Marriage for Chinese people is very important. After going through all the social and family pressure (especially for a guy) to own a nice car, property and have a steady well paying job to satisfy the girl or her family, you would hope that you are getting married or at least dating the right person. I have a friend that constantly talks and coaches her friend about relationship advice – ‘don’t worry if he’s not rich’ or ‘who cares if he’s white’ I often over hear. But for Chinese, a lot of these things do matter and it’s a function of cultural expectations. Plus the dating market in China is beginning to intensify. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China is expected to have as many as 24 million more men than women over the next 10 years. This is really not a good trend for men wanting to find a girl – you will really have to fight for her!
But like anything in the world where demand and supply side economics come into play, there is always a business and money to be made out of it. I’ve seen an interesting show on CCTV called ‘Feichang Wu Rao’ which translates into ‘if not sincere then don’t bother’, a show where a man competes for the affection of 24 women to result in a promising date with one of them. There are thousands of online dating sites that aim to help people find ‘the one’ such as match.sina.com or chinalovematch.net which claims ‘Chinese women turn dreams into reality’, are these women genies? It appears that most of these sites are geared towards Western men to find a magic Chinese woman. Damn, this makes it even tougher for Chinese men! But perhaps there is more science and clever algorithms to help people match up. The success of more niche dating websites such as JDate for Jewish Americans and the newly launched 2RedBeans for Chinese Americans that matches singles according to more Chinese cultural values such as rate of immigration or level of education could be the key to better matching.
2RedBeans is a start-up based in the Bay Area, California. It was started by Q who went through the Founder Institute, where she was mentored about how to create and build a start-up and meet co-founders. That’s when she met Jeff, a previous Y-Combinator start-up founder. So it seems, the two were meant to be and so 2RedBeans was created. After only being officially launched for 1 week, the site is showing signs of success. It currently has 2,000 members, 90% of which are in the US and has already matched 200 people together.
I talked to the co-founder of 2RedBeans, Jeff Shi for his unique insights into the dating behaviour of Chinese people. “I had many good friends with good education and a good job but had a small social circle outside their professional life. Chinese people are naturally shy and relatively reserved so find it difficult to meet. We created 2RedBeans to jump start the interaction Chinese and help them find relationships.” Jeff said.
2RedBeans is targeted towards Chinese people in America who are either ABC or moved to China, but it does not discriminate against others who want to join. This site is a gold mine for those non-Chinese with ‘yellow fever’! According to Jeff and US Census data, in America there are 1.5m Chinese people and with 85% of Chinese marrying other Chinese it provides a decent market size to address.
So how is it different to the thousands of other dating sites out there? Jeff mentioned some key features that make 2RedBeans stand out. Firstly 2RedBeans focuses on encouraging interaction. It does this by alerting you if someone else is checking out your profile in real time. It also suggests people to you based on commonality, for example, if you went to the same school or both enjoy hiking therefore encouraging you to chat to each other. Secondly, there is an emphasis on privacy. I’m sure there are many people that go to dating sites just to check out and possibly stalk others. But on 2RedBeans you have to be a member plus have an approved picture profile to see others’ profiles. This goes back to the saying ‘feichhang wurao’ – only serious people please! Thirdly, it adds fun to the courting phase by adding ‘Charm’ to the equation. ‘Charm’ points are accumulated by the amount of activity on the site e.g. well written profile, chatting to people, replying to messages. People are encouraged to up their charm factor because it is the default search option, a bit like Google’s page rank; this is your people rank. Another cute feature is the secret admirer function which means if a guy likes a girl but is too shy to chat to her, he can secretly admire her. A line up of guys who have secretly admired the same girl will appear on her page and if she’s interested, she can initiate a conversation.
For those of you wanting to try online dating out, Jeff has a few suggestions. For guys – girls like interesting men, so you have to stand out. Many Chinese men fall into the nerdy, techy, gamer category so you need to find your point of differentiation. Talk about how you won a hot-dog eating competition or something so girls have something to talk to you about. For girls – don’t just peek at a guy’s profile but give him a chance and reply to his messages, he could be the one! In general, people should put up a real and full profile of themselves. Guys often don’t upload a picture and start contacting girls and expect a reply which they don’t get because they were not very open in the first place.
Some interesting facts from the site show that less nerdy guys are four times more likely to be contacted and unsurprisingly, guys search more girls based on their pictures. Also those that upload frontal face and body shots in certain activities that show their passion such as jet skiing or playing electric guitar are more likely to be contacted because it inspires conversation.
In the future 2RedBeans plans to release more features that help people find relationships such as a date organizer, a bit like Facebook events and releasing an Android app to make dating more mobile. They also plan to expand into China and Europe.
For those of you sick of staring at couples cuddled up at a coffee shop looking all lovey-dovey, whilst you feel lonely siting by yourself trying to look occupied by playing Angry Birds, try 2RedBeans out.