In 2001 I had just finished my M.B.A. at the University of Texas at Austin and had landed a great job with a fast-growing website called Match.com, so I eagerly packed up my bags and moved to Beverly-- er, Dallas. After a few years of working at Match.com, I decided it was time to finally give the site a test drive and try to find the love of my life, but when I actually started to use our own service, I realized that I felt like a salmon swimming upstream. After I completed my profile and uploaded my 15 glamor shots, nothing on the site changed for me at all. The site was treating me just like a heterosexual man: All the images being shown to me were of women, the content was focused on straight dating, and there was absolutely no acknowledgment from the site that I had just told them I was a gay man.
After a few short days of the Match.com experience, I'd had enough. I walked into the office of the Vice President of Marketing and asked a simple question: "Why doesn't our site recognize me as a gay man?" I told her that I had just received an email from the site with an image of a woman peeking around a corner, informing me, "Somebody is looking for you!" I'd realized something was awry when I found myself talking back to the screen, saying, "Well, lady, you're barking up the wrong tree, but maybe you have a cute brother or cousin?"
At that point I decided to explore gay dating sites, thinking the experience would be better, but I quickly realized that I felt like I needed a cigarette and a big bottle of Purell after visiting them. I am no prude by any means (I believe that folks who are interested in casual relationships should have options, too), but I was at a point in my life when I yearned for something more substantial. Ultimately, I channeled all my frustration with the options at hand into building my own relationship-focused dating site for the LGBT market. I mean, if I was going to complain about it, then I should do something about it, right?
I started the journey by seeking gay Ph.D.s and researchers who could build our test site, and from that first step OneGoodLove.com was born. But if I was really going to make this happen, I would need more than a gay test. I would need to raise some capital outside the normal fundraising vehicles, given that I'd already been turned down repeatedly by institutional investors and venture capitalists on Sandhill Road. (Why would these gentlemen have jumped up and down to fund an LGBT relationship-focused dating site anyway?) So the very first version of our site was created with funds raised from friends and family and my 401(k). I had no other choice if I really wanted to do this. I had to get creative to obtain the funding we would need to be successful.
Of course, launching a dating site built by LGBT people for the LGBT community was not an easy task. I knew ahead of time that finding the funding and the technical resources and gaining traction in the market were going to be very difficult, so I quit my job, reduced all my expenses and basically put all my chips on the table. I knew one thing for sure: We were going to have to design a terrific site and get input and feedback from our existing users. Focus group after focus group, we quickly realized that if we built a custom, from-the-ground-up site, we would in essence be building a tailored glass slipper for Cinderella. So why not? We would make every one of our users feel like a princess. (That's not to say that some of you didn't already feel like princesses before using our site, but we'd like to take credit for it.)
We want to make sure that the money that the LGBT community spent on our site is put back into the hands of other LGBT companies and advocacy groups, which is why we sell our advertising space to gay-owned and gay-operated businesses. As a community, we are all in this together, and we need to support one another.
And at the very heart of it all, we knew that finding a long-term partner is one of the toughest challenges that the LGBT community faces. At the end of the day, we really want everybody to find somebody who loves them for who they are, and to not be treated like second-class citizens. Indeed, we LGBT people really want the same things out of life that heterosexual couples want. So we'd love for everybody to help OneGoodLove.com become successful, not just for us but for the community. We want each of you to find the love of your life and have a very meaningful long-term relationship with your partner in crime. So help us spread the word by telling all your single friends. After all, we built the site from the ground up just for you, so that you wouldn't have to feel like a salmon swimming upstream.