Two Heinekens into a lazy afternoon in October 2000, James Hong, a 27-year-old dotcom refugee from Mountain
View, CA, was listening to his roommate, Jim Young, a Berkeley graduate student in electrical engineering, wax on about a woman he had spotted at a party the previous weekend. Young, also 27, insisted she was a “perfect 10.”
Hong didn’t believe him. His roommate had a thing for “goth” while Hong’s own tastes were more Abercrombie & Fitch.
What the world needed, they agreed, was a metric to reliably rate someone’s looks.
So they built Am I Hot or Not?, a site that let users rank from 1 to 10 the relative hotness of someone in a photo. Almost immediately it became a viral sensation. At first, the two generated revenue through advertising, but during the dotcom bust they pivoted, transitioning into a matchmaking site with subscriptions. InApril 2001, they instituted a $6 per month fee to join “Meet Me,” figuring it was cheap enough to qualify as an impulse buy. In its first month it generated $25,000 in revenue and by year’s end it brought in $600,000.
Seven and a half years after launch, they sold HotorNot for a reported $20 million, and now the site–at least as it was–no longer exists. But here’s how it looked back in 2001, and an interview with Hong which proves that the right pivot can score you a date.