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Avoiding the (Dating) Catch 22

12/11/2012 --

Ruchi Talati, BBA '05, plays matchmaker for young professionals and graduate students.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ever since her undergraduate years, Ruchi Talati, BBA '05, knew she wanted to start her own business. She just needed some inspiration.

Talati found it as a graduate student at Chicago Booth who struggled with the big-city dating scene. "I had such a great experience at Ross, I expected the same at Booth. But I just wasn't meeting people," she says. Talati dabbled in online dating but didn't have success finding the caliber of partner she wanted. "I was discouraged and thought, 'I can do this better.'"

That's when inspiration struck, and she started Catch22Dating — a website for educated, successful, busy, young professionals and graduate students to meet people. The idea sprung from the proverbial catch 22 she saw and had experienced herself. "I would encounter people who were successful, ambitious, and really going places, yet they were finding it difficult to meet people. In my mind, these were highly eligible, interesting singles."

Catch22 differs from other online dating sites by their exclusivity and the feel of a school-like community. To join Catch22, your application must be approved after your background and education are verified through multiple resources, such as transcripts and the National Student Clearinghouse. The site is limited to people 22 or older who graduated from the top 50 undergraduate programs (both domestic and international) and students/graduates of the top 25 graduate programs in their respective fields of study. "We want Catch22 to feel like a community people can trust," says Talati.

Finding the right team was easy. Talati brought in her friend, and fellow Booth graduate, Jennifer Parkes, to help run the site. Parkes was eager to help create something new and offered a welcome different perspective, coming from a finance and economics background. Having struggled with the dating scene herself, Parkes embraced the idea of Catch22 bringing people together who otherwise never would have met. Sharing a common vision, the two decide the strategy, marketing, and direction of Catch22.

"My biggest piece of advice for starting a company or website is putting the right team in place," says Talati. "There's a quote from one of my Ross entrepreneurship professors that I will never forget: I would rather have an A team and a B product than vice versa."

The partnership harks back to another valuable lesson Talati learned at Michigan Ross — the importance of drawing in different perspectives in preparation for the site’s launch. "What I experienced at Ross was that everybody had something to offer and a willingness to share. You were able to learn from each other's experiences. When starting Catch22, we tried to engage all sorts of experts to offer their insights in terms of how do we get this website started, how they would approach it, what's their perspective, etc."

Such insights continue to play a major role as the site moves forward. Since Catch22Dating's launch in October 2011, Talati and Parkes have solicited large amounts of feedback, which helps drive their strategy. "My training at Ross taught me data-driven marketing approaches and techniques, and the rigor they require. Everything we do, we like to be able to separate by fact; we don't just make arbitrary marketing decisions.

"The feedback we get through our customers is one of the most rewarding things — the emails, the reactions, people really appreciating the site and what we are trying to do. If we can make people's dating lives just a little bit easier, and if they can find somebody, that's all the better," says Talati. Such an approach also provides a calculated measure for trying new things.

"One thing I really appreciated about Ross was that they were always trying to push us to be thought leaders," says Talati. "So that's what we try to do at Catch22."

— Melissa Syapin

For more information, contact:
Melissa Syapin, 734-936-2150,