For David, it was Traun’s intellectual curiosity that got him hooked. For Traun, it was David’s warm heart and trustworthiness.
Shortly after their first arranged meeting, at a bar in Palo Alto, California, in April 2010, the pair got together at a nearby café. They kept talking and getting to know each other, opening up about what was important, and by the summer they knew it was a match: David Hegarty and Traun Leyden were going to found a startup together.
Hegarty and Leyden came together through FounderDating, a matchmaking service for would-be startup founders that was created by Jessica Alter, CEO of social-gaming startup Formative Labs and former general manager for the applications platform at the social site Bebo, and Saar Gur, a partner at Charles River Ventures.
FounderDating emerged from Alter’s frustrations at how difficult it can be to find a startup cofounder—something that is essential to many would-be entrepreneurs, since it’s rare that one person has all the skills necessary to build a successful tech company alone. “What we say is, finding the right cofounder—and the emphasis is on ‘right’ and not ‘cofounder’—can drastically change the value and the outcome of your company,” she says.
Alter figured that it would help to get a mix of people into the same room—software engineers, business folks, and more. She and Gur reached out to their own networks and promoted FounderDating on Twitter and Facebook and through some university alumni organizations.
Their efforts caught on quickly. The first event, held at a Palo Alto bar in late 2009, attracted several dozen carefully selected attendees. Lots of e-mails followed from interested entrepreneurs, and the project has since expanded beyond the Bay Area to New York, Boston, and Seattle (Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, are coming in late March). The events, typically held at bars, include both group discussions and open mingling. FounderDating also has an online network where members can search for others by skills, interests, or location—giving users access to more potential mates than they’d have just by attending an event, as well as a way to reconnect with people they met in person.