Let’s start with what Badoo is. Ask its founder, Andrey Andreev, and he will tell you it’s a social network that allows users to seek out new friends nearby. Ask its users, and they are more likely to tell you it’s a “hook-up site”.
Like Grindr, the gay dating app, it uses location tracking systems in smartphones to enable customers to search for suitors close by, or alert them when they are passing another user.
However, Andreev, a strongly-accented Russian, insists that the two services are miles apart. Badoo is more like a “telephone bar”, where he first hatched the idea, he says.
“My friends and I visited St Petersburg, Russia. Nice town. Lots of things to do and we have plenty of time before we leave,” he explains in his shiny Soho office. “My friends invite me to a place called telephone bar. Big place. Probably about 100 tables inside. All young womans waiting in the queue for a long time to get in.”
Once inside, customers are seated at numbered tables with telephones, which they use to ring up anyone else in the bar that attracts their attention.