The Dating Ring, a Brooklyn-based startup that has been arranging group dates between thoroughly-screened candidates since last year in New York City, recently expanded its operation to San Francisco. After a few weeks spent commuting along the peninsula, founder Lauren Kay kept joking that she should fly eligible women from New York City, where her data suggests there’s an over-abundance of candidates, to meet the many, many perpetually single boys by the Bay.
Kay shared the story of progressing from inspiration to execution with San Francisco Magazine:
“We kept joking about doing something like this,” Kay told us over the phone from NYC. “But people didn’t realize it wasn’t serious. When you’re running a startup, if people say they want to buy something, you should listen.”
“My sarcasm tends to get lost on the lovely people of San Francisco,” she also shared with TechCrunch after launching “Cross-Country Love: Help Fly NYC Women to SF,” another crowdfunding campaign from a company with existing investment from startup incubator Y Combinator. Locally, the logic makes perfect sense: we have people checking Tinder instead of checking each other out, and if our dear, departed Uncle Milton taught us anything about love, it’s that the best way to maximize returns is through leveraging capital to arbitrage market inefficiencies.
Or, as Kay summarized in her promotional announcement on the The Huffington Post:
Most people don’t like to mix hard statistics and love — one is dry and mathematical and the other is supposedly serendipitous and magical. But when it comes down to it, dating is, in large part, a numbers game.
Y Combinator just happens to have hosted a Female Founders Conference earlier this week, presumably in part to address long-standing systemic sexism, giving Model View Culture’s Shanley Kane an opportunity to take a break from presenting statistical evidence of the persistent discrimination in Silicon Valley funding and employment to warn the women of New York to save their money if they’re actually looking for grown-ass folks.
Dear NY Women: Do not come to SF to try to meet men. we are talking about a bunch of man-children running around being misogynist asses.— Shanley (@shanley) March 4, 2014
In other words, maybe the reason there are so many single bros in Silicon Valley isn’t a problem of supply but of demand.
Enter Valleywag’s Nitasha Tiku, who called into question the implications of raising money to fly women across the country for the convenience of busy techbros by way of comparing the idea to the Japanese Imperial Army’s “Comfort Women” program during World War II, which enslaved women across Asia for systematic rape. That didn’t go over well, either! Calls for a retraction were made, and rebuffed, but an apology issued.
Gawker editor forgets that it ripped apart PandoDaily for using “satire” defense. http://t.co/rzPlUVoABP 2/2— EC (@EC) March 4, 2014
In response to an email inquiry for comment on Valleywag’s coverage, Kay went on the offensive:
We are disgusted by the comparison and yellow journalism, but not surprised at all by how low Valleywag is willing to stoop to get page views. It is an extremely offensive comparison - not just for us, but especially for Asian and Asian American Valleywag readers, particularly those who have women in their own families who were subjected to this horrific trauma.
However, when asked about testimonial made in the promotional video declaring men in New York being either “gay or awful” (and why she thought potential dates might find things any different here), Kay agreed the joke was tasteless and would be cut from the video, but pointed out that “we have been LGBT friendly and we arrange straight, gay and bisexual dates.” She has capitalized on all the attention by also launching a campaign to fly men from San Francisco to New York, citing demand and promising that it was in the original plan all along.
How big is the market for mail-order men? Probably not as big as the existing market for mail-order women—last year, AnastasiaDate revealed to Fortune that it made $110 million in 2012. (Which, incidentally, is the same year that a lobbying group representing the industry urged congress to amend the Violence Against Women Act in order to roll back protections for immigrant women who make allegations of abuse against their American husbands.) But where some may see this market’s existence arising from interpersonal relations distorted by traditions of gender inequality intersecting with the massive wealth disparity wrought by the globalization of neo-liberal capitalism, others see opportunity!
It remains to be seen which of Kay’s campaigns, if either, will prove successful. There’s certainly any number of people who might appreciate a service that flew entrepreneurial men from San Francisco in search of love to anywhere else, anywhere at all. However you feel, at this point you can be forgiven for wanting a drink or excused for a trip to the bathroom and a splash of cold water. If you were really smart, you would have arranged to have a friend call so you can pretend that some emergency just came up and you’re really sorry but you have to go.
Because even if you miss out on Memorial Day weekend, the budding romance between Kleiner Perkins’s Juliet de Baubigny and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch could fizzle and then they’ll both be back on the market in Silicon Valley and New York City, respectively. Worried about having to pick up the check after trying to take either of them out on the town? You can always raise the money on Crowdtilt!