- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Sam Yagan was born in the United States after his parents immigrated from Syria.
- Yagan cofounded SparkNotes and OKCupid, was the previous CEO of Match.com, and is the current CEO of ShopRunner, a shopping service and Amazon Prime competitor.
- “I think that immigration is the ultimate entrepreneurship, in many ways,” Yagan said.
Before graduating from Harvard University, Yagan and his friends started SparkNotes, a study-guide website. Later, Yagan cofounded OKCupid and became the CEO of Match.com. Now, Yagan is the CEO of ShopRunner, a shopping service competing with Amazon Prime.
Born in the United States and growing up in Illinois, Yagan described his young self as “super nerdy” on an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It.” He said his parents made huge efforts to “Americanize” Yagan the best they could after immigrating from Syria.
While attending Harvard University, Yagan met his future business partners and cofounders, but he said he ultimately got a great education in entrepreneurship from his parents. “I think that immigration is the ultimate entrepreneurship, in many ways,” Yagan said.
Yagan said entrepreneurs give up a sense of certainty, like a job, income, a career, or money, for a speculative long-term goal that they think will be successful but realistically don’t know what the outcome will be.
“And that idea of being super, super comfortable with uncertainty, being super comfortable with the unknown, this idea that, just never give up, this relentlessness, were all attributes that I realize my parents have been imbuing in me, had been teaching me or demonstrating not to be an entrepreneur, but just because that’s how they lived,” said Yagan.
Yagan said he realized how lucky he was when the Syrian war broke out. Virtually his entire family remained in Syria until the war and most became displaced after it began.
“‘The things they think about when they wake up in the morning and the things I think about when I wake up in the morning, I’ve got Champagne problems,'” he said. “It’s, like, when I was at Match, or now at ShopRunner, it’s, like, ‘Oh, how do we compete with Amazon Prime on this? How do we build this product?’ I’m, like, ‘That’s a great problem to be thinking about.’ Because I’m not thinking about survival.”