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The Heights of Passion
Carolyne Zinko | Photo: Cody Pickens | January 4, 2019
Silicon Valley's cupid, Amy Andersen, searches the globe to find highly successful singles the love of a lifetime.
They say you can't put a price on love. Amy Andersen does.
Silicon Valley’s top matchmaker helps tech millionaires outsource their love lives, but Cupid’s arrow doesn’t come free. Andersen’s boutique firm, Linx Dating, charges C-suite prices at $35,000 to $500,000 a pop. Why pay when inexpensive apps like Match, JDate, OurTime, Tinder and Bumble are available? Executives don’t want their profiles posted publicly online and don’t have time for hit-or-miss courtships. It’s discretion and results that draw them to Andersen, a 42-year-old former investment adviser who conducts one-on-one meetings with clients and shuns algorithms in favor of intuition. “Helping someone find the love of their life in what would otherwise be a lonely, scary, frustrating experience,” says Andersen, “is incredibly rewarding for me.”
The wealthy set’s pockets are bursting, but their hearts are lonely, as Linx’s roster of 300 paying clients shows. There are another 900 members who Andersen has personally screened as potential matches for those clients and a database of 25,000 others waiting to be screened. Is Linx successful? Most clients go out at least three times, Andersen says, and dozens are now married with children, including a prince from a royal family and a couple who talked until midnight on their first date at Woodside’s The Village Pub and were engaged nine months later.
For 15 years, Andersen has coached some of the region’s more cerebral minds in emotional IQ and grooming. Paid memberships yield eight to 10 introductions during a two-year period. For men, she stresses the importance of haircuts, flossed teeth, trimmed nails and paying for dinner. Women are counseled to dial back on the intensity of get-to-know-you conversations. “It’s a date,” cautions Andersen, “not a meeting in a boardroom.”
More recently, Linx introduced an exclusive VIP membership that offers an unlimited number of introductions over 24 months and access to Andersen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As Linx’s reputation grows, its services are being sought around the world. (Andersen doesn’t advertise, though she did appear on the rapper 2 Chainz’s Viceland network show, Most Expensivest, last summer). VIP memberships start at $150,000 for a search for prospective partners in the Bay Area and other major U.S. cities, and rise to $500,000 for a global search.
Catering to the elite, Linx is in rarefied company along with Kelleher International in Corte Madera, Exclusive Introductions in Los Angeles, Selective Search in Chicago and Serious Matchmaking in New York, among others. Although a story in Vanity Fair in 2013 associated Andersen with creating “cougar night” (older women seeking younger men) at the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park as a byproduct of her Link and Drink networking events at its bar, those negative connotations have since evaporated.
“She was a life-changer,” says a 47-year-old woman who was a paying client of Andersen’s nine years ago and met her husband on her first Linx date. They now have a 6-year-old daughter. “I had always been focused on my career, grad school and starting companies,” the woman recalls, asking to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. “I dated guys, but it wasn’t serious. Then online dating came and changed the landscape. I felt overwhelmed, like it was too much. I was 40 years old and woke up one day and said, ‘I want a baby.’ All my friends were married and they didn’t know any single people.” Andersen advised her to forego her work-day outfit—jeans, Polo shirts and penny loafers—in favor of more feminine skirts and heels on dates. The equity analyst who became her husband (they enjoy hiking, dining out and watching Netflix) rang the doorbell in a sport jacket and paid for dinner (at Iberia restaurant in Menlo Park). “I’m the biggest feminist,” the woman notes, “but it was very nice to be courted.”
Another client, an investment company founder who requested anonymity for security reasons, turned to Andersen after his marriage of 25 years ended. He didn’t want to troll bars and had struck out on dates suggested by mutual friends. He wanted a partner who respected his devotion to his children and his international work schedule and who also shared his Christian beliefs. It took several years to find a partner with whom he’s been able to “create a rhythm of being together that flows really nicely,” he says, and they see each other multiple times a month over coffee at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park. Andersen does more than help people outsource their love lives, he contends: “She’s the connective tissue between people who need to be connected.”
Larry Blair, 66, a co-founder of a networking company, turned to Linx when divorcing in 2009. “You date based on suggestions from friends, but your circle is only so big, and you have the risk of the whole bar scene, various clubs and associations, but your petri dish, if you will, is kind of limited,” Blair says from Southern California, where he now lives. “I viewed Amy as helping me by being my marketing agent,” he says, “and presenting me in the best possible light to other women who had an interest in a long-term relationship.” He dated 14 Linx prospects before being matched with Carol, now 58, who worked as a saleswoman at an exotic hardwoods company. In her, he immediately sensed a “big, open heart,” he recalls. They bonded over a shared interest in landscape photography and were married at The Ritz-Carlton, Dana Point in 2012. Without Andersen’s help, “I’d probably have been victimized by too many women who would present themselves as having bona fide interest, but were more interested in the security of financial position on a long-term basis—in other words, gold diggers,” Blair says. “It’s very difficult to sort out.”
Raised in Mill Valley, Andersen studied communications and international relations at the University of Southern California and returned to the Bay Area in 1999 amid the dot-com bubble. Her first startup, a forum for members of Generation Y, went nowhere for lack of funding. Her next was inspired by her then-boyfriend, whose Stanford classmates lamented their bad luck on the Palo Alto dating scene and asked her to set them up with women she knew. Thanks to her volunteer work with women in San Francisco’s Junior League, she had a built-in pool of prospects and a business, Linx, in her sights. The boyfriend, a venture capitalist, was unsupportive, declined to invest and broke up with her, she says. Andersen saved up money by working at Merrill Lynch and forged ahead full-time with Linx (its “x” symbolizing “a big hug,” she says) in 2003.
Her first office was at a table at Starbucks on Polk Street, where she interviewed 10 potential clients a day about their backgrounds and the qualities they wanted in a mate—appearance, religion, personality and income among them. (Smoking is a big turnoff, she says.) She moved to Palo Alto in 2005 and is now at the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park, a bucolic compound of Spanish Colonial buildings dating to the 1930s. Andersen, married with a young son, puts in up to 80 hours a week and sifts through 600 emails a day to bring together people who might otherwise never have met. Daunting? Just the opposite. “To me,” says the upbeat Andersen, “it doesn’t feel like work.”
Originally published in the January/February issue of Silicon Valley