He turned his back to me to watch the monitor over the pool tables, where the pool players now applauded some exploit. That night I scrolled until I found a handsome man who had written a benign invitation: ‘Let’s get a drink.’ I looked at his profile. The man generally held responsible for internet dating as we know it today is a native of Illinois called Gary Kremen, but Kremen was out of the internet dating business altogether by 1997, just around the time people were signing up for the internet en masse.
One afternoon a routine email with a purchase order attached to it arrived in his inbox. At the time, emails from women in his line of work were exceedingly rare. Then there was the scarcity of women with online access.
’ The Zumbro flows south of Minneapolis past Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic. ’ Then he had another idea: what if he had a database of all the single women in the world?
It turned out that Kremen had once driven, or been driven, into the river. In Miami Kremen recounted the genesis of his ideas about internet dating to a room full of matchmakers. If he could create such a database and charge a fee to access it, he would most probably turn a profit.
Because in its early days the internet was prevalent in worlds that had historically excluded women – the military, finance, mathematics and engineering – women were not online in big numbers.
When I met him, at a conference on the internet dating industry in Miami last January, he asked where I was from.
‘Ah, Minnesota,’ he said: ‘Have you ever been to the Zumbro River?