From Startup to IPO
It was only a few years ago when Saeed Amidi was first introduced to Alex Mehr and Shayan Zadeh. At the time, Alex was attending UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and working on the early stages of a project–originally a product leveraging social media analytics. It was from this early idea that Zoosk sprouted and would later become one of the largest online dating services.
In 2007, the initial product soft-launched; self-described as, “a market research company that leverages social media.” It was only a few weeks later that Facebook opened their applications platform.
As Alex and Shayan looked for ways to market their product and capture more data, they built out a number of Facebook games to drive adoption. One of these games had “a dating connotation–and that thing just exploded,” said Shayan.
Both Alex and Shayan came from a computer science and data-driven background–they were roommates at the University of Maryland while they completed graduate school for both computer science and mechanical engineering.
Alireza Masrour, Managing Partner at Plug and Play, shared the same sentiment about their approach: “For Zoosk, everything is about the numbers.”
Per Alex: “We’re both very comfortable with numbers and statistics… [you must] be able to instrument the product and measure how customers are responding…”
With this “numbers” paradigm in mind, one contributing factor to their success was implemented through an incredibly innovative approach to the dating scene: taking browser data and match-making consumer behaviors to similar profiles through their algorithmic solution, a “proprietary Behavioral Matchmaking engine.”
Plug and Play Investment
With Saeed, Alex and Shayan all sharing an Iranian immigrant background, the relationship naturally progessed to late 2007/early 2008, when Plug and Play jumped on the scene and invested with help from Shobeir Shoebeiri. Shortly thereafter, Saeed introduced Zoosk to Mike Hodges at ATA Ventures.
Saeed says of Deepak, who had other dealings in the dating space: “He had the vision to fund Match.com in the very early days of the Internet, back in 1996 when most people were not on the Internet.”
It was a natural pairing between Zoosk and Canaan. Tack on some of the most respected VC’s in ATA Ventures and Bessemer Ventures–Alex and Shayan had locked up perhaps the best “dates” available in Silicon Valley.
Zoosk’s traction skyrocketed in 2009, with “an average of 12 million unique users a month… [and] a member base totaling over 40 million.”
This growth trend has continued steadily: Zoosk raised over $60 million since their founding in 2007. With over 650,000 paying subscribers across 80 countries and $178 million in revenues, Zoosk is one of Plug and Play’s greatest success stories.
Congratulations on the IPO!
At our Fall EXPO 2012, Alex Mehr returned as a keynote speaker–imparting his wisdom on trials and tribulations as a founder and scaling a startup to the 30 companies pitching.
We are so proud to have been a part of Zoosk’s incredible story. With yesterday’s IPO announcement, and on behalf of Plug and Play, our alumni and our entire network:
A quick word from our CEO & Founder, Saeed Amidi:
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