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Alex Mehr (born 1978) is an entrepreneur, technologist, and the co-founder and Co-CEO of Zoosk, a romantic social network. Mehr immigrated to the United States from Iran in 2000 to pursue a master's degree followed by a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. After a year of post-doctoral work, Mehr started working as a scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. In 2007, Mehr co-founded Zoosk with Shayan Zadeh. As one of the fastest-growing romantic social networks, Zoosk has been on the Wall Street Journal's Top 50 Venture-Funded companies list since 2010.[1]

Mehr has been profiled as an entrepreneurial success story in the Forbes magazine and in the book Venture Capitalists at Work.[2][3] Today, Mehr is co-CEO of Zoosk. He has published over 25 peer-reviewed academic papers on engineering and business.[2][3]

Biography

Born and raised in Iran, Mehr attended Sharif University of Technology in Tehran from 1996 to 2000, where he met his future business partner, Shayan Zadeh.[2][4]

After graduating with their bachelor's degrees in 2000, Mehr and Zadeh immigrated to the U.S. to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park.

As graduate students, Mehr and Zadeh attended entrepreneurial workshops, developed a business plan that took second place at a university competition, and launched their first company while still in school with two other friends.[5]

Immigration issues prevented the group from pursuing their fledgling company. Mehr's attorney told them they would have to give up the business venture and get traditional jobs in companies that could sponsor them for the H-1B visa, which forced them to dissolve their company. Mehr describes that day as one of the worst of his life.[2][4]

Temporarily dissuaded from entrepreneurship, Mehr went on to earn his master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, in only 3 years.[2] In his last year of graduate school, Mehr entered the Diversity Visa green card lottery and won. Through the lottery, he received permanent US residency status which expanded his employment options.[2] Several publications, including Forbes and Reuters writer Felix Salmon, have held Mehr’s story up as an example of the need to make immigration procedures more welcoming and navigable for skilled entrepreneurs.[2][6] After completing his dissertation on the design and optimization of complex engineering systems, Mehr moved to California where he worked as a scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center on several robotic and manned space missions.[2][3]

Mehr and Zadeh stayed in touch, and continued to brainstorm ideas for businesses that ranged from a website for group travel planning, to a cat feeder controlled remotely through Wifi. Eventually, Zadeh joined Mehr in San Francisco to work on business ideas. In 2007, they started Pollection, a multimedia polling application for social networks.[3] Mehr quit the MBA program he’d been attending at Berkeley to focus on the company.[4]

However, when an application they developed to allow users to rate the attractiveness of photos pulled from friends’ Facebook profiles began growing much more rapidly than the main Pollection platform, Mehr and Zadeh decided to refocus and reconfigure the company. The project transformed into Zoosk, which launched in December 2007.[2][3][4]

Zoosk

Mehr and Zadeh took consumer cues from their first start-up and decided to create Zoosk, a romantic social network. Zoosk integrates with Facebook and other social networks to allow users to meet new people in a new way. Mehr compares traditional online dating to a bulletin board or walking into a bar alone, while the Zoosk approach to online dating is like walking into a bar with a group of friends.

Mehr and Zadeh raised four rounds of investment, totaling $40M, from the venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners, Canaan Partners, and ATA Ventures.[7][8]

By 2011, the company’s sales exceeded $90 million, doubling sales from the previous year.[2][5] Over 50 million users have registered on the site.[2]

One challenge dating sites face is that when they’re successful—whenever a user starts a relationship with a new user—the company loses two customers. In 2012, Mehr and Zadeh rolled out several features designed to keep couples engaged with Zoosk, including couple profiles and anniversary reminders.[7][9][10]

References

  1. Colleen Debaise and Scott Austin (March 10, 2011). The Top 50 Venture-Backed Companies. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on November 8, 2012.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Stuart Anderson (January 15, 2012). Zoosk: An "Only inAmerica" Immigrant Success Story. Forbes. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Shah, Tarang and Shah, Sheetal. (2011). Venture Capitalists at Work: How VCs Identify and Build Billion-Dollar Successes.. Apress. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Tony (September 23, 2011). Shayan Zadeh & Alex Mehr – Zoosk 1 of 2. Founder LY. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ari Levy (February 8, 2012). Zoosk, the Web's Perpetual Love Machine. Business Week. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  6. Felix Salmon (December 20, 2011). Immigration datapoint of the day, entrepreneurship edition. Reuters. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 CrunchBase (September 26, 2012). Zoosk. CrunchBase. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  8. Jason Kincaid (December 3, 2009). Zoosk Lands Another $30 Million For Social Dating. The Washington Post. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  9. sexy social media (2012). Zoosk Wants to Be With You Forever. sexy social media. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
  10. Mike Minotti (April 2, 2012). Romantic social network Zoosk encourages lovebirds to stick around with Couple Profiles. Venture Beat. Retrieved on October 31, 2012.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Alex Mehr, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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