Missed Connections: Romance Wilts at Start-Up Mixer

Last Tuesday’s “Find a Co-Founder,” a sort of speed-dating for entrepreneurs, was a three-part event. Part one: A panel of Web entrepreneurs who had been in long-term relationships, explaining how they had co-found each other. Marriage was a recurring metaphor; “trust,” “loyalty,” and “chemistry” are important because “you’re in it for the marathon, not for the sprint.” Spend a day in a bar with the person, Meetup’s Matt Meeker advised the assembly of would-be entrepreneurs. Ask them their life story. “When you find the right person, you know,” moderator Bo Yaghmaie added.

For most of the 100 or so founders present, this level of discretion was not an option. It was a matter of simple math. Twenty-five entrepreneurs had registered as “technology co-founder”—and some of them were lying!—to be matched with the 96 registered “business co-founders.” Each attendee was assigned a number between one and six and split into groups. “The engineers have rational numbers!” Mr. Yaghmaie joked. “They’re all rational numbers,” groused the bespectacled engineer sitting next to The Observer.

Part two, the ensuing hour of elevator pitches, probably did not improve his mood. The setting, a law office in Midtown, was a bit stiff for romance, but the nametags and two tables of booze facilitated introductions as business co-founders explained what they needed—an iPhone app to select karaoke songs based on your astrological sign, a Web site for families planning vacations—and technology cofounders nodded, arms crossed.

For part three, the group migrated across the street to Celsius, the red-lit bar in Bryant Park. Bonnie Halper, one of the organizers, accosted The Observer merrily at the door. “That wasn’t how it usually goes. Usually developers wear red, business co-founders wear green, and we line them up and let them go at it. And people find their co-founders!”

“I was at one of those things,” said Andrew Pelkey, an entrepreneur standing alone at the bar, swirling a gin and tonic and looking at his phone. “They lined everyone up, but it was more business people than technical people so it was like, amorphous, and four people stood on the end staring at their programs. Then they said ‘switch’ and nobody switched. It was like,”—he winced, swayed—”awkwaaaaaard.”

Christopher Adams, a technology co-founder who enjoyed the event even though he didn’t find a business co-founder. “Actually, I met more technical people tonight,” he said, dropping some names. “I think I’m going to work with them.” Not all the techies were so lucky. “I feel like prey,” said developer Scott Maher, looking over his shoulder as he sidled up to The Observer at the bar. Soon, the bartenders turned off the music and opened the door on the ice rink, and the founders headed home, alone.

ajeffries [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries


Missed Connections: Romance Wilts at Start-Up Mixer