The James Altucher Show

Ep. 127 - James Hong: Hot or Not


James Hong is one of the founders of the infamous site Hot or Not. What started out as an innocent experiment turned into a cultural phenomenon and lucrative business. Hot or Not was a website that allowed users to upload their photos to the site so that other users could rate them as "hot" or "not." Soon after, a dating site was added, and a new form of internet speed dating began. Hot or Not was part of the dawn of social media, preceding Youtube, Facebook, and sites like Tinder. James shares his observations of human nature and how the site proved age-old truths about attraction. People who submitted the photos were, for the most part, confident enough to know the site was all in good fun. Others took it too seriously. In the long run, "hotter" people found the site and stayed based on the reaction to their photos. James and his partner built the site as a side project that started out with an invite to friends – and grew to 30 thousand visitors. Online source photos were used to begin the concept of the site. James estimates about 100 photos were used. Within 7 hours, the site was populated with real users wanting to be rated. The instant success was a little overwhelming for James and his partner. Machines and internet service were much more expensive in the early 2000s. So much so, the site was almost shut down because the equipment couldn't keep up with the site! They moved Hot or Not to GeoCities, and changed the future of the site. They made a deal with Ophoto as an affiliate. The final step was a business deal with Rack Space, which hosted the site for an exchange of publicity. Companies called, wanting to buy this new business, but James and his partner wanted to see where it was going. James says that the first year was all hard work. The dating service was the first attempt at monetizing the site. The dating site was linked to Hot or Not, and to go on with the site required one participant to be a paid member. James compares the success of Hot or Not to the early days of reality shows. Hot or Not has been credited with creating 5 to 10 marriages a day. Hot or Not was eventually sold in February of 2008. With the financial crash of 2008, James and his partner decided liquidizing the company was the wisest move. James has always considered the future of business to be entrepreneur-focused rather than capital-focused. Hot or Not is a prime example of how the internet can make this possible. James's suggestion to the newcomers in this business would simply be: "Just do it." Concepts don't have to be complex to work. If the interface works, then don't complicate it. Resources and Links: You can reach out to James directly on Twitter @JHong. To learn more about Cakey, James' new app that helps parents find kid-friendly video playlists, head over to cakeyvillage. com.