Executives at eHarmony know their system works. After all, more than 43,000 marriages in the United States last year were between people who met through the online matchmaker.

But will eHarmony's magic work overseas?

The Pasadena company is making a big bet that it will. It has started introducing its questionnaire-intensive system to Western countries recently, and soon it will take its biggest cross-cultural test ever: It will try its luck in China.

EHarmony has been bolstered by a Beijing University study that shows its matching technology can be successfully adapted there.

"We found the models to be highly effective in that we can predict successful marriages in China," said Galen Buckwalter, who leads a team of six Ph.D. psychology researchers at eHarmony.

A panel of psychologists, through focus groups in China, validated the translations of questionnaires and found that cultural differences matter little when it comes to measuring personality types and values.

If eHarmony seems confident, it has some rationale. It recently reported a 25 percent increase in registered users over the past year. A significant portion of them are subscribers who pay $59 each month or $250 annually for its services. In all, 20 million people have used eHarmony over its eight-year life.

Besides moving overseas, the company is strengthening its investment in research. "Marriage lab" scientists working long hours in the basement of its Pasadena headquarters have begun researching what executives said will be 400 couples over a five-year period. The goal of the project is a better understanding of the mystery of compatibility, which will make for improved matchmaking science.

The company, which spun out of a marriage therapy practice in 2000, already enjoys a high level of brand awareness, thanks to a five-year television ad campaign featuring its figurehead, Neil Clark Warren. Company executives said its best marketing tools are its results: an average of 118 eHarmony marriages every day, according to findings in an independent poll conducted by Harris Interactive. Wedding guests often visit the site after finding out the couple met through eHarmony.

"The people who get married have a huge sense of attribution to eHarmony," said Chief Executive Gregory Waldorf. "If you meet someone at a bar, you're not going to, for the rest of your life, thank the owner of that bar. At eHarmony, people definitely have that sense, since we were the ones who suggested the match."

The company, which has 232 employees, has completed research and launched the site in other English-speaking countries first Canada, a year ago, then Australia in February. The United Kingdom will get its own version of eHarmony in June and other European countries will follow.


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