Reducing friction in VC fundraising


The concept of ‘reducing friction’ is now an important part of any tech startup.

You want to maximize the chances of your user performing a certain action: signing up, purchasing your product etc. You have given your user a good motivation. You then need to minimize the barriers to them taking action.

This might be the time required, confusion on the proposition, addressing them at the wrong time, social stigma. Whether the user gives up completely, or just pauses, you will have been cast back into the pool of other companies seeking a fragment of their attention.

A good rule of thumb is to reduce the number of steps to take an action to the absolute minimum, and make the expected next step very clear at every stage

There is masses of further reading on this topic e.g. Bryan Eisenburg, Hooked by Nir Eyal, and the Qubit blog

What I have not seen is this concept applied to startup fundraising.

As a founder, you want to minimize the friction for an investor as he moves through the funnel from awareness, through interest, to decision. You want to maximise your chances of a yes, and you want a quick decision (even if it is a no).

Of course, the most important thing in getting funded is the quality of your business. A great business will get funded even with lots of friction in the funnel. However, achieving a 10% better business is hard, whereas it can be easy to eliminate 10% of friction in your interactions with investors.

I have taken a first cut at what might cause friction through the funnel of investor interactions below, broken down by stage

Friction in getting to first meeting:

  • Emailing the VC’s generic email address (information@balderton.com or similar). It will get read, but usually by the most junior member of the team on a Friday night
  • Emailing a partner cold. 95% of the time will end up in generic email box — see above. If you can get a genuine warm intro to a partner great. Otherwise go for an associate or principal.
  • Emailing a list of investors, or an obvious mail merge (instant delete)
  • Not providing enough info, e.g. “Please can we meet for a coffee” emails with no info on the business, or insisting you can only speak about the business in person, or giving only vague details
  • Asking for an NDA (see Mark Suster post on the topic here )
  • Complex/unclear descriptions of what the business does, or providing so much info that it becomes confusing
  • Not giving any context for the business: “We have no competitors”; ”Our market is entirely new”
  • Not having a social context: not having an Angellist profile; not saying how you connected with the VC (you can always find something, even if it is a second degree linkedin connection or blog post)
  • Not having a clear ask (almost always this should be a meeting)

Friction in first meeting (see also my post ‘What VCs listen to in meetings’):

  • Speaking by phone. Sometimes this can’t be helped, but it’s far from ideal. Couple of tips:
  • Avoid skype, poor mobile signal, free conference call numbers — anything that harms sound quality or call reliabilityThe only objective of the call is to get one of you to travel to make a meeting in person
  • Too many people in the room. Having someone in the room who is completely silent, or (even worse) tapping away on their laptop, is a distraction. Equally, having several people talking a lot, embellishing each other’s points, makes it hard to really connect with the VC.
  • Too much jargon or buzz words. Any VC will then be using their mental energy working out what you are actually talking about rather than engaging on it .
  • Over-selling. At best this is irritating. At worse it can create suspicion: “If it’s so good why is he selling it so hard?”
  • Exaggerating, over-promising (especially for current month metrics) or downright lies. Credibility, once lost, is very hard to regain.
  • Not managing time well. Trying to get through final 10 slides in 5 minutes.
  • Not sharing data.
  • Not agreeing next steps.

Fiction in getting to decision:

  • Not following up. If there any next steps from your side, aim to get them done next day (or a quick email to say when they will be ready). If next steps are on the VC’s side, send them a reminder. VCs see a lot of companies, are generally poor at prioritising, and so it is hard to stay top of their mind. Not following up doesn’t say much for an entrepreneur’s hustle and/or organizational skills.
  • Negotiating too early. You should absolutely negotiate with a VC on valuation and terms. But only after you know that they want to invest in you. Making demands too early in the process, when they don’t know if they want to invest yet, is just friction.
  • Setting false deadlines. Certainly you should create a sense of urgency by giving the VC the impression that other investors are moving forward quickly. But false deadlines (“I need a termsheet by next week”) usually backfire.

I hope these thoughts are somewhat helpful. Please comment/challenge.

There is of course a lot that VCs need to do to eliminate friction on their side (Gil Dibner has a good post covering some of these here). I also believe that Angellist & similar platforms should make the whole VC investing process smoother and less expensive.

There is plenty of potential here on both sides — a long way to go before securing VC investment is as frictionless as Tinder or Amazon…

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  • Principal at Balderton Capital in London. Formerly Google & Bain. Statistician by education

    Updated January 29, 2014

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5 Chrome DevTools Commands that improved my WebDev workflow


How to use them and why they will make your life a lot easier

Fortunately the web is currently growing up, and so are its development tools. As a web developer I’m constantly aiming to improve my development workflow and I’m very happy and thankful to see the Google Chrome DevTools team working so hard on making web development easier.

Here’s a list of DevTools tricks that make me happy almost everyday:

Object.keys(object)

Let’s start with a subtle one. keys returns a string array of property names that belong to an object (also returns array indexes in case you pass an array as argument). This is useful for getting a gist of an object’s properties or for iterating through objects where you don’t know about all the containing properties.

A typical everyday usecase:
I want to know about all available global variables so I don’t forget to fix accidential namespace pollution in case it happens.

Sure, I probably haven’t made such a mistake in years, but just to be sure ;-) So here’s what you do:

> Object.keys(window)
> ["top", "window", "location", "external", "chrome", "document", "google", "_gjwl", "_gjuc", "_gjh", "gbar_", "rwt", "gbar", "__PVT", "gapi", "___jsl", ...]

Analogous Object.values(object) will give you all the object’s property values

Subtle — but useful! Let’s move on to some more interesting tricks

console.table(array)

console.table generates a performant, sortable table right to your console based on an array of objects. If you’re working on projects in context of image manipulation or big datasets this is the best thing that can happen to you because until that working with bigger datasets in the browser was really painful.

Back then when I was working on heatmap.js and nude.js, my pet projects, I experienced some of that pain: it was hard to evaluate big datasets after clientside processing without switching to another tool to do it performant. I either had to test a very specific small subsets, crash my browser by printing all my data, or switch to another tool to get better insight. Not funny, but I’m glad console.table exists now.

I just printed 10k datapoints. It’s sortable AND scrollable.
You can actually focus on the data.

> var dataset = [{ x: 123, y: 456, count: 14}, ...];
> console.table(dataset);
A sortable table printed into webdeveloper console

Thank you so much Chrome DevTools team, I You!

$0

This is the feature I use most of the time: Whenever you inspect an element on a website or select it with $(selector), the inspected element will be stored in $0. This comes in handy when you want to manipulate an inspected element programatically. Here’s an example that adds a class “inspected” to the currently inspected element:

*click on a DOM node and inspect it*

> $0
> <span>Hello there</span>
> $0.classList.add("inspected"); $0
> <span>Hello there</span>

console.timeStamp([text])

The timeStamp command creates timestamp annotations in DevTools’ Timeline panel (marked by a yellow block in the timeline) so you can see when your code will be executed and it is easy to figure out how your code affects browser behaviour e.g. repaint or layout. So how to use it:

*turn on Timeline recording*

> var x = document.createElement('div');
> x.style.cssText = "width:100px; height:100px; background:red;";
> console.timeStamp('Adding my node');
> document.body.appendChild(x);

monitorEvents(object [, events])

monitorEvents tracks events for a specified DOM node object and will print them to your console.

monitorEvents(document.body, “click”)
monitorEvents(document.body, [“click”, “dblclick”])

If you don’t pass a second argument it will simply track all events on that object.


There are still lots of great other commands that Google Chrome DevTools offer (especially in context of performance analysis) , take your time, it’s worth to learn about them!

If you want to know more about the possibilities and all the other great features of Chrome DevTools check out their website, it’s all well-documented and they have super useful tipps for optimizing your web site/application:

https://developers.google.com/chrome-developer-tools/

So what do you do to make your web development process more awesome?


Did you enjoy the article? Follow me on twitter & feel free to subscribe my mailing list where I write about how to improve the process of web development & other interesting stuff.

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3 Steps to Getting What You Want Using Social Media


In this digital age, contacting others has become laughably easy. With a simple social media interaction or an email exchange, you can gain many things. You can make a new online friend, connect with an industry leader, or get free swag from a brand. I’ve done all three simply by asking for what I want.


Recently, I have:

  • Won a Cana Rum Bar membership from Gratafy
  • Been offered beta access to Say Hello There
  • Received a Tonx sample
  • Gotten Lyft credit (for myself and for friends)
  • Gotten Sidecar credit
  • Received information on open positions at interesting, innovative companies which lead to interviews with at least one company
  • Been quoted in or contributed to articles on various topics
  • Became friends with several very interesting, smart people who I otherwise would have a slim chance of meeting & even eventually met up with them in person

How I did this is straightforward:

  1. I tweeted the person or brand either a question or a response to a tweet of theirs. For example: the rum bar membership, Sidecar credit, beta access, and articles were all a result of me answering their request for information. In several cases, there were barriers which could’ve stopped me from inquiring further, the rum bar is in L.A. and I live near San Francisco, but I let Gratafy know that and they encouraged me to enter anyways. I’ll probably end up visiting L.A. sometime in the next year (the length of the membership) and when I do, I have someplace fun to go for free.
  2. Usually, my response is followed up with a request to email the original poster to work out details. I would quickly send off the email with a link to the Twitter conversation for context. In terms of the new friends I’ve made, simply engaging them in discussions of our shared interests has given me invaluable interaction with incredibly interesting people who have introduced new ideas to me.
  3. Finally, I always make sure to thank the company or person for their response to me. Being grateful and respectful is a way to build healthy, lasting connections, even those that are contained online.

So you want more information about a company’s open positions or to try out a product or to get to know someone whose ideas you admire, what do you do? Just ask.

Originally published December 30, 2013.

Further Reading

Why I’m Not Afraid of Rejection

 — What’s the worst that could happen?

You’re Not Trapped

 — You have a choice.

How to be Successful just by Improving your Common Routines

 — Routines that can change your life, how they work, and how you can improve them.

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How to Self Promote without Being a Jerk


Six months ago, I asked readers, “Is it possible to genuinely be interested in the needs of others, and still promote yourself?” That article generated so much interest that I decided the subject deserved more than 450 words, and I wrote a short book that came out three days ago.

The title of the book is – you guessed it – How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk.

But let me step back for a minute and share my perspective that most self-promotion is more destructive than productive. Blab about yourself day after day and you’ll soon convince others that you are a self-obsessed blowhard. Tweet only about yourself and you’ll end up with 137 followers (apologies to anyone who actually has 137 followers.)

Still, we all face a dilemma. Most of us live and work in free market economies based on the principles of supply and demand. If no one knows about your strengths, you won’t be in demand. It’s painfully hard to earn a living when no one knows who you are or what you are capable of doing. So everyone needs to engage in some amount of self-promotion, even if it is to accurately state your accomplishments on a resume and in cover letters.

My solution starts with this sentence: be generous and expert, trustworthy and clear, open-minded and adaptable, persistent and present.

Notice I didn’t say anything about stuffing your press releases with keywords or airbrushing your photos so you look younger/older/thinner/wiser. That’s superficial stuff compared to who you are and how you treat others. Effective self-promotion revolves around being an honorable human being who genuinely wants to help others.

Time to stop telling. Let me show you…

This link will allow you to download a free PDF copy of my book. Even though the book costs $9.99 on Amazon, you can read the entire book for free.

It is not a typical book. First, it’s very short; you can read it in an hour. Second, it’s available only as an ebook.

If you like the book and find it valuable, I ask that you then buy a copy of the ebook on Amazon as a gift for someone else.

Thus, in the spirit of my book, I am giving you my work as a gift, in the hope that you then pay it forward and give a gift to others… but only if you find it valuable.

Let’s break down the differences between what I’m doing and what most “self-promoters” do…

My first step is to be generous: I’m giving before asking anything in return, and I’m also giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. Do you think that people will take advantage of me, that they will profit from my work without paying me a cent? This does not bother me in the least; I have no desire to work with people who don’t treat others fairly, and it does not matter to me if they get something from me for free.

The people I care about are those who genuinely care about other people, and these folks will never take advantage of me. My goal with them is to lower their risk to zero; if they don’t get value from my work, it should cost them nothing at all.

My second step is to have faith in my expertise: You get to read my whole book before you even consider whether you want to buy a copy for someone else. Without confidence in my own expertise, I’d be foolish to make such an offer. To emulate my approach, you will need to be equally comfortable with your own offerings.

You’re not just reading a book, you are adopting its approach: Before I “get paid,” you will have to actually put into action the principles I am promoting. By buying a copy of my book for someone else, you will be paying it forward while you also recognize the value of what I gave you as a gift.

This is win/win/win: If all goes well, you will get useful information you can apply immediately. Someone you know will get the same, in the form of a free gift. I will eventually make a sale. In fact, I’m betting I will make many more sales than if I adopted the traditional approach of “Buy my book before midnight today!”

Is this article self-promotional? Absolutely. But I’m trying to demonstrate that there is nothing wrong with spreading the word about your work, as long as you make damn sure that you only profit after you actually help other people.

Bruce Kasanoff is @BruceKasanoff on Twitter, and his web site is Kasanoff.com.

Image: CanStockPhoto

Posted by:Bruce Kasanoff

Privatized Social Media


You are the Henry Fords of the Internet, constantly creating value — it is time for you to own that value.

Social networks are to the Internet what the Model T was to the automotive industry. They make information accessible to the masses in ways we never could have imagined. We are getting it faster and we are getting it cheaper – in keyboard strokes that is.

Facebook and Twitter, the two major players in the industry, have two fundamentally different networking and advertising models. They have some common ground, many downsides and interesting side effects.

The Facebook model has led to a chronic case of serial connectivity. Every time we are introduced to someone, we feel the need to add them to our connection bank, in the hopes of building a relationship with them. The honest, and often jaded truth, is you are only adding to the clutter and clouding out the people that matter.

On the other hand, Twitter does not use the friending concept. It makes it a little harder to get started but allows you to pick and choose who you want to keep up with. Moreover, it does not stop anyone else from keeping up with you.

The Facebook model teaches us the value of friends, family and colleagues whilst the Twitter model helps us discover the world and engage it in conversation. Information – just like a relationship – is meant to be consumed. Its very nature makes it highly addictive: you always want more of it. The real trick is to pace yourself, and someday soon, you will all have to face the truth: you do not have thousands of friends.

Another thing I’m quite uneasy about is this never ending demonization of advertising. In principle, advertising is not the enemy. It helps companies reach out to the willing and able consumer. Here is my problem: where is the relationship? Take a moment to think this through: when you log into Facebook, why are you there? To network with friends or check out the advertisements in the sidebar? Demographic targets and complex algorithms aside, you have no relationship with Facebook.

The inherent lack of a relationship between the source of the advertisement and its recipient – you – does not make for a very efficient model. On top of that, you have no dialog with the advertiser and no way of engaging with the advertisement.

You might be tempted to compare the Facebook model to that of television’s, and you would be right; they are one and the same. Facebook has the added benefit of letting the commercials stick around during your entire viewing experience. It has roped in billions of impressionable viewers and generates billions in revenue each year, but that is just the law of numbers.

Combine the jaded relationships of the networking model and the complete lack of one in the advertising model, we are left with uninterested users and underperforming solutions. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe a better product has a fighting chance.

The moment you share a piece of content on the Internet, you become a producer. You are contributing to the social economy. You are the Henry Fords of the Internet.

The declassification of some governments’ spying programs have brought out new waves of anti-trust advocates. However, once these scandals have blown over in the eyes of the masses, I’m quite certain we will move to privacy and data use policies.

If you read through the Facebook and Twitter data use policies, you will notice they state, quite explicitly, that you have full rights over your data and own every bit of it. Skip a few paragraphs and you will also notice they have the rights to use, sell and share your data with platform partners. Does this sound like ownership to you? As producers, are we not entitled to profit from our labors? We contribute to the social economy by creating value, and yet they are the ones profiting from our work. It is a moral issue and it is a golden opportunity to turn things around.

The mobile-first fixation every developer is latching on to is another industry quirk I’m not too fond of. It does not leave much to the imagination. Compare social applications in the App Store and play spot the difference. If you want to build something truly unique, why not go for tablet-first? We – web designers and application developers – are moving away from chrome riddled designs to focus on content. The more screen space you have the more inventive you can be.

Have you looked at Facebook and Twitter’s web clients recently? They are all laid out in a single column. Granted they need the screen space to display their cumbersome adverts and custom backgrounds. There is lots of room for improvement.

I stumbled across something called Dunbar’s theory a few months ago, and I am inclined to agree with it. It states that any human being is unable to maintain more than 150 relationships, and yet, most of the people I know have 1000+ friends on Facebook. I am also quite partial to Twitter’s networking model. It allows us to act independently from one another and pursue our own interests without sacrificing someone else’s.

If a platform limited the number of people a user could follow, I guarantee it would have a profound impact on its networking and advertising models. People would have to consciously pick and choose who they want to pay attention to. More importantly, they would be doing so in a clutter free environment.

The next item on the future proof list is ownership. Traditional advertising relies on the network having the rights to their users’ data. That has to change: goodbye traditional advertising. The only things a social network should have to ask from its users is the permission to warehouse and index the data they share.

Social networks, just like any other company, need to make money. Subscription fees might look like the only alternative to advertising. Without advertising though, you are alienating businesses; they need a way of getting the word out. Here is one concept that hits two birds with one stone: social broking. The basic idea is to help influencers leverage their relationships and distribute content in exchange for money.

Imagine an influencer with a million followers; each of whom have consciously made the decision to include this person in their limited number of connections. This influencer can partner up with a brand and help them engage a receptive audience. Broker beware though, the unfollow button is just one click away. Imagine Facebook implementing a stop showing me ads button.

This model strengthens relationships and encourages partnerships. What could be better? It is the privatized industrialization of the Internet. We, as producers, are creating value and should pride ourselves on owning the rights to that value. We can share it, reclaim it or leverage it; just like any other commodity.

Facebook and Twitter are heading straight towards saturation – their unsustainable models will not last for much longer if someone comes out with a disruptive solution. It is time to industrialize the networking industry by creating a privacy conscious and ownership driven service. We need to move away from the traditional television model and use self-interested partnerships between brands and influencers to drive engagement.

The solution I have suggested is the one my team and I are building at Urban Cloud. The demand exists, and the people behind it are emotionally ready. It is a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs everywhere.

- Peregrine Park

Further Reading

Anything social, educational and technological – Peregrine

 — This is my personal blog: I write about anything social, educational, technological and I sometimes add in a political piece in here and …

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Say “NO” more.


Life hacks for people pleasers who want to get shit done.

This is not a story for haters.
It’s not a call to arms, or a cue to be an a$$hole.

I am advocating on behalf of Mr. No, but I’m in no way suggesting you should deny yourself amazing life experiences.

This is a message to life hackers. To all of the Law of Attractions, the secrets, the ‘just smile and nods,’ and the say yes people of the world.

This post is about personal development. About working to quiet the people pleaser residing within, so we can try to be impeccable with our word.


Over the last 1 – 2 years I realized my people pleasing tendencies were creating stress and inefficient production cycles. Thanks to my stern business partner, and simple exercises in saying NO, I’ve begun to preserve my most valuable resource while growing personally and professionally.


The habit of people pleasing is debilitating

Hustling for the last 8 years in the tech space, I’ve signed up for a lot of ways to waste time. With our ever connected social and digital lives, opportunities to please people’s every whim loom on every backlit screen. All it takes is one beep, ding, ping, alert, or ringtone to outflank your productivity.

Emails, instant messages, Facebook, texts, calls, voicemails, Basecamp, CRM notifications, Tweets, the list is never ending…

I know everyone simply says, “Just turn them off. Don’t open email. Focus, blah, blah, blah.” Here’s the deal, that shit works for a few hours but it’s inevitable you’ll receive the message. When you do, it’s all about how you respond that counts.

Resource depletion is a struggle I faced because of habitually people pleasing.

The most empowering thing I’m still working hard to learn and optimize in my life, is the ability to say NO.

Distractions come in deceptive shapes and sizes.
If you’re a people pleaser, distractions can be debilitating.

Example distractions and people pleasing reactions

  • Email / Text / IM — “URGENTLY NEED YOUR HELP on this totally unrelated task” Well, business coaching isn’t my current speciality but it sounds like they could really use some advice. Why not?
  • Useless Meetings / Appointments — “This face-to-face meeting has no objective but it’s obviously the one meeting to rule them all.” It’s only going to take an hour. It’s networking. Maybe we’ll leave with action items and they’ll come to us when they have a budget?
  • Excuses — “I got in a car accident. My office had an impromptu fire drill. I have to pass a kidney stone. My pet goldfish Nemo desperately needs a walk.” Hmmm… There must be some real shit going on in this person’s life, let’s give them another 24 — 48hrs to deliver.
    Side note- These are REAL excuses I received from one guy (minus the goldfish).
  • Events — “Don’t miss this extraordinary, once in a life-time, all day conference. This networking opportunity only happens every blue moon.” Ya know, maybe there will be some business we can drum up?
  • Feature + Scope Creep — “X is the coolest new thing I just read about on some blog. We totally need it. It shouldn’t take much time to build this easy feature, right?” Yes Sirrr, we can definitely, probably, almost certainly get that done for you. Wait, what?
  • Client Management — “This project is super intense. It requires daily / weekly 2 hr status calls.” The client is probably right and come to think of it, they are paying a lot of money. We pride ourselves in customer service so let’s just make them happy.

The positive affect of saying NO on your personal life

Do not fear the NO. It may seem like a powerfully intimidating two letter word. But for such a tiny word, NO is profoundly liberating. When you decide, “this does not warrant my immediate attention, or this is counterproductive we’re not doing this” you embrace your intuition.

If at any point you’ve already thought about saying NO to something, there’s probably merit for consideration. Saying NO is your battle shield for deflecting distractions, staying true to yourself, and sticking to the course.

Every time you agree to do something you do not believe is right, or want to do, it beats you up mentally. I know firsthand. People like to see progress. To create. The creative process is handicapped when you are playing dodge ball with bullshit you wish you had never committed to.

Trust your gut, your brain will thank you.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life …Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
- Steve Jobs

Solution

This may sound like a disconnect, but I’ve found it’s all about effective communication. People will eventually respect you for disagreeing with them. Saying NO is not the equivalent of flipping a giant middle finger. It’s quite the opposite. It shows you have a vision, a plan, and an opinion.

By clearly articulating your needs, challenges, or deadlines (in advance if possible) you begin to eliminate distractions. In turn, you stop feeling inclined to people please because you have defined a game-plan.

An example from my professional life which has directly increased our company’s revenue on several projects relates to scope creep. Our SOWs have iterated maybe 10 — 15 times in the last 2 years to be more air tight. However, every client wants more than you agree to in an SOW. It’s inevitable as projects evolve, but free work doesn’t pay bills and it depletes your resources.

Saying NO helps me position clients for valuable repeat business opportunities, enables us to adhere to the original plan, and manage project expectations. In the end, a single NO pays dividends.

People pleasing kills production. It can reduce revenue, confound a product’s MVP, and create a guilty inner demon who laughs at you for agreeing to stuff you know is a waste of time. Saying NO, when thoughtfully structured, creates new business opportunities, shows you’re in control of the situation, and ensures projects actually see the light of day.

It also makes you feel fucking good.

Know when to say NO!


I’m a content marketer, copywriter, and Facebook marketing consultant who works with startups and Fortune 500 clients to boost revenue through clever content and paid ads. I’m also a consultant for hire. I love building cool products. You can check out a personal project I’m creating where you can nominate and inspire a friend to do something awesome, here.

If you enjoyed this article, I’d love it if you shared this post and chat with me on Twitter. Cheers!

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Sorry, Guy: I Won’t Come Work For Buzzfeed


Last week Wired magazine published a feature article on how I hacked the dating website OkCupid and met my fiancée. I subsequently received the following job offer via email from Buzzfeed’s Director of Partnership Development:

I work at BuzzFeed, which if you’re not familiar with writes a ton of fun viral content and also has a great journalism unit that is trying to create a new profitability model for the social era. Part of what I do here is manage a large content network (in the press we call it the BuzzFeed Network) and we track the urls on other websites (e.g. Daily Mail, HuffPost, NyT) and identify when those stories are “going viral.” The algorithm we use for this is focused on acceleration. There’s a large and great data science team at the company. If you ever wanted to move to NY, they would hire you in a second.

Back to this in a moment. Earlier that day I’d had a personal taste of Buzzfeed’s “fun viral content” courtesy of Katie Heaney, one of the staff writers from their “great journalism unit”. Heaney’s article, entitled Sorry, Guy: Math Can’t Get You A Girlfriend, portrays me as a “nerdy white guy” and “weird mathematician-pickup artist-hybrid” that views women as “accessories [I’m] entitled to”. She compares the mathematics I used to dating tactics used by pickup artists and then attempts to rebuff each separately on its own grounds (her mathematical reasoning is skewered by a one-liner in the comments). Heaney concludes that I had failed in my search for a life partner and adeptly brushes off any cognitive dissonance caused by contradicting facts:

Even if McKinlay was able to get more first dates after “hacking” OkCupid, his meticulous creep-bot work does nothing to get him any more second dates — the story informs us that he’s been on over 80 first dates (sometimes, classily, two per day) since starting the project, but notes that only three had follow-ups. (The story notes that McKinlay does eventually meet someone—a woman outside his “A-group” who independently contacts him.) And this is the single greatest flaw in the McKinlay model, the one that reveals most about what he (and people like him) think of women: the fact that eventually, they will have to meet these women. In person. In the inconvenient, independent variable-laden real world.

Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that McKinlay had been on over 20 first dates, not 80, and did not mention that McKinlay had eventually met someone.

I am white, a mathematician, and I did use my knowledge to meet with 88 like-minded women in an efficient way. Most of those dates were wonderful experiences. However I was looking to meet someone to start a committed relationship with, and I was being extremely selective because I could afford to be. My last OkCupid date was with my life partner Christine, who succinctly described Heaney’s perspective in a gender bending tweet:

it’s the same mindset. @KTHeaney is the #pua when it comes to #clickbait #hifive

In other words Katie Heaney objectifies me in order to pick up page-views rather than women.

After the Buzzfeed article came out a friend of mine reached out to Heaney and offered to send her a copy of my book, which discusses methods for meeting like-minded people on OkCupid using the gender-neutral terms “searcher” and “responder”. My analysis of the performative aspects these roles is very much indebted to queer theorist Judith Butler’s conception of gender performativity which, in addition to its obvious sociological relevance, has significant mathematical implications for any analysis of high-dimensional user metadata in a putatively bipartite social graph structure such as OkCupid’s. Heaney glibly declined the offer.

The Katie Heaney approach to “content” characterizes the Buzzfeed business model in general. They have earned their reputation for treating journalism as an accessory that their advertisers are entitled to. I don’t need a penis or a PhD or a Director of Partnership Development to tell me that Buzzfeed’s algorithms are focused on quantity and acceleration rather than countenancing people or ideas, I just need to pay attention.

So thanks but no thanks Buzzfeed. Why don’t you ask Katie Heaney? She seems to know a lot about probability and besides, she’s your perfect match.

Christopher McKinlay is an applied mathematician doing research in computational metagenomics. While a graduate student at UCLA, he used a variety of machine learning techniques to reverse-engineer the dating website OkCupid. He received over 1,000 unsolicited messages from women, resulting in 88 dates over the course of three months. His 88th date was with his fiancée.

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