A couple of weeks ago we told you about True.com, and how True.com’s CEO, Herb Vest, was lobbying to require online dating services which don’t perform criminal background checks to disclose that fact. Vest’s True.com, of course, does perform criminal background checks, along with marital status background checks, and may be one of the only online dating services in the United States to perform such checks.
In that article we pondered “How much business do you think that Herb Vestâ€™s True.com would gain being the only service which could say â€œWe perform criminal background checks on all of our users”?”, and to our astonishment and delight, none other than Mr. Herb Vest himself showed up and responded to the article.
Holy Kibo, Batman!
Quick to recognize an opportunity when we see one, we seized the day, or at least the email address, and invited Mr. Vest to take part in a one-on-one interview, to which he most graciously agreed.
Here now, follows that interview:
The Internet Patrol (TIP): Hello, Herb, thank you for agreeing to this interview!
Herb Vest, CEO of True.com: Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your interview questions.
TIP: Here are some things about which Aunty Spam and her readers are curious:
First, what led you to start True.com?
Herb Vest: As we keep hearing over and over again, the divorce rate among married couples is too high and continues to rise. The result of a high divorce rate is tapping into the family nucleus and has tragic global implications. I started True.com because I know we can do something to lower the divorce rate and provide a safe and wholesome environment for courtship that is based on the science of compatibility.
TIP: Why another online dating service, now, with the plethora of online dating services such as Match, eHarmony, and the like? What makes True.com different?
Herb Vest: True.com has many differentiators. First, increasing the safety of our users is a top priority, which is why we run criminal background screenings and marriage screenings on every communicating member. Convicted felons and married men and women need not apply to use our site.
Second, many other competitors tout tests that seek to measure compatibility between couples with no scientific basis. Unfortunately for singles, these companies often make unsubstantiated representations about the scientific accuracy and success of these tests. Any test is only as reliable as the science behind it. Moreover, any test that has not been independently verified in terms of methodology, findings, algorithms and conclusions, has questionable validity at best. Reputable researchers seek to publish the results of their studies for comment by other professionals, and to stimulate further inquiry in their field.
As an entrepreneur and CEO of True.com, my vision is to drastically reduce the divorce rate. In my view, this can only be accomplished by rigorous adherence to established professional standards of psychological research. Our dedication to advancing the science of compatibility is evidenced by our adherence to sound, scientific research methodology:
1. The True Compatibility Test is based on Item Response Theory, or IRT, the latest in test development methodology. In my opinion, any test not based on IRT can not be said to be valid by modern standards.
2. The True Compatibility Test is the only relationship test to be independently verified to meet the 1999 Standards for Psychological and Educational Testing as established by a joint committee of the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.
3. True is the only online dating site to publish its 119-page technical manual on its site.
The research, upon which the True Compatibility Test is based, has been presented for professional publication. Plus, pioneers in the field including Psychology Today, have endorsed the test. True remains committed to advancing the science of compatibility by stimulating further research.
TIP: Even though you’ve just recently been in the news a lot, the site itself has actually been around for several years, right? What were you guys doing before you launched the current incarnation of True.com?
Herb Vest: True.com has been around a little over a year and a half. Before the launch of True.com, I was the founder and CEO of a financial services company, H.D. Vest. Our firm revolutionized the accounting industry by changing the way Americans invest, and True.com is revolutionizing the relationship world by changing the way people find love online through scientific compatibility in a safer environment.
TIP: One of the things which differentiates True.com from other online dating sites is the manner in which you screen your prospective clients. You do a criminal background check, and also check public records to determine whether they are married. What led you to do this, and why? And are you really the only dating site which does either of these background checks?
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Herb Vest: It seems everyday you pick up the paper and you read about another senseless murder by convicted felons who use the internet to prey on innocent people. I, unfortunately, have personal experience with the tragic loss of a loved one as my own father was murdered. I do not wish that kind of pain on any person or any family. I know that criminal background screening isn’t perfect, but if we can prevent just ONE person from being harmed at the hands of a convicted felon, then our policy is worth it. All firms engaged in the pairing of two individuals for the purpose of finding love and compatibility should be doing everything they possibly can to protect the safety of their customers. They can do that by running criminal background screenings or at least prominently disclosing to users they do not run these types of screenings.
With respect to the marriage screenings, we screen out five percent of registrants per month because they fail the marriage screening. When you put your profile online, you have a duty to be truthful in advertising yourself to other users. Those who hold themselves out as not being married when they are should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
We have recently heard of other online relationship companies that have followed our lead to begin running criminal background screenings. We are glad to see this positive development and will continue to push others in our industry to similarly increase the safety of their members. To our knowledge, True.com is the only leading relationship firm that runs both criminal background screenings and marriage screening.
TIP: You’ve been in the news recently for lobbying to have laws passed which would require online dating sites to make it clear if they do not perform these background checks. While the value for the prospective customer is clear, a case can also be made that this is as much a move to knock out the competition – after all, if an online dating site is required to state “we don’t do criminal background checks”, how can they hope to compete against the one site which does? Isn’t this a bit like the tail wagging the dog? And shouldn’t the market prevail for you in this case, rather than taking it to the legislature? Will the cost to implement such a background checking system in order to be able to stay in competition with you force other online dating services out of business, or cause them to lose customers if they have to provide a disclaimer if they don’t do such checks?
Herb Vest: The most important duty of government is to protect its citizens. One way government can protect the health and safety of its citizens is requiring companies to disclose limitations in their product or service. Government required disclosure is a common practice. From the tobacco industry to the food and drug industry, disclosure is a proven and effective method of communicating with consumers, particularly when health and safety is concerned.
In a time when people are meeting online and then meeting in person, our industry should be doing everything it can to increase the safety of our customers. Most importantly, our customers believe we are taking steps to ensure their safety. In a recent survey, ONE IN THREE online daters assumed that companies were ALREADY running criminal background screenings. I am willing to give up True’s primary differentiator in an attempt to save lives. That is why the Safer Online Dating Alliance (SODA) and I are pursuing legislation that will provide full disclosure to online dating customers and provide a wholesome and safer environment for courtship.
TIP: You are an incredibly well-accomplished businessman, holding several advanced degrees – including a J.D. and a doctorate in International Business Administration. You’ve done academic work at Harvard Law School, Princeton, and Wharton, led a NASDAQ-traded company to merger with Wells Fargo, and have been named one of the “100 Most Influential People in Accounting” by Accounting Today. What led you into the world of online dating as a business venture?
Herb Vest: I am impressed by the background check you have done on me! The world is comprised of two main components: money and love. I tackled the money side when I founded H.D. Vest. Now I am going to tackle the love side. I am an entrepreneur at heart and believe that True.com can make a contribution to mankind by lowering the divorce rate and addressing compatibility through science.
TIP: I note that you have on your advisory board Dr. Monica Moore, whose expertise is “in-person flirting”. I have some expertise in that – how does one turn that into a professional career?
Herb Vest: Before I met my beautiful wife, Kerensa, I too, considered myself an expert in “in-person flirting!” But really, I’m proud to be in the company of some of the most respected academics in the field of relationship psychology. Dr. Moore earned a Ph.D in experimental psychology from the University of Missouri, Columbia. There have been dozens of papers on the topic of flirting published to Monica’s credit. True.com’s advisory board includes a team of leaders in their respective fields.
TIP: Herb, thank you so very much for joining Aunty today, and answering our questions.
Herb Vest: Thank you
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