Harvard MBA Ren Lu You had dated a lot of women. He met them through friends and coworkers. He met them online. But he hadn’t found life-long love. His problem was one of time and space: hours and hours of searching and dating, and still a very limited reach.
He needed to cast a wider net.
“Maybe this is like a business school thing, but when you’re looking for a deal, you want to know you tried your best to find the best possible thing,” says You, 29, a 2014 graduate of Harvard Business School, now an associate in an Alabama private equity firm. “I approached this the same way. At the end of the day I want to know that I’ve scoured the earth for the most compatible person, who I get along best with, and left no stone unturned.”
His solution? Turn everyone on the internet into a potential bounty hunter. As You puts it on his website, DateRen.com, “Find Me A Girlfriend And I’ll Pay You $10,000.”
For a referrer to win the $10,000, You has to date the woman for more than six months.
He launched about three weeks ago, and has received about 2,000 responses – from America, from Russia, from Brazil, from Indonesia, from Singapore, from the Philippines, and a host of other countries.
BIG IN CROATIA
“I’m very popular in Croatia and Ireland,” he says. “And Nigeria.”
To be clear, he believes the missives from Nigeria – infamous for internet scams – were sincere, although “in some cases the English was a little difficult to decipher.”
The introductions arrived in a flurry in the first two weeks, when You’s campaign was featured in USA Today, the New York Daily News, and even the Washington Post. The potential matches are still coming in, while You struggles to overcome his backlog – and dates like a madman.
“Probably two dozen” is his answer when asked how many campaign-generated dates he’s had in the three weeks. “There have been a couple of second dates.
“I’ve dated nurses, doctors, lawyers, university professors, heads of local non-profits, models, photographers, retail workers. Regardless of their current occupation, I tend to gravitate towards smart women, which is only loosely correlated with educational background and career.”
But, he has learned, casting a wider net brings its own problems. “Unfortunately some of the more interesting people have written in from out of state, or at least from out of city,” he says. “Some of these folks, I guess I was able to convey enough about my personality and my world view in the small amount of space I had on the website for some people to kind of see it and recognize somebody who shared a lot of values, or their attitudes, their personality.”
Currently dating fairly close to home as he works in his job and chips away at his DateRen message backlog, You is nevertheless game to travel for true love if a good prospect comes up. “For the right person I’m definitely willing to explore a long distance thing. Even though I’m busy, and that’s part of the reason why I’m doing all this, this is important enough that if I find someone that I really like who’s somewhere far flung, I’m really willing to put in the money and effort to make it happen.”
‘HE IS NICE BOY’ – MOM
On DateRen.com, You provides one testimonial, purportedly from his mom: “He is nice boy.” He lists his height at 5’9’’ and his weight at 155. His favorite movies include The Shawshank Redemption, Wall-E, Wedding Crashers, “+more . . . I watch a lot of movies, what can I say?”
He likes Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Silicon Valley. The people he appreciates are intellectually curious, physically active, enjoy pondering “ridiculous hypotheticals,” and know the difference between astronomy and astrology.
Modestly, You leaves Harvard out of it, saying only that he moved to Birmingham last summer from Boston after business school, and mentioning elsewhere on the site that he has an MBA.
Of course, this being an internet-based campaign, and the internet being open to any yahoo with a computer or smartphone, You has attracted some attention from trolls. About one in 50 messages are critical, “people being like, ‘You’re a loser,’ or, ‘What are you doing with your life?’” he says. At worst, he’s been accused of “trying to purchase human beings,” but he believes those writers “didn’t, like, read the website or understand the concept.