The online-dating site had gone live that same year, and Gary Kremen, the founder and CEO, was slotted to speak. The next day, Kremen came into the office in a tie-dyed shirt, wanted to do the interview from a brightly colored bean bag chair, and shocked everyone in the room when he said to the camera, "Match.
Today, Match is the undisputed leader of online dating. According to Internet data provider comScore , Match attracts more people than any other dating site in the U. And early this year, it announced the acquisition of OkCupid, one of the fastest-growing free dating sites. Incredibly, however, Kremen has no ties to the Match brand today. He started the site at the age of 30 and left merely two years later. A Chicago native, Kremen attended Northwestern University and graduated from Stanford business school in His former colleagues describe him as a high-energy visionary.
Advertisement "Tenacious is the first word that comes to mind," says Thede Loder, a Match engineer from - And Ron Posner, one of the first angel investors in Match, said that Kremen in was "very innovative, very sure of himself He is a big Grateful Dead fan— he attended 50 of their concerts.
He's notorious in Silicon Valley as "sort of a wild man," according to Thede Loder. His availability for phone conversations rarely exceeds six or seven minutes. Between his two years at Stanford, he had a summer internship at Goldman Sachs and was so disruptive that, just three weeks into the program, a Goldman partner offered to buy out the rest of Kremen's internship if Kremen promised to quit on the spot and return to San Francisco.
Kremen took his first stab at entrepreneurship after graduating from Stanford, launching two software companies. But his own search for a woman led him to a larger business opportunity in He found the number services inefficient, and one day it hit him: By May , Kremen owned Match.
Advertisement Kremen founded Electric Classifies, Inc. ECI in to realize his vision of an online personals database. In his pitch to get investor funding, he positioned Match as the first online classifieds site he would launch, soon to be followed by other, more traditional online classifieds such as jobs, housing, and cars.
He wanted to launch Match first because it was a sexier category; he thought it would attract more "eyeballs. Match went live in April ; it was among the first few online-dating sites to launch on the web. Match grew rapidly in the year of its inception; at one point traffic was ballooning by percent per day. Kremen was successfully realizing the marketing vision he had since day one: He was spending every waking hour working on the site, but a rift began to form in the board room.
The first point of contention was the business model. But Kremen lost faith in this strategy when he saw how slowly newspapers' operations moved. The board also disliked the personals category. According to Fran Maier, "There was a lot of snobbery among the board and the management team. It was like, 'Oh, this is yucky. This is personals, this is numbers. The founder once publicly fired an administrative assistant who refused to work seven days per week.
To build the Match staff, Kremen was hiring mostly 23 to year-olds who didn't have as much experience as the board would have liked. After butting heads once too often, the V. The board's next step was to find a new CEO, but their search was ill- fated from the start. Richard Neustadt, the first candidate, was "a great, salt-of- the-earth guy," according to Kremen.
Kremen liked Neustadt even though the newcomer was taking his former job. But tragedy soon struck. The next two CEOs the V. Then the board made a billion-dollar mistake. Deepak Kamra, the lead V. He had strongly opposed the sale, but the board outvoted him on the decision.
It took me some time to let go," he said in a interview. The VCs had let go of a gold mine. He retained stock in ECI, but that eventually became worthless, as the company went out of business in after continuing to pursue the flawed business model of providing back-end technology to newspapers. The loss of Match crushed Kremen emotionally, but it taught him a lesson that has shaped the rest of his career. He realized he's not a natural manager; he's an idea man with a knack for spotting trends before they fully form.
He remains obsessed with technology start-ups, but he knows his best chance of success lies in letting others lead the companies he invests in or founds. He founded it in to serve homeowners interested in installing solar panels. Advertisement And Kremen is ramping up another company he founded called Sociogramics, which he won't say much about, other than that it will use social media data to help people get loans and develop financial literacy.
According to his former Match colleagues, Kremen has matured significantly since the mids. That's not to say he has shed his quirkiness—to this day, his voicemail greeting says, "Hi, you've reached Gary Kremen. Please leave positive news after the beep, and negative news before the beep. And he's not stopping anytime soon.