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Advice to Would-be Entrepreneurs

By Steve Tsai, Managing Editor, Internet Journal

Stanford, Feb. 14, 2007

Greg Waldorf, CEO of eHarmony, a web based dating service company, gave a talk at Stanford Entrepreneur Thought Leadership forum about his advice to college students aspiring to be entrepreneurs.

He has five main points:

    1. Association - Surround with great people: If you think back to your school years, the teachers, coaches, and professors who had the most positive impacts on you, who got you interested and made you excelled in a particular subject, were the ones who you learned the most from. Similarly, when you start your working career, selecting the right people for who you will work for is equally if not more important. One way to find out is in a job interview. At the end of the interview when the interviewer asks you if you have any more questions, you can ask him or her about what happened to the people who had the position that you are applying. If the interviewer couldn't answer that question, then it is not a good fit. If she says that this person went to company X, and that person went to company Y, and we are still in touch. This is definitely a plus.

    2. Career Direction - Choose your own path: Most of the MBA graduates seem to destine to work either as a consultant or as an investment banker. The fact that you are a Stanford graduate will get a preferential look by the prospective employer. But an easy route may not be a rewarding path. If you want to be an entrepreneur, do not stay in the safe path for too long. Circumstances and other considerations will prevent you from getting out that path.

    3. Mental Attitude Willing to adapt: There is known set of things that you do to get into a top school. There is no such roadmap when it comes to entrepreneurship. You have to try and make adjustments along the way. If your assumptions are wrong, find out early and make changes as fast as you can.

    4. Career Choice - Do what you are passionate about: People may not know what they are really interested as a career. One way to find out is to talk with people in the industry. If you write to CEOs and ask to meet with them to find out what their companies do, most likely you will get a response from them. All you have to do is ask.

    5. Job Type - Find a customer-facing job:  The ability to interface with people. Knowing how to keep customers happy and understand what make them buy your products is a very valuable career asset.

In summary, Greg's advice is to pick a small 100-200 people company that is growing and dynamic and people who are entrepreneurial. Choose the industry that you are passionate about and find a customer facing position to learn how to work with customers.

As for Greg himself, during him MBA study at Stanford, he got interested in the Smoothie business, because the Jumba Juice place near campus was always filled with people. He had a grand plan to compete against Jumba Juice with multiple stores across the country. He opened a store in Houston, Texas in the summer of 95 that was followed by the coldest winter in Texas as he saw his venture literally frozen. He later joined a VC firm, Charles River Ventures. He then became the founding investor of eHarmony in 2000.

In its seven years, eHarmony now has 15 million registered users from over 200 countries. There are about 80-90 million Americans who are single. 15-30 million will go to a dating site in a given year. Three to four million will subscribe. The fastest growing segment of the population is those over 50.

eHarmony uses a 436-question questionnaire to determine compatibility matching. A person has to be determined to finish such a lengthy questionnaire. Half of the people who started had finished filling out the form.

Greg became eHarmony's CEO in 2003.  His future plan for eHarmony includes: keeping growing at a fast clip, expanding the singles matching business globally, adding new services for married couples and about parenting, and applying personality matching methodology into other areas.

About The Author
Steve Tsai is the Managing Editor of the
Internet Journal http://www.intnetjournal.com. Internet Journal provides the insights and analysis on Internet marketing, eCommerce, mobile communications, eSecurity, and global e-Business. If you have any comments about Internet Journal, please send email to stt@intnetjournal.com.
 

 

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