EHarmony “felt very much aligned with my personal goals and personal… (Ricardo DeAratanha, Los…)
The gig: Jeremy Verba, 49, became chief executive of online dating site EHarmony Inc. in August 2011, replacing Greg Waldorf. The Santa Monica company matches singles looking for long-term relationships; 34 million people have used the service since it was launched in 2000. The company uses "relationship science" to predict compatible matches and says that on average, 542 people marry every day in the United States as a result of being matched on EHarmony.
Education: Received a bachelor's degree in architecture from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Personal: Verba lives in Burlingame, Calif., with his wife, Wendy, whom he met at a holiday party in 1994. The couple have two sons and a daughter.
The long commute: He flies to Southern California each week, typically spending Monday to Thursday at EHarmony headquarters and the rest of the week in San Francisco. The privately held company is looking for an office in the Bay Area; it also has offices in London; Sydney, Australia; and Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Early jobs: As a 10-year-old growing up in Toronto, Verba was hired by the Don Mills Mirror as a newspaper boy delivering papers and collecting money from readers. He later worked as a salesman at a hardware store — a job he got after peppering the store manager with questions — and as a waiter and a garbage collector.
"Every work experience you have teaches you something and shows you something about yourself, which I think helps you be a better businessperson," he said. "Being a garbage man, I was exposed to a very different kind of people who were working as garbage people as their full-time job; I was just there as a summer job. I learned a lot about people, I learned a lot about jobs that aren't necessarily fun."
Playing games: After getting his MBA, Verba held several positions in technology and media, including chief executive of Piczo, an online community for teens. He also founded and was president of E! Online, a joint venture between CNET and E! Entertainment Television. But one of his most fun jobs was as a general manager at social gaming company Zynga Inc. There, Verba — who loves doing logic puzzles — oversaw the unit that produced Treasure Isle, a popular Facebook app.
L.A. as a tech hub: EHarmony moved its headquarters from Pasadena to Santa Monica in late 2010 to be closer to the fast-growing technology scene that has emerged near the beach.
"We found that while there was great talent in Pasadena, that the market was bigger here on the Westside and we had more to choose from," he said. "So as we were building out our technology team — doubling our technology team last year — we had to be in the place where the technology people were."
Matchmaker in the making: For an assignment in his 10th-grade computer class, Verba wrote a dating program as a way to meet girls. The "very rudimentary" program matched students based on physical traits and shared interests. "It was more of a superficial thing," he said. "I was a mini-celebrity for doing what I was doing."
Why EHarmony: "It's technology serving a higher need," he said. "I've always migrated to businesses that have impact — big impact — and that's what attracted me to EHarmony. It felt very much aligned with my personal goals and personal values, and you don't always find that in business."
First-date do's and don'ts: "Have a good idea of your must-haves and your can't-stands. Because then you have a framework." Absolute no-no's, he says, are don't overshare and don't pay with a coupon.
At EHarmony: After noticing that many EHarmony users fill out dating questionnaires with friends and access the site from their smartphones and tablets, Verba has been working to grow the company's social media presence and improve its mobile platform. Mobile traffic now accounts for about a third of EHarmony's activity.
Dream job: Sixth-grade math teacher by day and professional hockey player at night. One of Verba's favorite quotes is: "Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is."
Advice: If you want to be a CEO, Verba said, learn about different aspects of business: sales, operations, products, technology and management. Finally: "Trust your instincts. Gather facts, gather opinions, then trust your instincts."