Shayan Zadeh (born 1979) is the co-founder of Zoosk, the largest romantic social network and one of the Wall Street Journal’s Top 50 Venture-Funded Companies. Born in Iran, Zadeh immigrated to the U.S. for graduate school and worked at Microsoft for several years. He founded Zoosk with Alex Mehr in 2007. Today, he is co-CEO of Zoosk, as well as an advisor and investor for other start-ups.
Early career and education
Zadeh was born in Urmia, Iran to a Kurdish middle class family. He studied computer science at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran as an undergraduate. There he met future co-founder Alex Mehr.
Zadeh and Mehr moved to the U.S. to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2000. To get their visas, Zadeh and Mehr had to journey to Turkey—on foot—because the U.S. has no embassy in Iran. At the University of Maryland, Zadeh and Mehr were roommates. Zadeh convinced Mehr to join an entrepreneurial workshop with him. They created a working prototype and a business plan for a software company and entered it in the annual business plan competition at University of Maryland. The plan won second place. Along with two other collaborators, they decided to start the company. But as soon as they tried, Zadeh and Mehr faced another challenge: turning their student visas into work visas. Because H1-B work visas usually require the sponsorship of an employer, the government was unlikely to grant them a visa if they were self-employed. If they wanted to stay in the country, they were told, they needed to find traditional employers. So, against their wishes, the men dissolved the company. Zadeh received his master’s degree in computer science and found a job at Microsoft. He worked at Microsoft for several years as a program manager and software engineer. He also earned his MBA at the University of Washington.
In 2008, Zadeh got his green card and became a permanent resident of the U.S. The process had taken four and a half years. Zadeh wrote letters to his local representatives and First Lady Laura Bush, expressing his dissatisfaction with the process. He believes it would have taken even longer if he hadn’t done so.
While working at Microsoft, Zadeh stayed in touch with Mehr. They tossed back and forth different business and project ideas, like a WiFi, remote-controlled cat feeder. As his immigration status became more secure, Zadeh joined Mehr in San Francisco to make a go of starting a company again. The co-founders knew they wanted to focus on social media. Their first idea was a polling tool for social networks that gathered market research for businesses. To promote the tool and get customers using it, they created games leveraging the same technology as their market research product. One of the games had romantic implications, and became very popular. When the men realized that the dating side project was growing faster than their main project, they decided to transform their company into a romantic social network. They relaunched as Zoosk at the end of 2007.
Zoosk is a romantic social network application, originally designed for Facebook. Today, Zoosk has a popular destination side in addition for the most popular dating application on Facebook plus native applications on iPhone and Android mobile platforms. Zoosk is a social network, as opposed to the “bulletin board” format of competing dating services such as Match.com or eHarmony. Because it is a social network, Zoosk feels more natural for singles and has less stigma attached to it. In 2009, the company benefited from $30 million of Series D funding from investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Canaan Partners and ATA Ventures. By 2011, Zoosk was making $90 million in annual sales. More than 50 million people have registered with the service as of 2012. The company has subscribers in over 70 countries and is available in 25 languages. As the company grows, Zadeh and Mehr are working on making Zoosk attractive to users even after they’ve found their dream match. That way the company doesn’t lose users because of its success at matchmaking. Couple profiles feature set was developed for this purpose and went live in 2012.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Tony (September 23, 2011). Shayan Zadeh & Alex Mehr – Zoosk 1 of 2. Founder LY. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Colleen Debaise And Scott Austin (March 10, 2011). The Top 50 Venture-Backed Companies. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Stuart Anderson (January 15, 2012). Zoosk: An "Only inAmerica" Immigrant Success Story. Forbes. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Shayan Zadeh. Shayan Zadeh. AngelList. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ Shayan G. Zadeh (August 16, 2012). Zoosk participates in the sf.citi internship program. Shayan G. Zadeh. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ Bruce V. Bigelow (December 21, 2011). Immigrants Fill Top Ranks of Venture-Backed Tech Startups. xconomy. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Ari Levy (February 8, 2012). Zoosk, the Web's Perpetual Love Machine. Business Week. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 CrunchBase (September 3, 2011). Shayan Zadeh. CrunchBase. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 the JobsBloggers (July 1, 2011). What Microsoft taught Zoosk.com founder about entrepreneurship. the JobsBloggers. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ UW Business (Fall 2006). News And Notes. UW Business. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ Shayan G. Zadeh (April 20, 2008). Green Card Bliss. Shayan G. Zadeh. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ Eric Savitz (May 14, 2012). Doing A Startup? Get Ready To Screw Up And Start Over. Forbes. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ Mark Brooks (June 19, 2009). Shayan Zadeh And Alex Mehr, Zoosk Co-founders. Online Personals Watch. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ Nick O'Neill (February 16, 2009). Interview With Shayan Zadeh, CEO of Zoosk. AllFacebook. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Heath Hooker (March 20, 2012). Zoosk integrates gamification into its online dating community (interview). Venture Beat. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Jason Kincaid (December 3, 2009). Zoosk Lands Another $30 Million For Social Dating. The Washington Post. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- ↑ Mike Minotti (April 2, 2012). Romantic social network Zoosk encourages lovebirds to stick around with Couple Profiles. Venture Beat. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
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