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Dating Platform Zoosk Ditches IPO Plan As Founders Exit Leadership Roles

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Zoosk, the online dating platform that has been around since 2007, has today announced changes to leadership, with CFO Kelly Steckelberg taking over as CEO. She will be replacing co-founder Shayan Zadeh, who is becoming a member of the board, and his co-founder Alex Mehr (currently president) will also be moving into a board position.

The shift comes at a time when Zoosk is reassessing the idea of an IPO, a process the company officially started back in April. The company filed an S-1 for a $100 million IPO, but has since decided to revisit that option at a later date.

“Since the time we filed, the market condition around comparables that would be used to help value our company, like Angie’s List and Care.com, have not performed well,” said Steckelberg. “While the overall market might seem receptive to a public offering, subscription businesses have suffered.”

Co-founder and exiting CEO Shayan Zadeh echoed her sentiment, telling TechCrunch that the way that consumer subscription businesses are fairing in the market “is a big part of when and how we are going to do the IPO.”

Though the leadership changes come at the same time as the decision to refrain from a public offering, Zadeh, Mehr and Steckelberg explained that the timing is coincidental.

Steckelberg makes perfect sense as a replacement for Zadeh at the helm. She has experience building internet subscription businesses serving as controller and chief accounting officer at WebEx, joining Cisco as part of an acquisition and later serving as divisional CFO in Cisco’s WebEx consumer segment. Before that, she held executive positions with Epiphany and finance positions at PeopleSoft.

She’s been working at Zoosk in a financial capacity since 2011 and has served as both COO and CFO.

But why change at all?

“Since day one of the company, we’ve been making product decisions over long periods of time,” said Alex Mehr, co-founder and exiting president. “It created more of a top-down approach to design, where people were focused on decisions that Shayan and I were making. Kelly’s approach is more collaborative. She wants to listen to many more voices in the company when it comes to product decisions.”

At a time when the online dating space is truly smoking hot, the change may be a crucial one. Zoosk launched back in 2007 and has had to evolve as services like Tinder, Hinge, etc. have taken the mobile space by storm.

Features like Photo Verification have gone a long way in ensuring Zoosk keeps up with user demands, but it takes more than that to create a profitable business. Zoosk’s S-1 revealed that the company was operating with losses during 2013, though still showing impressive revenue growth from 2012 to 2013.

Steckelberg assured me that the company is fully self-sustainable and that going into 2015, “Zoosk will be in a situation when cash-flow and current cash balance are going to be enough to carry this company forward.”