Finding Winners for Venture Capitalists, Romantically

Amy Andersen doesn’t have a degree in psychology, but she has interviewed 4,500 people since founding her Menlo Park, Calif.-based matchmaking service Linx Dating ten years ago. And that collective experience has given her the kind of pattern recognition that comes in handy when trying to divine who her well-heeled clients – some of them venture capitalists – want to date or, in some cases, marry.

Indeed, among Andersen’s roughly 800 clients looking for love right now are VCs at “some of the top five firms out there, and a lot at second-tier venture firms, too,” she says.

Some of those VCs are older. “They’re coming out of 30-year-long-plus marriages and trying to find their footing in the dating scene, which is kind of hard because these people are pretty high profile and it can be very challenging.” Others of her clients, says Andersen, are younger VCs who “might have been associates [in another era of venture capital] but who are now brought in as partners – some in their late 20s and early 30s.”

And some of those VCs are women, for whom “it’s especially hard,” says Andersen. “In Silicon Valley, women are so accustomed to adopting masculine traits to gain respect and momentum in the professional arena that some come across as serious and tough.”

So how does Andersen help these titans of industry, exactly? When it comes to women, who represent a small number of her investor clients but half of her overall customer base, “I try to coach them,” says Andersen. “I try to soften up [their demeanor] a bit and play up their feminine energy.” She also offers pointers to all her clients on what is and isn’t okay to mention right off the bat. “I always advise against discussing religion, given that it’s a sensitive subject. And don’t talk about having just put your dog down. You don’t want to be welling up with tears” during a first conversation with a potential love interest.

As you might guess, Andersen’s hand holding comes at a price, depending on how much of her time is required. While many clients pay $2,500 for a basic membership that allows them to mix and mingle with Linx’s other clients, including at parties arranged by Andersen, the cost can soar to $50,000 for a two-year plan that guarantees a client a host of services, from wardrobe consultation to dinner and car service reservations to, most crucially, 11 highly considered introductions. (For clients with bi-coastal lifestyles, Andersen sometimes scours New York as well as the Bay Area for the most appropriate candidates for a client.)

It may seem a bit hefty, even to the most moneyed of her customers. But Andersen boasts some venture-like returns. She says nearly 90 of her clients are in exclusive relationships and 38 have met their spouse with her help.

Given client expectations, creating successful match-ups is no walk in the park, either. As for what venture capitalists want, in particular, Andersen says someone who isn’t “overexposed” is one oft-cited proviso.

“The Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, is such a small community,” she says. “There’s a lot of ‘She dated him,’ and ‘He dated her best friend.’ With the same types of people attending the same types of social events, it just becomes this very muddy situation and our clients often want to find someone who hasn’t been in the society pages repeatedly but who’s instead a bit of a mystery.”

Beyond that, male VCs are “looking for a cerebral intensity, someone who is going to challenge them,” says Andersen. “They want someone who is a professional, though not necessarily a mirror of themselves — in fact, someone in a different industry can be very attractive. They also want someone who is active and healthy” and, yes, alluring.

Men, notes Andersen, “are very visual. There has to be an initial attraction. If there isn’t, it’s a moot point.”

As for women VCs, they want it all, too, but not necessarily in the same order. For example, they prefer their prospects to have substantial resources of their own. Observes Andersen, “A lot of guys don’t necessarily need someone who will match them financially in terms of their net worth, but women in the VC community are looking for someone who’s of a similar ilk or who has more net worth, so there’s an equal balance of power.”

Her female clients are also far more focused on personality, says Andersen. “They want to know: Is he genuine, is he loyal, does he have integrity,” says Andersen. “Looks,” she says, is “farther down the list in terms of importance.”

Photo: Image of Amy Andersen care of Linx Dating.