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Key Idea: Attract The Biggest Brains

Dr. Galen Buckwalter is an academic with plenty of expertise and experience. Founders Dr. Neil Clark Warren and Greg Forgatch recruited him and other big brains to develop the product.

Key Question:

A: 

Find the smartest people to help you.

Q: Why and how did Neil and Greg bring Dr. Buckwalter, Dr. Carter and Greg Steiner into the business?

A: Like many entrepreneurs, they simply didn't know what they needed to know to go forward. Their idea was bigger than their ability to execute on it. They had to recruit the scientists who could help create the product they have today. The great thing about this story is that Neil/Greg are not egomaniacs and were not arrogant enough to think that they could take what they had in the book and build an automated match system. They had plenty of research but not enough.

To refine and build the models they are using now, they started by inviting Galen to join them. He said he was happy to help because he was a former student of Dr. Warren's and had great admiration for him. Galen then recruited Steve. This is one of those, "hire who you know" success stories.

Dr. Warren's long-term commitment to the problem of helping people have happy marriages is core to Dr. Buckwalter's willingness to leave other research to work for eHarmony.

At the end of the episode you hear Dr. Buckwalter say, "I admire (Dr. Warren) him more than anyone else in life." Also, Dr. Buckwalter says the problem they are working on is as fascinating as his other research which is in the field of brain aging.

To attract the biggest brains, you have to have a big, fascinating problem for them to work on and you have to be a person they admire. The biggest brains have choices and they will not chose your company if you are a difficult person with an unattractive personality or if you just want to play at the game of business.

Think about it

What can you do to make yourself and your business more attractive to the biggest brains?

Clip from: eHarmony

Pasadena, California:  Meet Dr. Neil Clark Warren. He has always been an excellent marriage counselor;  failures in marriage bothered him.  He decided to look into the broken heart of divorce. He probed and researched 512 couples -- divorce autopsies -- and discovered most of these people married the wrong person. He wrote a book about it and that book was selling well, until Oprah invited him to come on her show. Of course, sales exploded. When his son-in-law challenged him to expand his reach, they took that business to the web and almost lost everything.  That was 2001; the dot.coms had become dot.bombs.

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eHarmony

Neil Clark Warren, Founder

300 N. Lake Ave.
Suite 1111
Pasadena, CA 91101
6267954814

Visit our web site: http://eharmony.com/

Office: 6267954814

Business Classification:
Service

Year Founded: 2000

Attract The Biggest Brains

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Once a single person decides to use the site, she or he enters into a safe, secure environment where the hard work of finding the right person is done by computer.

GREG FORGATCH: (Voiceover) And so what you want to do at eHarmony is put them in a room of compatible people and then let them do the same selection process that they normally do, but know that they've got that compatibility at the front end. So, it's really putting the cart behind the horse.

NEIL: We had all this information and we wanted to build the best site we possibly could. We knew we needed more empirical research. And that is highly, highly technical. So we bring in a Galen. Galen is outrageous. I mean he is so good.

GALEN BUCKWALTER: He wanted to take what he had been seeing anecdotally, but make sure that it was, it stood the test of empirical research.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Dr. Galen Buckwalter is the Director of Research.

GALEN: (Voiceover) The first thing we had to do was come up with some research design because the goal was to be able to put together people, singles, in a way that they were going to be compatible. Obviously we weren't in the mood to do a 20 years study, and put together people and see how, how, who turned out to have good marriages. So, we spent probably the first six months working together, just putting together a questionnaire. Then we identified a group of married individuals who took this questionnaire and at that point it was an extremely long questionnaire. We fine-tuned the questionnaire, identified items that were working well for us. Got it down to, you know, the current form which is closer to an hour. Then we gave it to close to a thousand people and got our final model.

STEVE CARTER: The initial stages of developing the product were to see if the product even existed.

Team member #4: So that's what that is, 60 percent of 66.

STEVE: No, that's the summation.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Dr. Steve Carter is Director of Product Development.

STEVE: Seems like he's got a good handle on this.

(Voiceover) We didn't decide we had a product until we had a scientific understanding and a good scientific base to decide that we had a successful way of doing it.

GALEN: What we are interested in is not responses to individual questions, but rather responses to patterns of what we call factors.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Almost like predicting the success of a stock. Galen explained that complex algorithms are used in factoring the data to predict preferences and accurately assess the 29 dimensions.

NEIL: (Voiceover) We ask you 436 questions. There's not one of those questions that is a duplicate. We don't replicate questions all over the place to just make it hard for you. But we ask you everything we can think to ask you and let me tell you, fundamentally it goes down to this one theoretical point. Everybody gets married because of compatibility. Everybody does.

The only difference between the marriages that last and the marriages that don't last is how broad based the compatibility is. If you fall in love from the outside in, then my biggest fear is that you never really go in there to look. And if you don't go in there to look, most of the important dimensions are inside a person.

HATTIE: As a scientist yourself, and an academician, and a researcher, have you been surprised at the success, the actual commoditization of data that you crunched and you dreamed that might work? Are you surprised?

GALEN: It stuns me, yeah. Every time. I have a friend at Yale; she got on eHarmony, met someone. Another good friend of mine, I mean he programs virtual reality scenarios -- total propeller head -- I ran into him a couple of weeks ago and he didn't know I had anything to do with eHarmony. I was asking about his life and he was like, "Yeah, I did all this research on dating services and picked the best one, totally, that's available out there, it's eHarmony.

I was like, "Yeah." (thumbs up)
 
 
 

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