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Spark Ignites Match: How Sam Yagan Became the Dominant Player in Online Dating

You may not know the name Sam Yagan, but you’ve definitely heard of his work. Yagan is one of the biggest names in online dating and is currently CEO of Match.com, the planet’s largest dating website. But that’s just his latest business. One of several impressive accomplishments came in 1999 when he turned his senior year at Harvard into a $3 million paycheck for himself and three classmates.

As a college student, Yagan started a website called The Spark, which covered a variety of topics and included a student study guide section called SparkNotes. It quickly became a popular area of the site. Students flocked to the easy-to-use info to give them an edge on exams, and Yagan found himself at the head of the class, so to speak.

Using Harvard’s massive student base as a freelance writing staff, Yagan’s study hub grew at a breakneck pace, eventually challenging the long-standing study king, CliffsNotes. The explosive success of SparkNotes drew the attention of Barnes & Noble, and after just a year, Yagan and his friends struck a deal for $3.5 million. Today, SparkNotes is one of the Web’s hottest spots for students looking to ace their tests.

Dissatisfied with just one hugely successful business venture already conquered by his early 20s, Yagan reinvented online dating when he co-founded OkCupid in 2003. OkCupid’s unique approach to matchmaking made it one of the catalysts for the online dating phenomenon and made it a household name with millions of registered users.

Yagan once again made headlines in 2011 when he sold OkCupid to IAC, the parent company of Match.com, for a hefty $50 million. He then made a move from “great” to “greatest” when he was named CEO of Match.com the following year. This put him in the driver’s seat of the world’s largest dating site, matching mates in 25 countries and 8 languages.

Sam Yagan is a perfect example of the entrepreneurial spirit that is never satisfied with the status quo, and the success that follows when you’re willing to put it all on the line.

E*TRADE and Match.com are separate and unaffiliated companies and this article does not represent a recommendation by E*TRADE to buy any specific security.