OPW CEO Interview -- June 1, 2005 -- Duane Dahl is CEO of Perfect Match and the former CEO of Kiss.com and Udate, which were acquired by Match.com/IAC. Perfect Match is eHarmony's most direct competitor. It's the only other top tier dating site that requires all it's users take a personality test. - Mark Brooks
How is Perfect Match different from eHarmony?
Dr. Neil Warren has done some excellent things within the Christian ministry and his Christian oriented publications. However, he doesn't hold a candle to our Dr. Pepper Schwartz. We've made Dr. Schwartz available and accessible to our PerfectMatch.com members, which we believe is key. Neil, on the other hand, is a spokesperson who appears on TV and that's all he is. Our vision has been to leverage experience and expertise for the good of our members through several Dr. Schwartz vehicles: Her Q&A, chat, monthly column, etc. Also, we do not condone exclusionary practices. I think people want to know how people are being matched. People are starting to question the matching. If you're going to discriminate, you need to be up front and disclose why you're discriminating.
How does your matching philosophy differ from eHarmony?
Transparency is the key. eHarmony has a black box approach. We’ve worked very hard to create a matching algorithm that members can actually use, benefit from and work to their advantage. Take a look at the True.com test. They contracted doctors to come up with a test. It's a good test on a poor site. We want to put our members in a position to impact results. We encourage our members to review results of their tests and identify with those they had relationships with in the past, so they can get an idea of who would be a good match for them in the future. Also, wouldn't it be nice, while users are waiting for their matches, for them to be able to search the database freely? On PerfectMatch.com that’s a highly prized option. On eHarmony, you just wait for someone else to decide your future.
What are your thoughts on the progression of matching technology?
It's still very, very early days in the business. I think the business has grown so quickly, the technology hasn't been able to keep up. As the space evolves, it's going to become more specialized...more member centric. We make sure every single one of our members has the ability to have their profile reviewed on the site. There are millions of members who don't quite get it and they need assistance. So, we have a comprehensive 10 point review, from photo selection to the content in their profiles. This review is available with our standard membership. It's very important to make sure the membership is educated and someone takes the time to teach them what works and doesn't work. We've developed our own leading-edge technology to have our member services team review all profiles. We're constantly reinforcing to our membership 'they're not alone here.' A few years back we saw a Jupiter report and most online personals members were on three or four sites. The reason? They don't really know how to use online dating. They're just going to three or four 'bars' at different times of the week. We're making sure our members can leverage the vast experience we have, and greatly increase their odds of success.
Do you really think you can trounce eHarmony?
I have no doubt. For us, my team got back into the space so we can compete and win. We are actively seeking out partners. Every time we compete with eHarmony on a proposed deal, we win. Sitting back and looking at it, why are we winning? We're not spending more money. We are, however, willing to go beyond traditional ads and be creative. Major brands will not work with eHarmony in this regard. If I can be in situations head-to-head for business development, I love that. Christian content is just not mainstream. We look forward to crushing eHarmony.
eHarmony doesn't favor webcams? Does PerfectMatch favor them?
A few years ago we thought webcam usage would ramp pretty quickly. One of the difficulties is the inability to audit what is going on in a community. This is why many sites have struggled. The same goes with recorded video. We just don't have time to review it all. Also, when we work so hard to build a brand, the last thing we want is a someone uploading inappropriate content.
eHarmony excludes homosexuals. What’s PerfectMatch’s position on homosexuals?
We never have and never will judge our members. We built a community to allow people to find sincere relationships, so of course, we allow individuals to pursue same sex relationships. I find eHarmony's exclusion of homosexuals almost as appalling as the notion of them excluding people who've been married a couple of times...because the assumption is they never will be happy in a relationship. To me, it’s absolutely laughable for some 70-year-old guy, who is sitting on the king’s throne in Pasadena, to judge men and women in this culture in such a way. Relationships go bad. But, that doesn't mean these people are not worthy of ultimately finding love. It's really ridiculous.
What does the future hold?
We're very excited for the online relationship and dating spaces. Some exciting things are happening at both sites. Dating sites like Yahoo Personals and Match, but we're still troubled with True's approach, though. We would like them to get away from the business of having to use suggestive female photos to drive members. I think that hurts both the dating and relationships space. We remain very committed and excited about the future. We’re there to compete and win. And, when we win, our members will win, by finding that special person.
Mark Brooks: After the interview Duane gave me a heads up on the following upcoming Dr Phil show...
"Finding Your PerfectMatch, June 3rd on Dr. Phil Dr. Phil wants to help make some love connections! Along with PerfectMatch.com, he's setting the entire studio audience up with their "perfect match!" Then, he kicks off "The Dating Game" ... Dr. Phil style! See what happens when Bree, who's been unlucky in love, quizzes three bachelors who are supposedly right for her and then chooses her man. And, Dr. Phil sends two singles on a date that will test their true compatibility ... as future parents. If you haven't met the partner of your dreams, find out what you could be doing wrong."