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Building a $50M Profitable Social Network Focused on Discovery: Greg Tseng, CEO of Tagged (Part 1)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 3rd 2012

Greg Tseng is the founder and CEO of Tagged, a social network site focused on helping people meet other people. Prior he co-founded Avivon Inc., which introduced the textbook comparison-shopping agent to the Harvard campus during the fall semester of 1999, and he served as COO of LLC. Greg holds an A.B. in chemistry, physics and mathematics from Harvard University. Greg is presently on leave from Stanford University, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in physics on a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Sramana: Greg, let’s get started by reviewing your background. Where are you from? What are the roots of your entrepreneurial journey?

Greg Tseng: I was born in Taiwan, but my parents immigrated to the U.S. when I was two and a half years old. I grew up in northern Virginia in a suburb of Washington, D.C. I grew up in an Asian household, so my parents really emphasized academics, especially math and science. Throughout high school I was in all the math and science clubs and contests. I met my co-founder in seventh grade in science class. We would do science fair competitions together.

We both graduated in 1997 and went to Harvard together. We were at Harvard during the dot-com boom. We became interested in entrepreneurship, and in 1999 we started our first business together when we launched a little site called It was a comparison shopping engine for Harvard text books. The Harvard bookstore has the nickname “the coop,” and it had really high textbook prices. Our motto was to “fly the coop.”

We had another site that we launched our senior year called CrushLink. It was a site where you could make a list of everyone who has a crush on you, and they would get an email telling them that someone had a crush on them. They could come and make their own crush list, and if two people had each other on their crush lists, then the site would tell them both that they had each other on their lists. It was a way of uncovering secret crushes.

Sramana: Did it work?

Greg Tseng: Absolutely! It was also a natural viral marketing site. Being math and physics students we optimized the virality of the site. Between 2000 and 2002 we registered 10 million users just through viral marketing. We uncovered 2 million matches.

Sramana: Was there a business model behind the site?

Greg Tseng: If you made your list but did not have any matches, we would give you a few hints. The first couple of hints were free; after, that you had to complete advertising offers to get more hints. This was back when there was cost per advertising.

Sramana: What about those who had matches? Did you charge them for the matches?

Greg Tseng: No, everything was free. We made money only when people completed advertising offers.

Sramana: What happened with that business?

Greg Tseng: That business was a nice little cash business. It was not sustainable because people used the site once or twice. However, we used the money that we made, about $2 million in revenue, for our next adventure. We graduated in 2001 and moved out to Silicon Valley to start our PhD programs in physics at Stanford as well as to do another startup. We used the money from CrushLink as seed capital for an incubator for Jumpstart Technologies.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building a $50M Profitable Social Network Focused on Discovery: Greg Tseng, CEO of Tagged
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