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EHarmony looks beyond love with new service among L.A. tech highlights

Elevated Careers
Job-hunting service Elevated Careers is eHarmony’s first crack at helping people find some other than love.
(eHarmony)

For EHarmony, matchmaking is no longer only about love.

After 15 years in the romance business, EHarmony is now trying to match people to jobs, based on skills, values and personality. The new Elevated Careers website launched at an event last week at EHarmony’s Westwood headquarters, with the goal of doubling the average employee's tenure at one spot to nearly 10 years

Dan Erickson, who’s leading the effort, said Elevated Careers kickstarts a potential second act for EHarmony. His company could one day facilitate relationships of all kinds -- say, those between patients and medical providers.

“Nothing’s more important to EHarmony than relationships,” Erickson said.

Privately-held EHarmony doesn’t disclose financial details. In the early 2000s, Silicon Valley investors Sequoia Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures got the company going with more than $100 million, but EHarmony declined to name current shareholders. It considered going public several years ago until it experienced slowing user sign-ups and executive turnover.

Now, the $4-billion online dating industry is being squeezed by upstarts like Tinder, OkCupid and other apps in the Match.com group, which went public last year. Erickson said EHarmony is “healthy” following layoffs and restructuring. But entering the jobs market -- an industry 20 times larger than the dating market -- could quickly redefine the company’s prospects.

“It’s important to not rest on your laurels,” Erickson said.

He first pitched EHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren about a jobs service in 2008 when both of them were living in Maine. Warren stuffed Erickson’s presentation in his briefcase and didn’t take a second look until he took over as chief executive in 2012. He called Erickson, giving him a week to decide if he wanted to develop EHarmony for jobs.

It was an easy decision for Erickson, who hadn't taken the idea elsewhere because he considered EHarmony best suited for it. Nine of EHarmony’s 220 employees now work exclusively on Elevated Careers.

Getting people into the right jobs could boost the company's romantic success rate, too. Warren, who tells his grandchildren to find a steady job before even thinking about marriage, said the estimated 4% divorce rate among the more than 2 million EHarmony marriages could be reduced by addressing couples’ dysfunctional work situations.

Job seekers can use Elevated Careers for free, beginning by submitting their resume and answering questions about their current and ideal workplaces.

The surveys yield not only a personalized list of open jobs, but also a scorecard that shows how much users enjoy their current job. The system finds matches by referencing the aggregate score of everyone at a candidate-seeking company.

Companies can purchase a report based off the surveys or pay a recurring fee to list openings. The subscription could run around $1,000 annually for a 25-employee firm. Early users include AT&T, HomeAway and American Airlines.

Elevated Careers will test how much credibility the company has built up after “well over $1 billion” in advertising throughout the years, Warren said.

“If we can extend our brand pull to a much larger business, we think we’ll be in a much better position,” Warren said.

Limzer Lagrimas, center, teaches a hip hop dance class to fellow Edmunds.com employees during the company's
Limzer Lagrimas, center, teaches a hip hop dance class to fellow Edmunds.com employees during the company's "Summer Camp" in July 2015. (Christina House / For The Times)

Second acts abound

EHarmony is among a handful of large Los Angeles tech companies that survived the downturn in the economy after 2001 without merging or being acquired. It and the others, including United Online, Edmunds and Boingo Wireless, have also spent the past couple of years turning to new offices, new policies or new products to stave off decline as competition heightens for consumers and t

The results have been mixed, though.

Edmunds, the car-buying online resource, said last year it's been better able to attract and retain employees because of initiatives to replace boring performance reviews with fun training. Last year at the firm's Santa Monica headquarters, employees who were experts in skills such as skateboarding or dancing spent a week teaching colleagues their talents. It was part of an initiative the firm called "summer camp," complete with inflatable fire logs and beachballs.

Chief Executive Avi Steinlauf called the experience "electric" and an opportunity for employees to grow professionally and personally.

A year ago, Boingo moved to new space in Westwood, shrinking the CEO suite by two-thirds but introducing walls employees can write on and more meeting spaces. The changes made it easier to show prospective hires that the company was hip, executives said.

But things haven't gone so well for United Online, which after receiving a private-equity buyout offer last fall began exploring "strategic" options for its slate of businesses. Last week, the Woodland Hills company sold social media website StayFriends to a German media company for about $18 million.

That leaves United Online holding Internet service providers NetZero and Juno, a budding effort to launch a cellphone service and shopping apps including MyPoints.

Francis Lobo, a former AOL executive who had sought to revive the company as CEO, resigned last fall. Lobo, who found it ridiculous that he could go from his car to his office without ever seeing another employee, quickly moved the company across a parking lot to a new building. He pushed three floors of employees into half a floor.

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this article said Francis Lobo was ousted as chief executive of United Online. He resigned. 

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He changed the way workers planned projects, so that technical updates would be accessible to users sooner. In came sporadic hackathons, another way to encourage collaboration. Out went meetings with no purpose. As the efforts came together, Lobo expressed hope for some new online shopping apps.

But his struggles to win over investors and users offer a cautionary tale about the difficulties faced by old-line tech companies, which must wisely use their slimming coffers to invest in and successfully foster new brands.

Tinder acquisition teases next feature

Tinder, another Los Angeles dating company, has acquired Humin, a friends and contacts management service that had briefly grabbed a spotlight in Silicon Valley.

Tinder said Humin, whose apps sync contacts across services and make it easy to chat with nearby strangers, would form the basis of new products, without providing details. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Humin co-founders Ankur Jain and David Wyler have taken vice president roles at Tinder, based in West Hollywood.

“It became abundantly clear that we were both fighting for the same thing,” Jain said in a statement. “We wanted to use technology to get people off their phones and building relationships in the real world."

The look and simplicity of Humin's app had attracted the Silicon Valley community as early users, but it wasn't clear how the app would spread or generate significant revenue.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, Honest Co. founder Jessica Alba, L.A. first lady Amy Wakeland and Honest President Sean Kane at the ribbon-cutting for the company's new headquarters in Playa Vista.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, Honest Co. founder Jessica Alba, L.A. first lady Amy Wakeland and Honest President Sean Kane at the ribbon-cutting for the company's new headquarters in Playa Vista. (Rich Polk / Getty Images)

Honest moves into new digs

The Honest Co. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week for its new headquarters in Playa Vista, where Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke alongside Honest co-founders Jessica Alba and Sean Kane.

The home care products brand, which has recently been the subject of controversy over its ingredients, joins a growing list of tech companies in Playa Vista. Others include Facebook, YouTube and Fullscreen.

The new 80,000-square-foot office, designed by the firm Consort, is nearly three times bigger and has double the amount of desks than the company’s former headquarters in Santa Monica. The space is split across three floors, connected by a staircase. It’s topped by a large rooftop patio.

Founded in 2011, Honest has amassed more than $220 million in funding and a valuation of $1.7 billion. It’s rumored to be seeking an IPO this year.

Elsewhere on the Web

Investment firm 500 Startups is launching a Distro Dojo program in downtown Los Angeles to speed up the growth of companies that already generate about $100,000 in monthly revenue, according to Techcrunch.

Venice virtual reality production company WEVR has begun funding short films as part of a $1-million commitment, according to KPCC.

Video advertising start-up Strike Social moved its headquarters to Chicago from Los Angeles, according to the Chicago Tribune, which says the company “helps brands including Disney and Bud Light analyze viewers and predict what could be the next 'Gangnam Style.'"

Sports and entertainment-related tech start-ups have until June 10 to apply for the Dodgers’ start-up mentorship program’s second run, according to L.A. Biz.

Co-living start-up Podshare has a space for “social travelers and mobile workers” in Los Angeles where sex isn’t allowed, according to news.com.au.

Juicero, a Silicon Valley company behind a $700 juicer, has a warehouse in L.A. where workers chop produce into special pouches that the juicer squeezes, according to the New York Times.

Roli, a start-up that’s used spongy silicon to develop more sensitive musical keyboard, has offices in Los Angeles, according to City A.M.

In case you missed it

Snapchat's website now has a "Download My Data" tool, which the company says gives users a digital folder containing "most" of the information it stores about them.

On-demand delivery start-up Postmates is launching a subscription service intended to reward — and retain — its most frequent users.

SoundCloud is entering a crowded space led by Spotify, Apple and other tech companies that have developed a stable of users by offering virtually unlimited music access for a monthly fee.

Fullscreen, one of YouTube's biggest video networks, will finally unveil its subscription-based service next month.

When it comes to advertising, young audiences may not be all that jaded, according to a new survey.

paresh.dave@latimes.com

Twitter: @peard33

Times staff writer David Pierson contributed to this article.


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