Valley of the dolls

Who are the tech industry's most eligible bachelors -- and do they really wear pocket protectors?


Janelle Brown
January 20, 2000 10:00PM (UTC)

Meet Dan Whaley. He's got a winsome smile and pierced ears, likes snowboarding and house music and drives a BMW R1100RT motorcycle. He's the sporty but sensitive type (majored in creative writing, you know), and although he has unfortunate taste in wine (what's that Franzia doing in your fridge, Dan?), he's also the co-founder of GetThere.com. Most important -- get this, ladies! -- he's single.

Yes, Whaley is officially Eligible, according to Women.com. On Monday, Women.com capped off the current media fascination with the love lives of those wealthy valley entrepreneurs by running a feature on the top 10 single men in Silicon Valley. Besides Whaley, the list includes a cross section of various valley species: Craig Newmark of Craig's List, Adam Lashinsky of TheStreet.com, Oliver Muoto of Epicentric, Nirav Tolia of Epinions and so on.

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"Silicon Valley is such a phenomenon; we wanted to offer a little slice of life ... the guys who you read about in business magazines," explains Audrey Wong, the Women.com senior producer who assembled the package. Although many of these men admittedly work 80-plus hours a week, and others have looks that are more quirky than Ken doll, the group as a whole is an appealing sample of the more successful, well-rounded individuals of the valley -- culled, says Wong, from the little black books of the Women.com staffers.

On Women.com, you can peruse interviews with these bachelors, look at their baby pictures and read commentary from their mothers, as well as vote on your favorite guy or nominate other eligible men for the list. Best of all, the site provides its very own cheesecake gallery: pinup digital photos of the guys themselves smiling big.

Silicon Valley doesn't, of course, have a shortage of men -- in fact, there's a statistical surplus of some 5,372 males in the valley -- but it does, apparently, have a shortage of men who aren't living at their offices or are otherwise so engaged in the world of technology that they don't know how to comb their hair anymore. According to Wong, Women.com's readers have long complained about a lack of interesting men in the valley; the response to the article has been "overwhelming," she says.

And many of those readers are going straight for the punch line: The 10 bachelors' in boxes are already filling up with a flood of e-mails and proposals from interested women. The guys, in turn, are equal parts flattered and amused.

"I'm not expecting to meet somebody with chemistry over the Net," explains Whaley, who says he's been getting a lot of very nice and genuine e-mails. But, he adds, "You should never rule anything out."

Newmark -- the jovial proprietor of Craig's List and a self-described George Costanza type -- is looking at the whole episode as a giant giggle. "I'm taking this as a flattering exercise in absurdity," he laughs, pointing out that he is not only older than your average entrepreneur (he's 47) but is also a true pocket-protector-style geek. He's amused by the e-mails materializing in his in box, but says he won't let it go to his head. "In my heart of hearts, my attitude is still formed by my inner nerd."

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These men aren't the first valley residents to have their sex lives put under a microscope; the media has recently developed a perverse interest in the often pathetic love lives of rich, overworked techies. The recent American Singles convention in Santa Clara was host to a flood of reporters looking to catch single geeks in flagrante. Women.com's feature has inspired an upcoming Fortune story on the same topic, as well as gushing local news coverage. And female CEO icons like Katrina Garnett and Kim Polese are probably breathing a sigh of relief that the camera's gaze is finally focused on the sex appeal of the opposite gender.

Although the Women.com feature is, when it comes down to it, eye-poppingly silly -- the digital equivalent of Esquire's gushy Women We Love list -- the overall appeal of the 10 men also could do wonders for the technology industry's image and reputation.

"People in New York and Hollywood are still thinking geek, geek, geek, geek, geek: They still think Silicon Valley is a bunch of guys with pocket protectors and glasses," complains Po Bronson, who as one of Silicon Valley's representative hunks was recently profiled in People's Sexiest People Alive issue -- although he bowed out of the Women.com feature. "Maybe this will bury some of the geek stuff; it'll be good for our culture in some way."


Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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