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The Self-Made Man: Sam Yagan

Any TSB readers around my age have most likely been up to their necks in weddings over the past couple of years. Whether you’ve been attending them, hearing about them, or just enduring an entire Facebook newsfeed’s worth of engagement photos, the love and happiness of others can be really overwhelming if you’re single.

Don’t worry though, my column isn’t turning into one of those Tumblr .gif blogs run by alcoholic grad students. I’m merely trying to introduce this week’s Self Made Man: OkCupid co-founder and Internet entrepreneur Sam Yagan.

Sam was born to Syrian immigrants and grew up in Illinois, where he blossomed into a smartypants who went to the Illinois Math and Science Academy, then Harvard and Stanford.

At Harvard, Sam started Sparknotes, the online study guide that helped so many English majors get through crap like To The Lighthouse, with classmates Chris Coyne and Max Krohn. Sparknotes was a hit, as we all know, but the site’s tongue-in-cheek self-quizzes and personality tests took on a life of their own when registered SparkNotes users were allowed to search for and contact each other based on their test results. Then called SparkMatch, the idea was duplicated as OkCupid.

OkCupid had been an idea of Chris Coyne’s for some time, actually, and he called Sam in the middle of the night, ranting about a ?blind date button? website that would hook people up semi-randomly. ?I told him he was crazy and to call me back in the morning,? Yagan told OpenForum, recalling the incident.

When Sam met with Coyne at a reasonable hour to develop the idea, it turned into a free online dating service with heavier social media presence and a user matching apparatus based on individual test/quiz answers and other data submitted by users.

For a Harvard mathematician, Sam Yagan is a pretty humble guy, and now that he’s the CEO of Match.com (a position he assumed in 2012), he had to adjust from being a self-starter to being the boss of a huge company, which is a big transition for anyone.

Still, Sam still has a foot in the entrepreneur game, and his advice for go-getters is pretty solid, at least by TSB’s standards. He’s a strong believer in not starting a business on your own and not overvaluing secrecy as a business model. He also thinks that, at a certain point, you should ?just do it. It doesn?t get easier as you get older?find a way to do what you love on nights and weekends. You can think about it all you want, but until you start, nothing will happen.?

I’ll leave you with this clip of Sam talking to Blackline Review about starting his first company.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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