy older men with younger girls.
It works like a typical dating site, except men share their net worth to attract women.
And regardless of what you think about this dating concept, it remains a fact that Brandon has successfully made a living out of building a sugar daddy dating empire.
In fact, its revenue is in excess of $30 million annually, according to Shift.
And the man himself, who is now in his late forties, is worth an estimated $5 million.
The MIT Nerd Who Had Trouble Approaching Girls
The Singapore-born entrepreneur is a former St Andrew’s Secondary (an all-boys school) and Hwa Chong Junior College student.
He won multiple science fairs and math olympiads throughout his school years, and considered himself a nerd.
MIT graduation photo with his family / Image Credit: Brandon Wade
He moved to America to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he earned a BS in Physics and Electrical Engineering as well as an MBA from the Sloan School of Management.
Despite being a member of the Toastmaster’s Club back in Singapore, which aims to help members improve their public speaking skills, Brandon was still very tongue-tied around girls.
He had been delivering public speeches since the age of 12, but he simply couldn’t pluck up the courage to talk to girls.
In fact, he only got his first kiss at age 21.
So for a man who acquired his wealth through dating websites, it’s kind of ironic to know that he was an amateur in the dating game himself.
But this gap was what spurred the conversion of a need to a business opportunity.
“The idea came when I was a teenager in Singapore, because back then I was very shy and I didn’t have a girlfriend,” he said in a video interview with Vice.
My mother would tell me: Just focus on your school. Study hard – don’t worry about the girls. Someday you’ll be successful, and all the girls will be there for you.
And that became his focus in life. He wanted to be successful and financially capable so that dating would become easier for him.
Upon graduation in 1995, Brandon moved to New York City to work for a management consulting firm, before joining General Electric Power Systems, where he managed the IT infrastructure.
After leaving GE and failing to start a business that specialised in targeted Internet ads, he decided to try his hand at dating websites.
“I have this fundamental belief that if you want to start a business, [you have to] try to solve your own problem because that’s [when] you are most passionate about the issue. It’s your problem, [so you’ll have] the most chance of success,” he said in an interview with NextShark.
You are solving the problem that you have, and therefore you’ll be its number one customer.
Building A Sugar Daddy Dating Empire
Screenshot of SeekingArrangement website
Brandon confessed that he started the dating website for his own benefit, and founded SeekingArrangement in 2006 after struggling to find dates for himself.
“I felt so much pain in my life trying to date and haven’t been very successful,” he told The Daily Beast.
“I’ve used dating sites. I even joined one of those old-fashioned, video-based dating agencies, and I couldn’t get a date! I figured there should be a website for guys like me.”
He ended up using his own site for several years, which left him very impressed with the caliber of the women that he met.
And one thing just led to another.
Besides SeekingArrangement, Brandon also founded Seeking Millionaire (an online version of TV show Millionaire Matchmaker); What’s Your Price, where rich people bid on dates; and travel dating website Miss Travel.
But SeekingArrangement still remains the most popular of his dating sites, hosting over 4.5 million active members in 2015 – of which 1,200 men and 700 women hail from Singapore.
It matches wealthy sugar daddies, who pay US$50 a month for access to the site (or US$200 to be a “Diamond User” with verified income), with sugar babies who can enlist for free.
About 40 per cent of the users on SeekingArrangement are married men, but this comes across as insignificant to Brandon.
“Some married men need to stay with a family because of their kids, but they’re in a loveless relationship,” he said.
“And as a guy, you need to get your outlet somewhere else. You have your sexual needs and wants, and the website provides a service to keep the family together. In a roundabout way, as morally wrong as that is, it’s providing a service that keeps the family unit together.”
Are His Dating Sites A Front For Prostitution?
Image Credit: Daily Mail
Thanks to his controversial dating websites, Brandon’s business ventures have been labeled as social escort services, or prostitution, in disguise.
Responding to such accusations, he aggressively defended his business and said that checks have been performed to eliminate potential prostitute users on his platforms.
He insisted that prostitutes and escorts are not allowed on his sites, and claimed that he has the relevant software and a large team of administrators in place to ensure that users abide by this policy.
In a CNN opinion piece, Brandon said they have “kick[ed] off dozens of escorts and prostitutes every day because they attempt to use the site inappropriately”.
Commenting further on this, Brandon simply describes sugar daddies as rich boyfriends.
In a 2015 interview with The Straits Times, he compared a sugar daddy who pays a young woman for companionship to “a rich boyfriend who spoils his girlfriend or a husband who gives his wife an allowance.”
He refuted by asking if the latter should also be considered as prostitution.
“Today’s sugar daddies are wealthy and successful boyfriends – the type of men most Singaporean mothers tell their daughters to date,” he added.
In a separate interview with the Wall Street Journal, Brandon reasoned that “because there is chemistry involved in these relationships, it’s not a one-time exchange of money for sex.”
Most people who meet on the site don’t have sex on the first date. After a relationship forms, sex becomes part of the relationship. It’s not very different from a rich husband or boyfriend giving money to a wife or girlfriend.
So behind the fancy name of a CEO, is Brandon Wade really not just a pimp?
“There’s a big difference between running a dating website and being a pimp. I don’t make money from the money that the women get from the sugar daddies, nor am I promoting prostitution in any way,” he said.
“We’re getting a subscription fee from a dating service that we’re providing. I’d like to think of myself as a telecommunications service provider more than enabling a specific lifestyle.”
“Love Is A Concept Invented By Poor People”
Screenshot of his personal website
On his personal website, Brandon proudly proclaims his notorious statement: “Love is a concept invented by poor people.”
“Love at first sight that sends shivers down your spine is a fairy tale, and it doesn’t last forever,” he wrote.
You know what is forever, though?
Diamonds. Lots and lots of diamonds.
Instead of looking for The One, Brandon believes people should look for a bunch of zeroes after the one. He says there’s no shame in admitting the “financial incentive” behind dating.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, he shared more about his ideas towards dating and love, and his various dating websites that follow a common theme of pairing the rich and the willing.
We live in a society that’s very materialistic, and unfortunately, money plays a big role in how we express our love and care for someone.
“In our society, the dating game is about an exchange of some sort. A guy is always looking at a woman’s body and thinking how attractive she is. That’s how a man measures a woman.”
“And a woman is always looking at a man wondering if he’s dressed well, and if that means he has a good job and has money to support a family in the future. I think people are offended because these sites are so brutally honest about it.”
At the end of the day, whether you agree or disagree with his business ventures and his perception of dating, I still think that it’s pretty commendable for the man to start up a $30 billion dating empire from scratch.
Especially for someone who hasn’t had much dating experience or is very business savvy to begin with.
And although he experienced a failed business venture, that did not deter him from starting anew.
In fact, this man sees failure as his biggest mentor.
Every time I fail, I learn the lesson and make sure it sticks, so I will not repeat the same mistake again. Somebody can tell you, ‘Do this,’ but you’re never going to really take it to heart until you experience that failure yourself.
“It’s kind of unfortunate, but failure is almost a necessity to success. So I would say: go out there, take the risk, and don’t be afraid.”