eHarmony CEO Shares Experiences

Waldorf gives career advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

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Alan C. Chiu

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When asked how online dating giant eHarmony.com went from one just user to millions of singles seeking love, CEO Gregory L. Waldorf said, “Just sheer hustle.”

About 15 people gathered on the fourth floor of Harvard Student Agencies yesterday in an event sponsored by the Harvard College Entrepreneurship Forum to listen to Waldorf talk about his experience with the match-making start-up. Waldorf joined the company in August 2000 as a founding investor.

The main question Waldorf addressed was a central problem facing Internet entrepreneurs. How can online businesses devise a model that could turn a profit when people are accustomed to free services and online advertising has failed generate substantial revenue? Currently, eHarmony charges $59.95 for a one-month subscription.

“It’s not that young people don’t want to pay for services on the Internet. Nobody wants to pay for services on the Internet,” Waldorf said, adding, “I think the Internet is at little bit of a crossroads right now.”

His words of wisdom to the assembled budding entrepreneurs were simple. “My number one piece of advice: don’t go into consulting or banking.”

Waldorf emphasized the importance of “facing the customer,” saying that resumes with experience in sales went to the top of his hire list.

eHarmony, founded by psychologist and marriage counselor Neil Clark Warren, distinguishes itself from other dating websites by its research-based 250-word questionnaire that matches people on 29 dimensions of personality. The service has proven immensely popular, and is responsible for two percent of all new marriages in the United States, according to the website.

“Though the economy is so tough right now, it’s such an exciting time to be coming out of school,” he said.

He added that the company, which currently operates in four English-speaking markets, is looking to expand into other global markets. Recently, eHarmony has conducted research on married couples in China. Their matching algorithm, Waldorf said, “varies from country to country and culture to culture.”

The company has been beset by lawsuits in recent years for not offering gay dating services. eHarmony rolled out a separate gay dating website called Compatible Partners earlier this week as part of a settlement of a 2008 New Jersey case.

-Staff writer Lingbo Li can be reached at lingboli@fas.harvard.edu