You might remember an article I wrote a little while ago about a dating site for all kinds of geeky people called Nerds at Heart. I finally got to have a chat with the creator and president of the site, Bathsheba Birman – word nerd, movie buff, and lover of all things geeky.
Bathsheba (pictured below in the middle) is super perky and bubbly, with a personality that draws a person right in. The more we talked about her site, the more I could tell how much she loved her creation. She came up with the idea in 2006 after she and her friends had had enough of the superficial dating scene of bars and clubs.
“We came up with this as a way to be able to meet like-minded people, and to do it in a really low-pressure setting, in a way that was less superficial. The example that I have given before is, particularly if you are in a traditional meat market club scene, there is really only about maybe thirty seconds to decide if you are interested in someone or if they are interested in you. You kind of do this once over…and it’s obviously all based on the physical.“
Once she had the idea, Chicago-based Bathsheba and her co-founder started to put together an event based around board games, trivia, and fun. They wanted it to be very relaxed, and more importantly, a place where people could spend more than thirty seconds together. The events start with ice-breakers, and then they go onto group board games. Her and her staff manage to incorporate everything from Buffy to biology. For Pi Day, their event was mathematics-themed, with punny specialty drinks invented just for the occasion. At any of the events, the only thing that resembles a speed dating atmosphere is the fact that the women stay seated at a table, and the men move onto the next game. In between games, there is trivia and prizes.
One of Bathsheba’s favorite parts of running the site and events is hearing the success stories from event participants. Over the past couple of years, she’s been to a few weddings and even been a part of a proposal.
“One of the favorite emails that I’ve received was ‘When a mommy nerd and a daddy nerd love each other very much…,’ that was one of our couples announcing one of the first nerd babies that came out of our matches, so that’s certainly rewarding.”
Even more than just the love matches, Bathsheba loves the sense of community that people find at the events. You might go searching for a mate and come away with a whole group of friends. As a proud nerd, Bathsheba is thrilled to see people growing more confident in their nerd-dom, whatever it may be. She loves the fact that these meetups create a supportive geek atmosphere that helps empower people.
Happily single, Bathsheba emphatically told me, she doesn’t shop at her own events. Though she’s currently happy being single, she has noticed that her criteria for a mate has changed since starting the site.
“After having the ethos of the company bleed into my personal life, the characteristics that I care about have changed. I definitely would not see myself in the future with someone who was not nerdy. What I love about observing our crowd is how everyone is interesting, and how we often come from really different backgrounds. If you want to come to one of our events and only talk to comic book buffs, you can do that. But the thing I find most appealing is people that have this really big nerd umbrella that have all kinds of interests.”
So far, the events she and her staff have run have been relaxed and problem-free. But Bathsheba is aware that as it grows (the events are now in five different cities, the Bay Area, Chicago, Indianapolis, the Twin Cities, and Milwaukee), there is a higher probability of something uncomfortable occurring at an event.
“For years it was never even a concern of ours, even though I know so many other companies, particularly online dating companies, where there’s been sexual harassment or even violence. Our community, being nerds, has been insulated against that for a while, and it’s just something that we’re realizing can’t stay as Utopian as we’d like it to be, particularly as we grow. We are crafting a policy that we think is fair to both parties. It’s definitely on our radar, and it’s unfortunate that it needs to be. I’d say that we’re lucky to have experienced very little of it so far, but we certainly don’t want to tempt fate.”
This issue is on her mind, especially with the promised addition of profiles to the site. The profiles are going to work a little differently than just a normal dating site; they will be much more community-based. For instance, they will be integrated with the events. Once registered, you will be able to see who else is attending the event in your city. Bathsheba wants the profiles and the events to work together, to bring the best of face-to-face and online interactions together. With the profiles, a user will also be able to see and find other geeks in different cities, bringing about a much larger community. There is no hard date for the roll-out of the profiles yet, but they are definitely working on it!
Another big project Bathsheba and the crew are working on is expansion. She wants to bring the site and the meetups to a lot more cities, but expansion takes time. Bathsheba knows you single nerds looking for love are out there, and she wants you to know one thing: “Hold on, we’re coming.”