Brandon Wade has been branded an ‘e-pimp’ for his sites that match ‘sugar daddies’ with ‘babies,’ and his latest venture, MissTravel.com, links ‘generous’ men with pretty women who wish to travel the world for free. The tech entrepreneur talks to Marlow Stern about how he built up his empire.
By Marlow Stern.
Brandon Wade seems harmless enough. His kind eyes peer at you through rectangular-framed geek-chic spectacles. A designer suit hangs ever-so-awkwardly off his slight frame. His hair is cleanly parted to the side, like a high-school yearbook photo. He doesn’t look like the man whom CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin branded an “M.I.T.-educated pimp” on Dr. Phil .
And yet, the 41-year-old tech entrepreneur currently lords over a $10 million per year “Sugar Daddy” web empire. Wade’s websites include SeekingArrangement.com, which matches “Sugar Daddies,” usually rich men, with “Sugar Babies,” or younger women who like to be spoiled; SeekingMillionaire.com, that operates like an online version of the TV show Millionaire Matchmaker; and WhatsYourPrice.com, where rich people—typically men—bid on dates with beautiful women. The troika of sites hosts a combined 2.3 million users.
Wade’s latest controversial venture is Miss Travel.According to the site, it pairs “generous travelers who hate to travel alone with Attractive travelers who would love the opportunity to travel the world for free.” Since its launch three weeks ago, the site has accumulated close to 40,000 users, as well as a wealth of controversy. Gawker labeled it “the #1 prosti-travel website,” alleging it’s no more than a front for prostitution, while sites like Jezebel have questioned the safety in traveling to the other side of the world with a complete stranger.
“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,” said Wade in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Born in Singapore to strict Chinese parents, Wade was raised in what he describes as a “Tiger Mom–type of upbringing” consisting of studying and not much else. Every time he committed even the slightest of indiscretions, he was whipped with a cane. Despite being a member of the Toastmaster’s Club in Singapore, which helps to overcome public-speaking fears, and delivering speeches to adult crowds since the age of 12, he was terrified of girls.
When Wade reached the 11th grade, he transferred from an all-boys school to a co-ed one, and finally mustered up the courage to approach a girl. He nervously paced around the school for an hour practicing his speech to her. When the moment of truth came, he went up to her, tripped over his shoelaces, stood up, and said, “I am shy!” “I still feel nervous about that whole experience,” he says.
An aspiring physicist, Wade went to MIT and, at the age of 21, finally kissed a girl. However, she got back with an ex not long after, leaving him devastated.
After graduating from MIT, he worked as a software engineer for a few years before returning to MIT’s Sloane School of Management to get his M.B.A. After graduating, Wade moved to New York City to work for consulting firm Booz Allen for two years as a management consultant, and then joined General Electric Power Systems, where he managed the IT infrastructure. After leaving GE, and failing to start a business that specialized in targeted Internet ads, he decided to try his hand at dating websites.
“I felt so much pain in my life trying to date and haven’t been very successful,” says Wade. “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 pauses. “My mom always told me: study hard, and when you grow up, you can be generous and you’ll have options.”
Wade launched Seeking Arrangement in 2006. The site matches wealthy Sugar Daddies, who pay $50 a month for access to the site (or $200 to be a “Diamond User” with verified income), with Sugar Babies, who can enlist for free. It’s by far the most popular of Wade’s dating sites, hosting approximately 1.2 million users, including 100,000 Sugar Daddies, 900,000 female Sugar Babies, and 200,000 male Sugar Babies. According to Wade, the average age of a male Sugar Daddy is 39, and he makes about $200,000 annually and is worth roughly $5 million. Typically, he’ll spend in the neighborhood of $3,000 a month pampering a Sugar Baby. Also, about 40 percent of the users on Seeking Arrangement are married men, but that doesn’t seem to bother Wade much. Read more