Bachelorville’s Big Fish
By ALEX WILLIAMS
WHEN Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook married his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, recently, one of the world’s youngest billionaires was off the market.
But that doesn’t mean that there is a dearth of eligible singles in Silicon Valley.
Perhaps nowhere on earth are there more young, bright, wildly overcompensated hyper-achievers who are currently unattached. The Facebook initial public offering alone spawned, by some estimates, 1,000 millionaires (never mind that $1 million these days barely buys a ranch house in Palo Alto, Calif.). And every year, the pool grows, as a new crop of kids arrives from Stanford and Harvard, fueled by Mountain Dew caffeine and I.P.O. dreams.
But with everyone in a sprint to make their killing before the next crop of dreamers arrives to take their place, many find it hard to find time for dating. Faced with 16-hour workdays, it is hard enough to find time to shave.
Part of the reason for the glut of singles is demographic. For all the inroads that female power brokers like Marissa Mayer of Google or Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook have made, the upper echelon of the tech world remains largely a male domain. Of the American start-up tech firms with venture capital backing, for example, only about 11 percent had female chief executives or founders as of 2009, according to Dow Jones VentureSource data, cited in The Wall Street Journal in 2010. (The industry’s gender imbalance also lurks at the core of the recent high-profile sexual-discrimination lawsuit by Ellen Pao, a female junior partner, against her employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers).
The imbalance is also painfully clear to the male tech executives in the Santa Clara Valley, who bitterly joke about living in “Man Jose” or “Manta Clara.”
For women, “the ratio certainly can work in your favor,” said Julia Allison, a former tech journalist who divides her time between New York and the Bay Area, and says she finds digital entrepreneurs more satisfying partners than Wall Street moguls: “Wouldn’t you rather be with someone who was changing the world?”
Unlike Hollywood, or even New York, Silicon Valley is not a nightclub culture. People talk work even for fun in their supposed off-hours, trading industry gossip in low-key spots like Philz Coffee or the Old Pro, a sports bar, in Palo Alto, said Amy Andersen, who runs Linx Dating, a Menlo Park-based dating and social network that caters to high-earning tech executives. It’s an insular world. “Silicon Valley connections — whether they are for business, love, or friendships — occur from trusted sources,” she said.
Our admittedly unscientific roundup of some of the unmarried tech executives who inspire the most buzz in Silicon Valley and its East Coast counterpart, Silicon Alley, is still mostly men who have a net worth in eight or nine figures. But that could change in the next few years as a generation of hard-charging single women in their 20s (Alexa Hirschfeld of Paperless Post, Hayley Barna from Birchbox or Melody McCloskey from StyleSeat) begin to make their move.