Dating in high-powered Silicon Valley comes with a unique set of challenges.
“This environment is not very normal. You could compare it to the frenetic pace of Manhattan, but it’s certainly different compared to other places in the country,” Amy Andersen, founder and CEO of Menlo Park-based matchmaking service Linx Dating, said to Business Insider. “This is a bubble.”
Many people in the Silicon Valley are consumed by work, leaving them with little time to date and few ideas on how to go about it.
Andersen founded Linx in 2000 when she saw that a lot of professionals were having trouble navigating the often complicated Silicon Valley dating scene.
Since then, she has created a vast dating network for all kinds of people, from young engineers fresh out of Stanford to seasoned ventured capitalists. Not all of her clients work in tech — lawyers, health care professionals, and financiers are also well-represented — but she estimates that almost half of her clients do, working for companies like Facebook, Google, Box, LinkedIn, and Cisco, among others.
Andersen’s networking events at the Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel in Menlo Park grew so popular that they earned a reputation for being a great place to pick up a wealthy entrepreneur. She hasn’t held an event there in two years, but Thursdays at the Rosewood are still infamously known as “Cougar Night.”
But getting help from Andersen isn’t cheap — a silver membership, which guarantees eight introductions to potential dates over the course of two years, costs $US20,000. A more passive membership, which is better suited for younger daters as it doesn’t guarantee a certain number of matches, runs for $US2,500 for two years.
The memberships are customisable, so they’re easily tailored to both the nerdy introverted types and the more extroverted businessmen.
Andersen shared some of the tips she gives her clients as they gear up for their dates.
1. Be mentally prepared.
“Dating is a skill,” Andersen said. “In order to be successful with dating and find the love of your life, you’ve got to be prepared.”
According to Andersen, first-date jitters can be eliminated with the right frame of mind. In a typical Silicon Valley move, she compares dating to work.
“It’s very kind of similar to what one would do for a job interview — brushing up on information about the company, the key executives, competitors, indirect competitors. You make yourself familiar with the company’s landscape and how you can be a great contributor to that company.”
2. Slow down.
Intense competition means that people who live in Silicon Valley are used to moving things along as quickly as possible. Andersen emphasises that it’s important to avoid that mentality while on a date.
“I tell clients that the goal of the first date is to get to the second date, not to get to the relationship,” Andersen said. “That basic kind of mental technique is about slowing down … and once they’re able to focus on the context of their date, then they can start the prep steps that are required.”
3. Don’t talk about work.
It can be hard for successful people to separate themselves from work, even for a brief period of time.
“A lot of introverted techie types will say they don’t know what to say but work,” Andersen said.
Andersen will coach her clients to come up with some other topics (“expert subjects”) that they can bring to the table during a date. Talking about what they like to do in their downtime — rock climbing with friends, for example — will help her clients to feel more relaxed on a date.
“We try to help them understand that it’s OK to talk about themselves in these different ways without coming off as a bragger and instead as someone who’s very interesting, dynamic, and well-rounded,” she said.
4. Consider your appearance.
“We don’t really want to change the way somebody looks, but if they’re super casual in a ratty t-shirt, or just seem clueless about it, I’d probably bring it up,” Andersen said, referencing Mark Zuckerberg and his hoodie.
“It’s often something that hasn’t played a big role in their life up until then, so we just try to give them our insight into what these women think,” she said. “And so when I share this with some of these guys they go, ‘Oh, I guess I should put a dress shirt on.'”
Wardrobe consultation is among the customisable services available to Linx members, though not everyone opts in for the extra help.
“It can be such a simple thing, but they feel so good about themselves, and that becomes attractive to their date,” she said.
Courtesy of Linx Dating
A Linx networking event
5. Body language is important.
“People are usually very cerebral, which we love, but it causes problems in the dating context to understand not only how they’re feeling but how their date is feeling,” Andersen said.
Three months ago, Linx began partnering with a ballroom dance coach to try out a program that would help clients to better understand their body language.
“Our coaching is very popular with these techie guys and women for learning to get out of their heads and into the moment,” she said.
6. Be confident.
Andersen says that a potentially good match can easily be brought down by a poor attitude. She tries to fix that negative thinking in her clients.
“There’s a lot of self-sabotaging where they automatically assume the worst outcome. Women are not necessarily looking for a bank account or someone who looks like a celebrity,
” she said. “We’re making these people realise that they are really interesting people, since many of them haven’t thought about themselves that way.”