Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Eharmony Founder Has Heart Set on Reviving the Dating Site

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Eharmony Founder Has Heart Set on Reviving the Dating Site

Article excerpt

Neil Clark Warren thinks he's the best match for EHarmony Inc. In a move that caused his friends to call him crazy, the 78-year-old EHarmony founder came out of retirement in July to become chief executive, looking to resuscitate one of the most recognized online dating services that was struggling amid increased competition.

"We'd gotten a bit lost," Mr. Warren said at the company's Santa Monica, Calif., headquarters, decorated with hundreds of photos of couples who met on the website. "Things were going backward, and we weren't doing nearly as well as we were doing before."

In the past three years, he said, new memberships, retention rates and time spent on the site were all down. The company's most recent CEO, former Zynga Inc. executive Jeremy Verba, left after just a year because of strategic differences with the board of directors, of which Mr. Warren has always been chairman.

Now in the top job for the first time, Mr. Warren has been doling out some tough love at the company he created in 2000. He quickly uprooted the top management team.He closed some of the company's unprofitable international operations, switched advertising firms and whittled down the nine-member board to just himself and one other director. Through a combination of layoffs and voluntary departures, the company went from 260 employees a year ago to 160 today. Now, just 15 percent of EHarmony's staff has been with the company at least five years.

But Mr. Warren's biggest move might be his goal of expanding EHarmony's brand to include more than just online matchmaking. He wants to make EHarmony a broad "relationship site" that includes services to help users make new friends, find the right job, become better parents, cope with aging and solve interpersonal problems, among others.

It's an ambitious and far-reaching plan, but one that will differentiate the company in an increasingly crowded online dating market, in which big-name established sites such as EHarmony, Match and OkCupid are competing with smaller upstart websites and apps. …

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