It is a truth universally acknowledged about dating in Silicon Valley that for single women in possession of reasonable fortune, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd”.
According to the Pew Research Center, the area around San Jose and Silicon Valley is top in the nation for the ratio of single men to single women. Most of those single men work in tech.
For Amy Andersen, who runs the Silicon Valley-based matchmaking service Linx, that phrase rings very true.
Andersen’s company – tagline “no algorithms, no arrows, no apps: just intuition” – aims to return to a more chivalrous time. She is a matchmaker of the old school; her clients, even in the age of Tinder, are looking for love. And the high-powered but often lonely CEOs of Silicon Valley pay handsomely.
The company’s silver package – the entry level deal – costs $25,000. The platinum, which offers 11 matches in 24 months, costs double that.
Those are the basic membership options. VIP clients can pay even more for bespoke service, including bonuses for an exclusive relationship – usually in the region of $50,000 – and marriage, which can run as much as a quarter of a million dollars. People can also apply and are screened for the chance of being connected with one of Andersen’s premium clients. For that, they pay between $200 and $2,500, with bonuses of up to $5,000 for exclusive relationships or marriage.
Unlike the Valley’s dating pool as a whole, Linx’ 850-person client list is roughly 50-50 male to female, with top-tier clients just as likely to be women as men. Those VIP clients, Andersen said, are usually “c-level executives”, by which she means executives with a chief at the beginning of their title: CEOs, CFOs, CTOs.
“So money typically is not an object – time is,” Andersen said. “The timing is right in their life, but it’s really hard for them to find somebody, so it’s worth it to pay for that. They have achieved so much success professionally, and they want the same results in their personal life.”
Alan – not his real name – is 37. He is one of Linx’ male clients. He says the issues he faced as a man dating in Silicon Valley were twofold.
“One: more men than women. That’s a big issue. Two: there’s always someone better round the corner, and as a result, you’re disposable. Someone else comes along, you are tossed aside.”
A self-described introvert, Alan is a computer security engineer who sold his startup to a large software company. He is divorced, and tried online dating for a year or two. He said it made him feel “like a shopping cart, not a human being”, “a disposable commodity”. He said he had “more confidence in starting and selling an online dating company than actually meeting a spouse on an online dating”.
There are other challenges for men trying to date in Silicon Valley.
“I never thought I would be made to feel poor being a multi-millionaire,” Alan said, after a style consultation at Linx’ sun-drenched office in Menlo Park. “It’s a shitty-ass thing to say – it’s a horrible statement to say. But there is no end to the amount of money people have here.”
Once, he said, a woman told him on a date she had broken up with her last boyfriend “because he lied to her about having a G5 when he had a G4. And I had no idea what this was – I thought it was a Mac”. It wasn’t – they are models of Gulfstream jet.
“Growing up, I thought these were things of fiction, the existence of people who had private jets,” Alan said.
At the Rosewood hotel in Palo Alto, a sprawling and luxurious property that serves as the locus of Silicon Valley’s social scene, the Guardian joined Andersen in interviewing two female applicants to Linx: 29-year-old nurse practitioner MacKenzie (not her real name), and 30-year-old Google logistics manager Lindsay Culkin.
For Culkin, who moved to the West Coast from New York, where she worked for Goldman Sachs, the difference has been striking. In New York, Culkin said, “its like men want to lead, and they know how to lead. Here men are a little intimidated to lead. They desire to lead, they still want that, but it’s harder for me to read”.
“A lot of these guys here … especially in this area, don’t necessarily read women the right way,” Andersen said. “So if you’re not giving him any [hints] that you are interested, he’s not going to do the asking for date two. Because he fears rejection.”
Guys in Silicon Valley, Andersen explained, can sometimes struggle to read nonverbal cues: “They’re clueless.” She recommended that Culkin give verbal affirmations – “let’s do this again” or “thank you for choosing this restaurant”.
“I think there’s definitely a percentage of people I’m working with who are all about the IQ. They have a very high IQ, but they can lack emotional intelligence,” Andersen said later. She was, however, at pains to say that this was not an all-encompassing rule.
“I think when people think Silicon Valley, they’re thinking of these mini-Bill Gateses running around with coke-bottle glasses and pocket protectors, just completely socially inept,” she said. “[But] it’s a pretty affable crowd I’m representing.
“That being said, there are some people – men and women – who need some polishing.”
(Earlier, Alan put it more succinctly: a lot of people in the Valley, he said, are “not exactly fully-formed human beings”.)
The screening for Culkin and MacKenzie consisted of a series of questions: dating history; what would a bad match look like; height preferences; kids or no kids; religion or no; fussy eater or no; pets or no. The pair presented Andersen with pictures of former boyfriends, and outlined their ideal matches.
Culkin said she desired “a good team-mate; a partner-in-crime”. MacKenzie wanted “someone I can rely on; someone who’s going to support me on bad days, just someone who values a loving relationship”.
The idea to become a matchmaker came to Andersen in 2000, when she was living in Palo Alto.
“I was really baffled by the sheer quantity of eligible men and the dearth of eligible women,” she said. She spent three years doing market research, then started the business – first bulking up her portfolio with friends, then friends of friends.
The rise of dating apps has “really harmed what it means to be traditional, for courtship and chivalry”, she said. Linx aims to be an antidote to that. Andersen’s clients are looking for love, not hookups. In fact, she aims to specifically weed out anyone who is not 100% serious about settling down.
She said she supports apps as “a great way to practice”, but added: “I consider what [they] have done to traditional dating as kind of an epidemic. It’s corrupted those traditional values.”
To people used to the “candy store mentality” of Tinder, she said, the re-training process can be hard.
Running a matchmaking service in an area so overflowing with spectacular, even ridiculous amounts of money, has problems.
“I definitely am very wary of gold-diggers in general,” Andersen said. One of her opening questions, when a potential match contacts her by email, is what the minimum net worth is of any potential match. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘Not applicable, couldn’t care less.’ Other times, if it’s a high number, I’m like ‘meep meep meep meep’ – red flag.”
On the male side, Andersen has to weed out those looking for hook-ups, not serious about commitment.
“I’m am able to determine that and sniff that out,” she said. “If I’m getting a funny vibe, I have learned it’s absolutely not worth it.”
“This is not [about] introducing them to a crazy quantity of women just for hooking up – [it’s a] totally different ball game. Because they know, if they want that, it’s easy to find. They can do it any night of the week.
“Right? This is different stakes.”