Any other business

Hire people bigger than you to become a company of giants

9 min read

02 August 2012

Match.com pioneered the online dating world, but match's MD Karl Gregory didn't let the company rest on its laurels.

Name:

Karl Gregory

Role and company:

Managing Director of match UK and Ireland. match is the company behind the UK’s best-known dating and relationship sites, match.com, matchaffinity.com and DatingDirect.com.

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

match operates under InterActiveCorp (IAC) in the US, which recently reported revenues for Q2 2012. IAC had a record-setting quarter, reporting double digit growth for the 10th consecutive quarter. For match globally, revenue increased 12 per cent to $109.5m driven by a ten per cent increase in subscribers.

Employee numbers:

We’re part of a 400+ strong team across Europe.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

The online dating industry is one of the most competitive sectors there is, but the category just keeps on growing. match.com was the first dating website and pioneer of the industry and today is responsible for more relationships and more marriages in the UK than any other dating site. 

What’s the big vision for your business?

Ultimately, we want to become the most popular way to meet a partner in Britain. Our service is constantly evolving and improving as we learn more about our members and what they’re looking for. Through innovating the product and the members’s experience, we’ll continue to give our members the best opportunity to connect with a variety of individuals that they may not necessarily meet in their everyday life.

We are constantly investing in our powerful proprietary algorithm which takes into account what our members say they’re looking for, as well as a host of other factors. We know for example that there is often a difference between what people say they’re looking for in a partner and the members they might actually interact with. By learning from people’s behaviour on the site, we’re able to show them a wider variety of matches. Eventually, what you do becomes as important as what you say.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

Today, match.com operates online dating sites in 25 countries, in eight different languages spanning five continents.

In the UK, one in five relationships now starts online – which is a huge figure when you consider that the category didn’t even exist ten years ago. The way we communicate and the way we search for a partner has evolved with modern times. We write emails not letters, we bank online and share what we’ve had for lunch with our friends on Facebook. Online dating is a natural extension of this.

In the future, we expect the growth to continue, as internet adoption continues to increase and new singles of all ages come online. We are opening up more and more routes to help people meet and date, such as mobile applications which give people the ability to be able to browse and communicate with potential partners in their own time, wherever they want.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

Not securing enough funding during the height of the crash in 2007/08 for a British business venture which had significant scope & opportunity. I learnt a lot from this tough experience – positive resilience. I bounced back and feel stronger for it.

What makes you mad in business today?

The overuse of “buzzwords” is usually what drives me mad! “Customer engagement” is one I particularly dislike as it’s often used to hide poor marketing ideas. There are so many more – ‘leverage’ I dislike because it sounds so pretentious, and ‘unique’ because it rarely is!

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Most people now ‘get’ online dating – it’s the third most popular way to meet a partner in the UK, and it’s even been added to the basket of goods and services used to track inflation. So now we’re switching our attention to the remaining people who still haven’t tried it – to do that we want to show them that real people like them are already doing it, and demonstrate how match.com helps along every step of the way to a great date.

Every few months a new online dating start-up pops up and advertises aggressively. There are always new entrants to the market – many who just come and go – but we’ve been around for almost ten years, are the leaders in the industry, and we continue to innovate through our algorithms and by providing the best online dating service to our customers. We’ve never been content to rest on our laurels.

We know that creating an open dialogue with our members builds trust. We have a compelling proposition which ensures that our customers are clear about what we stand for. Through projects such as our annual LoveGeist report, we continually temperature check the dating and relationship landscape in Britain so we can offer real insights to help people find their matches.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Internet dating has matured into a robust business. At match, the majority of revenue comes from subscriptions, which is a highly sustainable model. For businesses in other sectors that are looking to grow and emulate match’s success, VC funding is improving, but I still don’t believe that technology start-ups in the UK receive the same level of “risk capital” as their US counter parts.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I have always lived by David Ogilvy’s mantra, “hire people who are bigger than you are, and we shall become a company of giants”. Once you have built a team of giants, it’s important that you continue to empower them to deliver results. We are a close-knit team at match UK and every single person in the team has played a key role in the organisation’s success.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

I’m not a very extravagant person. It was probably supporting my wife in her quest to becoming a Bikram yoga instructor last year, which involved her taking a three month training programme in LA.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

I’d encourage him to consider mentoring programmes that help start-ups flourish. A bold move would be to incentivise entrepreneurs with a tax break on their income or investment. 

I’ve been involved with Tech City as a mentor, a scheme run by Tech City Investment Organisation to help UK start-ups. Once a month a team of different mentors meet up with local budding entrepreneurs to offer them advice, guidance and support on their ventures. 

There is a lot that individuals and business alike can learn from programmes like these and it is really essential that our entrepreneurs are nurtured and given the best possible support and guidance so that they can prosper and ultimately positively contribute to the UK economy.