EHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren left retirement four years ago to bring the struggling dating website back to relevance.
The Los Angeles company announced Tuesday that Warren, 81, will step down as chief executive and return to retirement, though he’s likely to remain the board of directors’ chairman. Grant Langston, vice president of brand marketing, assumed the CEO role Monday.
Langston, who got the promotion offer a week ago from EHarmony’s three board members, said his focus will be on improving the company’s website and app. Newer dating services such as Tinder, Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel have attracted millions of young users with simpler interfaces, connection to Facebook and other modern features. It’s time for EHarmony to catch up, Langston said.
“The product hasn’t gotten the attention it needs,” said Langston, 50, who started as a writer at the company during its founding in 2000. “We want to match you on things below the surface, so we’re always going to be more involved than other dating services, but we’ve got to do that in a simpler way with a seamless mobile experience.”
Leading the effort is Ken Walker, a former executive at job search start-up ZipRecruiter who was named chief product officer last month. The deadline, Langston said, is “ASAP.”
“There has to be significant changes,” he said.
The product went neglected as Warren prioritized turning around other facets, Langston noted. For example, EHarmony’s TV ads had become less effective in driving user sign-ups partially because they ran the same commercials all year long. The marketing effort has become more nimble, and social media advertising has take on a bigger role.
Langston, who led the social media team for a time as he rose in the ranks, acknowledged he may be the first person with that experience to become CEO of a company as large as EHarmony, which has over 200 employees.
He doesn’t expect other executives who may have been skipped over for the CEO position to depart, but he’s sure that there will be personnel changes.
What won’t change is the company’s nascent push into assisting people with job searches or its longtime positioning as the dating site that helps people find what he called “a real relationship and real love.”
Warren in a statement described Langston as “a guiding influence for the company.” But Warren wasn’t immediately available to elaborate on his decision to leave.
Though the change was news to Langston when the board sprung the offer on him last week, he said it was clear the switch had been in the works for a while. Langston said he quickly provided the board a few product ideas. Then, he headed to the bathroom to tell his wife by phone that he guessed the CEO job was about to come to him.
When he returned, that’s just what happened.
“I was floored,” he said.