May 1999—Spark Notes immediately win over students. This demand pushes the founders to seek their first non-freelance employee to oversee the expansion of Spark Notes.

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Realizing that they already know each other from Kirkland House at Harvard (Max and Sam lived downstairs), Sam offers Justin the job without a formal interview or face-to-face meeting of any kind.

June - August 1999—Max, Sam, Chris, and Justin meet together for the first time June 5, 1999 at the house the founders are renting in Allston, Massachusetts.

Though they're sharing the house with four other roommates, the place becomes The Spark/Spark Notes' first office.

Later that night, Chris generates a list of possible URLs for the venture. All that was missing was a name, which came easily: Spark Notes.

Many are already reserved, including Spark.com, so he settles on The Spark.com, an homage to the "Spark" that his software would provide for dating relationships everywhere. Max, Sam, and Chris hire friends to write the first few Spark Notes.

top of page January 1999—The launches on January 7, 1999 with the slogan, "Internet Like Burning." The site features the "Spark Journal" and an early version of the matchmaking software, later called "Pimpin' Cupid." March 1999—Pimpin' Cupid begins to generate a buzz and a sizeable following. On April 7, Spark Notes launch with six titles: Julius Caesar, A Doll's House, Iliad, Macbeth, The Scarlet Letter, and A Tale of Two Cities.

Chris realizes he needs more programming power to expand the site's features. He finds a solution to each problem in his friends and freshman-year entrywaymates Sam and Max. The launch also highlights the company's first tagline: "Academic Solutions for Your Demographic." Chris's high school friend Mike serves as our mascot.

November 1998—Chris spends Thanksgiving weekend at home in South Portland, Maine with his friend and Harvard College roommate, Eli.

The two discuss the rising Internet frenzy—Ebay had gone public weeks before—and resolve to generate an idea for a web business during the Thanksgiving break. April 1999—Recognizing that The Spark's user base was made up mostly of high school and college students, the founders brainstorm ideas for an academic resource that would entice students to return to the site frequently.

Chris had already been mulling over an idea for a web-based dating service. Max suggests an online version of literature study guides.

The software he envisioned would anonymously pair up people with possible dates they identified by email address and then notify both if a match occurred. Other study guides now faced the bricks and mortar-filled dustbin of history.