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The matchmaker does a lot more than just introduce people, she – and it’s always a woman as apparently both men and women feel more comfortable discussing their romantic life with a woman – is also responsible for “managing expectations”, solving misunderstandings and serving as a middle person to ask embarrassing questions.
For example, if a woman is interested in a man, but doesn’t want to appear to come on too strong by asking serious questions about the future, she gets her matchmaker to do it.
After years working as a senior investment banker in the US and Hong Kong, he fulfilled his dream of setting up his own business.
First came Me Me Star, a short message-based chat forum that he sold to the Chinese telecom firm Sina.
When it comes to dating, Chinese men are most interested in what women look like, while women want to know about a man’s income.
The next consideration is a prospective partner’s profession: primary-school teachers and nurses are in high demand among men, while women favour men in IT or finance – areas men least want their partner to be working in.
For women, salary doesn’t affect how many winks they receive – until they earn 50,000 yuan or more, when they see the number of winks tail off slightly.
Sharing other insights into Zhenai.com’s data, Li says that on average, women prefer men who are three years older than them, while men seem to prefer women three years younger than them, but that changes the wealthier the men are.
The more affordable “self-service” dating site is popular with those in their 20s, but he says there is a very definite trend that when women reach the age of 27 they opt for the more pricey matchmaking service.She was a private equity fund manager at the time – now she’s a venture capitalist – and he was an executive director of equity derivatives at Morgan Stanley.The charming, slightly geeky former investment banker might not seem like an obvious candidate to be a font of knowledge about the dating world, but he is an avid reader of psychology books and, as he says, “the stats never lie”.One of Zhenai.com’s most in demand services is one that matches divorcees – it’s especially popular in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.“It’s getting more popular every year and we are even thinking perhaps we should develop a separate app due to the high demand,” says Li.
offers two broad services: one is what Li calls a “self-service dating service” where members pay 400 yuan (US$60) a year to browse members’ profiles, chat and arrange dates; the other is a more exclusive offline, face-to-face matchmaking service that costs 4,000 yuan for six months.